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Minnetonka Seniors Honored with Minnesota Aspirations in Computing Award
Minnetonka Seniors Honored with Minnesota Aspirations in Computing Award

Late last month, Minnetonka High School seniors Olivia Graupmann and Maya Schrof earned state-level honorable mentions for the Minnesota Aspirations in Computing (MNAiC) awards. The National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) recognized them at their annual awards program for young women, genderqueer, and non-binary high school students for their technology interests, skills and accomplishments. This year, nearly 4,700 students from across the nation applied for the award. 133 Minnesota students were selected by national and state review teams to receive recognition.

"I was first introduced to STEM through the FIRST LEGO League program in the fourth grade," shared Olivia. After that experience, she participated in robotics and took beginner coding classes throughout middle school, all while challenging herself in her science and math courses. At MHS, she participated in the Minnetonka Research program, where she studied injuries in female athletes for two years, as well as the VANTAGE Global Business strand, where she learned to conduct research for the business world.

"What struck me about Olivia right away was her ability to establish strong goals for herself and then to follow through on them with such a high level of conviction," said Kevin Burns, Olivia's research advisor and science teacher at MHS. "Her positioning for this award was strengthened by her willingness to dive into complex statistical and computational modeling of her work, despite the fact that she was only a relative novice in those areas at the time. Olivia now has the skills to act as a mentor for other students in their work on similar applications."

Maya has been interested in STEM fields for a long time, but her passion for computing first began in her junior year when she took AP Computer Science. "It was my first real exposure to coding and I was eager to gain more experience," said Maya. "The following summer, I took part in the :\the\world 2019 Machine Learning Camp at the University of Minnesota. Working with graduate level students was an inspiration to me, especially as a soon-to-be high school graduate looking for direction in my undergraduate studies."

"Maya is an extremely bright and hardworking student who has a passion for STEM related interests and activities," said Nick Bahr, the computer science teacher at MHS who nominated Maya for the MNAiC award. "In my AP Computer Science A course, she put in a strong effort to be successful in the class and continued to provide additional learning experiences for other students in the district." Maya has worked with other MHS students to form the "Tonka Hacks" club, which has hosted numerous events to help other students get involved and learn more about computer science.

"If my experience in computing has taught me one thing, it's that you don't have to want to be a software engineer to learn how to code," said Maya. "So, while I don't necessarily see software engineering in my future, I am committed to integrating computing into whatever degree I pursue. I am a strong believer that computer science is one of the most versatile fields, and I am eager to see how it shapes my future!" This fall, she will attend the University of Alabama on their STEM path to an MBA.

"My interest in computing has changed and grown over the years, but I will continue striving to solve real-world problems using science and technology," said Olivia. She will attend the University of St.Thomas in the fall, where she will pursue studies in market research and data science.

When asked what receiving this award meant to her, Olivia shared, "To be recognized is an exciting surprise. I'm happy to be a part of a new network of women who I can collaborate with as I continue pursuing computing in the future."

"Being recognized certainly gives me motivation and drive for a future in STEM," said Maya. "Above all, I am fortunate to now be in a network of females of diverse backgrounds and ages, all united by a common passion for computing."

Congratulations, Maya and Olivia!

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