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Senior Wins National Computing Award for Young Women
Posted 02/27/2017 11:27PM

Marguerite Tate Second Rowland Hall Student to earn National Aspirations in Computing Honorable Mention

As a child, senior Marguerite Tate loved watching the science-focused TV series Nova and assembling puzzles, Legos, and K’nex. She’s since graduated to coding web pages, working with Arduino robots, and assembling UGears and a Rostock MAX v2 3D printer. Now, her ever-evolving technological curiosity and proficiency has been recognized on a national level.

Marguerite received an honorable mention in the National Center for Women and Information Technology’s (NCWIT) 2017 Aspirations in Computing awards, given for demonstrated interest and achievements in computing, proven leadership ability, academic performance, and plans for post-secondary education. NCWIT selected 50 winners and 350 honorable mentions from a pool of 3,500 young women, meaning about 11% of applicants won a national award. Marguerite has previously won two NCWIT awards at the state level: the center deemed her one of the winners in the 2016 Northern Utah Competition, and gave her an honorable mention in the 2015 Northern Utah Competition.

Marguerite, a Rowland Hall lifer, said she was excited to learn she’d won a national honorable mention, and the ongoing recognition from NCWIT has been amazing. “I've known for a while I've wanted to pursue a career in science and it reinforced that.”

Marguerite’s 2017 NCWIT award marks the second time a Rowland Hall student has won on the national level. Tianxing Jin ’15 (“Jin”) won a national honorable mention in 2015, and was a Northern Utah Competition winner in 2014. Read about Jin’s recent endeavors at the University of Utah’s Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute in this November 2016 Fine Print article.

This year, NCWIT also named Rowland Hall senior Alicia Lu one of the 30 winners in the Northern Utah Competition. Since 2014, a total of six Rowland Hall students have won nine NCWIT awards. Computer science teacher Ben Smith ’89 has been encouraging his female students to enter the competition. “We’re competing against big public high schools and we have a pretty consistent showing,” Mr. Smith said, explaining that kind of visibility is good for the school. Our success shows Rowland Hall is a place where girls can excel in technology, he said. The awards also give students a chance to connect young women with mentors—women already working in a technology-related field. “That, long term, could make a big difference,” Mr. Smith said.

Nationally, women are underrepresented in computer science. But as described in this April 2014 Fine Print article, Rowland Hall faculty and staff have made a concerted effort to encourage more young women to engage in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects and extracurricular activities.

Marguerite said Rowland Hall teachers have always supported and encouraged her, and she can candidly talk to them about her interests. Her classmates, too, are equally passionate about their academics. “And that’s just a motivating environment to be in,” she said. Marguerite also comes from a science-savvy family—her father is an engineer who’s assisted Mr. Smith with Make Club.

Mr. Smith called Marguerite a phenomenal thinker, a kind and compassionate soul, and a joy to be around. He said he especially appreciates that Marguerite thinks about how to use computer science to solve problems in other fields. “Whether it is technology used to track species, measure pollution, or engage people in new ways of thinking, she is keyed into the power of technology to transform our experience and understanding of the world,” he said. Marguerite could use her ability to code or manipulate data, for instance, to become a better biologist, the career currently piquing her interest.

“As far as what our current world is like, I think that the natural sciences are really in need of more people,” said Marguerite, a self-proclaimed environmentalist who, along with other Rowland Hall students, spoke at the January Utah Students for Clean Air Rally (pictured—read the Fine Print story here). Endangered species, for example, need scientists to protect them, she said.

For now, Marguerite hopes more of her peers take advantage of STEM classes and clubs. Try something new and see if you like it, she advocated. “Rowland Hall is very encouraging of girls to step into computer science and explore their talents.”

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