Three high school students received awards for their computer science research at Oregon State University. Audrey Au, Caroline Gao, and Geraldine Noa-Guerva were winners of the 2021 Aspirations in Computing award for the Oregon and Washington chapter of National Center for Women & Information Technology. Au and Gao also received honorable mention for the national NCWIT AiC award.

All three worked in the area of human-computer interaction, specifically how well problem-solving software supports different genders in problem-solving activities. The students worked with Margaret Burnett, distinguished professor of computer science, and Anita Sarma, associate professor of computer science, who co-direct The GenderMag Project.

“Working in Dr. Burnett’s lab was a genuinely life-changing experience for me,” Gao said. “I realized the full potential of technology to drive equity and social good. The intersectional approach we took to every issue reframed my perception of many societal issues.”

After her research experience, Gao launched a cultural awareness project, called The World in Us, with other students, including Au. The two taught classes through Oregon State’s Talented and Gifted Programs for elementary school students. The project was highlighted by the Albany Democrat Herald.

Au is co-author on an article that won a best paper award at the 2021 International Conference of Software Engineering. She wants to continue tostudy human-computer interaction to facilitate the inclusion of groups often marginalized and underrepresented in tech.

Noa-Guerva also plans to use the knowledge she gained through her research experience about inequities in computing when she pursues a career in technology. She is currently giving virtual English and programming lessons to children in Peru.

“Having these bright, passionate young women in our research group over summer was a privilege. Through their hard work they helped further our research. We look forward to mentoring them as they progress through their careers,” Sarma said.

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