Congratulations! You’re the winner! How are you feeling?
Thank you! I am so honored to be the 2018 Living the Example winner. When I found out, I immediately told my parents and jumped up and down with excitement. I had no idea I would win, and I’m blown away by the amount of support I’ve received from friends and family. Thank you for this amazing opportunity!
Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and the projects you do?
Yes! I am extremelypassionate about STEAM and STEAM educaation. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art, and math. In the beginning of my junior year of high school, I developed an organization called Bit by Bit to teach underserved middle school students about the basics to computer science through hands-on workshops throughout the year. This summer, we implemented a 2-week camp called She STEMs to spark interests in STEAM in girls through an introduction to robotics. We took fields trips to companies such as Intuitive Surgical, and were actually featured on the local news too! I recently worked on developing a conference in Chicago called GirlCon as a sponsorship director where we had over 100+ girls attend! Outside of outreach, I also love attending hackathons and building mini projects, so currently, I am developing an iOS application, but unfortunately, I can’t share much details on it for now. If you’re interested in learning more about She STEMs, you can check out our website at www.shestemscamp.org, or if you want to learn about technology, visit my website www.bitbybit.bitballoon.com.
What does “living the example” mean to you?
To me, “living the example”, means living your best life by sharing your passion to help empower others. It can take form through anything you’re passionate about from sports to volunteer work.
How did you develop your interest for the STEM-field?
In third grade, I would run home to play an online game called Club Penguin. However, one thing that always bothered me was the aesthetics of my penguin. In response, I watched countless Youtube videos, and I learned how to recolor every pixel of my penguin on Microsoft Paint to make my ideal penguin. My passion for art continued into high school through photoshop, until one day, my math teacher assigned us the project of creating an image with functions.
After watching my favorite Pixar films, I began understanding how STEM and art combined to form the world around me from my toaster to animation, and I was hooked. There was only one problem – I wanted to learn more that what was affected by code, I wanted to learn how code worked.
What do you hope will be your contribution to your community as a leader?
I hope to inspire other youth in my community by demonstrating how passion can drive you to help your community in more than one way and that age is just a number, not a limitation. Growing up, there were always requirements and rules you needed to follow. But that’s completely false! If you have an idea or passion, follow it!
What inspired you to educate others within the STEM-field/coding?
When I went to my first hackathon, I was the only girl on an all-guys team. I never truly recognized the diversity issue until that day as I was assigned to the role of the “designer”, and I had never taken AP Computer Science or had the chance to join a robotics team compared to my teammates. During the hackathon, I barely wrote one life of code, and instead of speaking up for myself, I decided to let my “imposter syndrome” get the best of me. When I went back home, I decided to join programs such as Girls Who Code and Kode With Klossy where I found a community like no other. There, I could be myself, learn more about technology, and feel comfortable.
Last year, in 2017, I began wanting to give back to my community to empower other students from underserved backgrounds, leading me to develop Bit by Bit. Living in the East Bay, there weren’t many opportunities to learn more about STEM compared to the South Bay (the heart of the Silicon Valley) or San Francisco. Therefore, I founded Bit by Bit to provide STEM workshops for underserved students in the East Bay. The workshops began at our local library, and this summer, we expanded to a 2-week camp to teach girls about STEM. The impact I’ve seen from seeing nervous students walking in on the first day to seeing them light up with pride on what they’ve built on the last day constantly excites me for the future generation of programmers to come. Each “Aha!” moment and every laugh remind me about the importance of hands-on education and the amazing impact we have on kids.
Who or what are your most important influences?
I have a ton of influences who I look up to. But most importantly, Ed Catmull, Pete Docter, and Sheryl Sandberg, are the ones who inspired me to look into not only computing, but how computing can be used in a variety of industries.
What are your professional and personal goals for the next few years?
I’m currently a rising high school senior, so in the future, I hope to attend a 4-year university in the East Coast and possibly travel abroad. I’m not completely sure what I want to study, but I’m interested in learning more about human-computer interaction, computer graphics, and engineering. After college, my dream job would be to work as an Imagineer and design new amusement rides. In terms of personal goals, I have a difficult time with imposter syndrome, and I hope I can not only come over it, but help others overcome their imposter syndrome as well. Additionally, I’m excited to continue working on Bit by Bit and educating youth on how computer science can be used for social good.
What experience do you bring with you participating in the 2018 Living the Example National Video contest?
I’m living the example through my passion for the technology industry and how I use technology for social good. I joined the Living the Example contest because I wanted to share with others how despite your race, gender identity, or socio-economic status, anyone can pursue their interests in technology. To continue learning about my journey as a girl interested in STEM, be sure to follow me on instagram (instagram.com/imagirlwhocodes)!
What would you share with someone considering entering the ‘Living the Example National Video Contest’ next year?
Take a chance! This contest is a wonderful opportunity to be proud of what you do for your community, and to share your story across the nation. Always follow your passion, and you’ll be able to inspire others. Whether you love cooking, dancing, or coding, make your mark on the world, and share your story!
Watch Ashley’s video here: