ASMSA students receive computing honors

Two Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts students have been selected to receive the National Center for Women and Information Technology Aspirations in Computing Award for the Arkansas region. 
Caitlyn Hallett, a senior from Vilonia, was selected to receive the National Center for Women and Information Technology Aspirations in Computing Award.
Caitlyn Hallett, a senior from Vilonia, and Michelle Smith, a junior from Little Rock, have been selected as recipients for this year’s awards. They will receive their award during the Arkansas region’s 11th Women in Information Technology Conference on Tuesday, April 14, at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. This is the fifth year state winners for the Aspirations in Computing Award are being recognized.
The National Center for Women and Information Technology is a national nonprofit organization that works to correct the imbalance of gender diversity in the fields of technology and computing. Gender diversity within the fields will ensure a larger workforce, better innovation and increased business performance, according to the organization’s website.
Aspirations in Computing is an NCWIT talent development pipeline initiative designed to increase women’s meaningful participation in computing careers by providing encouragement, visibility, community, leadership opportunities, scholarships and internships to high-potential, technically inclined young women in the fifth grade through graduate school. It is the only national level talent-development program for young women in computing and technology.
The Aspirations in Computing Award is given to high school students who are selected based on their aspirations and aptitude in technology and computing; leadership ability; academic history; and plans for post-secondary education.
Both Smith and Hallett were surprised to find out they had been selected for the award. 
Smith, the daughter of Arbradella and David Smith, said she was checking her email during her holiday break in December for another reason when she saw the email informing her she had been selected for the award.
“I freaked out,” Smith said. “I took off running to find my mom and told her. I thought [the email] was going to say sorry, you didn’t get it. I kinda freaked out.”
Smith said she has been interested in computing since she was 11 in the sixth grade. She began by competing on her home district’s BEST Robotics team becoming president of the robotics club her sophomore year. Her interests in computing and technology grew, eventually leading her to participate in the Engineering Scholars Program and the Perry Outreach Program, a program for teenage girls interested in medicine and engineering.
While she acknowledges her future goals may change, she would like to go to medical school to study physical medicine and rehabilitation. Smith would like to use her computer knowledge to further her medical career.

“I want to make my own prosthetics and medical devices,” Smith said.
Hallett, the daughter of Carla and Chris Stacks of Vilonia and Jodi and Pete Hallettt Jr. of Delaware City, Del., also was on her computer during holiday break when she saw the email. She said she and her mother went out to celebrate that night. While out celebrating, she began doodling an idea for a program on a napkin.
Hallett said that before attending ASMSA she had taken a couple of business computer classes and had access to computers, but it wasn’t until she took a required computer programming class at ASMSA that she found out how much she enjoyed it.
“I enjoy the logic and the problem solving,” she said. “I really do like the challenge. You know when it works. There’s a lot of trial and error to it. The trick is getting there. It can be frustrating, but in the end it all pays off. You go, ‘Oh my gosh, I made something work.’”
Hallett said she will likely major in biochemistry in college, but the computer science experience she is gaining will be beneficial for her in the future.
“It is something I can use in other places. It’s a really marketable and useful skill to have,” she said.