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Fridley High School (FHS) senior Olivia Yang was awarded the Aspirations in Computing award, presented by the National Center for Women and Information Technology. Each year, female high school students in grades 9-12 are eligible to receive this recognition for their demonstrated interest and achievements in computing, proven leadership ability, academic performance and post-secondary education goals.
Olivia has a strong passion for science and engineering, which began to develop throughout her high school career. She is the current president of the FHS Science Club, and is highly involved with the FHS Robotics team where she has taken on the roles of marketing, build, and autonomous coding.
Notably, Olivia is a student leader on the Hennepin County Library Teen Tech Squad, working at the Brookdale Library in Brooklyn Center. She and three other teens are charged with designing, implementing, and facilitating twice-monthly workshops centered on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics for youth in grades K-12. A job that she thoroughly enjoys, Olivia and her colleagues develop curriculum for students that are designed to spark scientific and engineering interests in young minds.
“I really enjoy going to my job every day because there is real value behind what I do,” said Olivia. “Since working at Teen Tech Squad, I understand the value of well-developed programs and activities. For youth, that’s what transforms a small curiosity into a possible career or something they can grow with.”
The youth-led Teen Tech Squad allows Olivia to be creative while developing lessons - thinking critically about how to help youth make connections between abstract STEM concepts and real-world applications. Working in Brooklyn Center, Olivia also works with youth who are disproportionately affected by the digital divide, an opportunity that adds value to her work of sparking inspiration and interest.
According to her supervisor, Morgan Wylie, is forward-focused and has an amazing level of curiosity and self-directed investigation, and has no fear when taking on challenges. A recent lesson that Olivia designed for Black History Month was centered around inventor Marie Van Brittan Brown, who invented the first home security system in the 1960s.
“Olivia headed up the effort to translate that into a workshop that surrounded lessons on circuitry for a home security system, but also mechanical engineering and booby traps - the students loved it,” said Wylie. “She spearheaded the effort to research Marie Van Brittan Brown and the many barriers she faced as an African American women and inventor in the 1960s, building the social context around it. She really took the activity to the next level.”
Wylie said Olivia is incredibly deserving of the Aspirations in Computing award, and described her as high-achieving, detail-oriented, and innovative.
“I’ve seen so many amazing contributions from her at Teen Tech Squad. She continually seeks additional opportunities to expand and grow her abilities in computing and engineering,” Wylie said.
Olivia consistently puts in the effort to learn all she can about her areas of interest, including coding, engineering, and physics. She’s participated in numerous events and workshops, including “All Things Coding,” a workshop to examine numerous platforms for teaching and exploring coding; Built It. Invent It., an event hosted by Society of Women Engineers national conference; and Ignite Afterschool, an event that advocates for the accessibility of afterschool programming for youth in the northwest Minneapolis metro.
She also enjoys diving into new challenges to learn new skills. In August 2017, she participated in “Hack the Heat,” a 24-hour Minneapolis hackathon where she independently studied web design and development. Going into the competition with no web design experience, Olivia spent the next 24 hours teaching herself how to build a website and proudly took home the award for “Most Improved.”
Olivia was one of 37 recipients of the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Award from across Minnesota. She and her fellow honorees will be recognized at the 7th annual Minnesota Aspirations in Computing Award ceremony on April 17, 2019. Olivia plans to pursue her interests in either biomedical or mechanical engineering upon graduating from Fridley High School this May.
Top photo: Olivia at a robotics tournament in 2018. Bottom photo: Olivia working with students at a Teen Tech Squad workshop. The workshop, "African American Innovation in Space," was designed by Olivia and her colleagues, exploring astrochemistry and bioluminescence. (Photo credit: Hennepin County Library-Brookdale)