NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing

As part of an effort to encourage more young women to choose careers in technology, the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) and the Virginia Affiliate Award for Aspirations in Computing program recognized 65 high-school women for their accomplishments and aspirations in computing and technology.  The award event was held at the Bank of America facility in Richmond, Virginia, and featured a welcome by Mr. Victor Branch, Senior Vice President – Bank of America, and a keynote speech by Mr. Michael Karafotis, Global Wholesale Banking, Production Support Executive at Bank of America.  The event was chaired by Ms. Libby G. Bradford, Director of Undergraduate Studies and Student Engagement in Computer Science at Virginia Tech.

The NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing is a program of the National Center for Women & Information Technology, a coalition of over 900 universities, corporations and organizations dedicated to increasing the meaningful participation of women in computing. The NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing was created to acknowledge the computing aspirations of young women, introduce them to leadership opportunities in the field, and generate visibility for women’s participation in computing-related pursuits. Award-winners have been selected for their outstanding aptitude and interest in computing and desire to pursue computing-related studies. The NCWIT Aspirations in Computing program is sponsored nationally by AT&T, Bank of America, Bloomberg and Microsoft with additional support from Google, Intel, Motorola Solutions Foundation and Northrop Grumman.

“It feels so good to be involved in this.  We see real progress happening.  Young women who might have been overlooked or discouraged now actively moving into computing with support and encouragement from people in the field.  But there is more than that.  There is an overall feeling that this is good, this is working.  Then, even more, a feeling that this is awesome!   We are making this happen together–the balance is changing!” said Ms. Jennifer Rupert, Academic & Career Advisor Virginia Tech and Virginia Affiliate committee member.   In the affiliate’s six year history, 239 students have been recognized.

Paul Bui, a teacher at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia, received the 2017 Outstanding Educator award from the affiliate.

Virginia Affiliate winners are:

First Name Last Name School
Rebecca Abbott-McCune Blacksburg High
Janna Almokhtar Orange County High School
Navya Annapareddy* Battlefield High School
Brooke Barlow* Mclean High
Bilguunzaya Battogtokh Yorktown High
Sarah Bolstad* Midlothian High School
Katherine Cinnamon* Forest Park High School
Lidya Etissa South Lakes High School
Lydia Fozo* Forest Park High School
Rachel Fulk Rockbridge County High
Sydney Howard* Grassfield High School
Elizabeth Hu* Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
Laurel Hunter Governor’s School of Science and Technology
Danielle Kaldmaa Falls Church High School
Anika Kumar* South Lakes High School
Kirthi Kumar* Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
Hannah Lewis Albemarle High School
Kimberly Louie Chancellor High
Tian Low Woodbridge High
Jocelyn Marencik Deep Run High
Eleanor Ozer Galax High School
Samhita Pendyal Deep Run High
Christina Pfab Powhatan High School
Britney Phan Oakton High School
Kara Probasco Washington Lee High
Margaret Richey* Western Albemarle High
Caylor Scales Cumberland High
Riley Schnee Loudoun Valley High School
Marissa Sumathipala Broad Run High
Michelle Wu Princess Anne High


Virginia Affiliate Honorable Mentions are:

First Name Last Name School
Grace Barrett-Johnson Albemarle High School
Madison Crouch Western Albemarle High
Brianna Croye Hidden Valley High
Neha Damaraju* Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
Ally DeVall Colonial Forge High
ErinGrace Drake Battlefield High School
Heather Eichman Nansemond River High
Salonee Ferrao Hampton Roads Academy
Emily Haggard Loudoun Valley High School
Ankita Khera Forest Park High
Crystal Lee Woodson High
Mengyun Lee Hidden Valley High
Katie Liu New Horizons Gov School
melanie massie Radford High
Caroline McCain Rockbridge County High
Elizabeth Moar Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
Lisa Moshiro Battlefield High School
Clara Na Briar Woods High
Cora Ormsby Floyd Kellam High
Angela Pastore Albemarle High School
Emma Peck Washington Lee High
Amber Perkins Powhatan High School
Grace Qian Oakton High School
Shravya Shetty Deep Run High
Caroline Spruell Cave Spring High
Destiny Stern Forest Park High School
Aiesha Suarez Del Real Stuart High
Hiwot Temesgen Washington Lee High
Sajni Vederey* Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
Faith White Richlands High
Carol Yang Albemarle High School (Virginia)


*Also NCWIT National Honorable Mentions

Also recognized at the Virginia Affiliate Ceremony were sixteen NCWIT National Honorable Mentions:

First Name Last Name School
Navya Annapareddy Battlefield High School
Brooke Barlow Mclean High
Sarah Bolstad Midlothian High School
Katherine Cinnamon Forest Park High School
Neha Damaraju Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
Jessica Edwards St Stephens & St Agnes School
Lydia Fozo Forest Park High School
Kriti Ganotra Rock Ridge High School
Sydney Howard Grassfield High School
Elizabeth Hu Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
Anika Kumar South Lakes High School
Kirthi Kumar Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
Rachel Naidich Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
Hojung Park Albemarle High School
Margaret Richey Western Albemarle High
Sajni Vederey Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


The NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing offers both national and local affiliate competitions to generate support and visibility for women’s participation in communities nationwide. The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) works to correct the imbalance of gender in technology and computing because gender diversity positively correlates with a larger workforce, better innovation, and increased business performance.

The “Aspirations in Computing Awards” event and the gifts received by the winners this year were funded by Bank of America, Eastman Chemical, The Washington Post and Virginia Tech.  Additional support was provided by General Motors, George Mason, Google IBM, and the University of Richmond.  Winners receive prizes from multiple companies and two trophies: one for the winner and one to be displayed at her high school.

For more information on the Aspirations program please visit here.


Back row (l. to r.) Amber Perkins, Jessica Edwards, Hojung Park, Hannah Lewis, Janna Almokhtar, Cora Ormsby, Christina Pfab, Margaret Richey, Lisa Moshiro, Salonee Ferrao, Shravya Shetty, Danielle Kaldmaa, Anika Kumar, Katherine Cinnamon, Lydia Fozo
Middle row (l. to r.) Riley Schnee, Emily Haggard, Aiesha Suarez Del Real, Laurel Hunter, Caylor Scales, Mengyun Lee, Angela Pastore, Grace Barrett-Johnson, Kriti Ganotra, Sydney Howard, Heather Eichmann, Caroline McCain, Tian Low, Rachel Fulk, Rebecca Abbott-McCune, Marissa Sumathipala
Front row (l. to r.) Samhita Pendyal, Britney Phan, Crystal Lee, Ally DeVall, Jocelyn Marencik, Kirthi Kumar, Navya Annapareddy, Neha Damaraju, Sarah Bolstad

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Virginia Tech Team Victorious at ACM-ICPC Regionals

For the fourth straight year a team from Virginia Tech has qualified for the prestigious ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) World Finals.  This year’s Mid-Atlantic regional contest, held on November 5, included 177 teams from over 100 schools.   Under the leadership of Dr. Godmar Back, ten Virginia Tech three-person teams participated in the regional contest this year.  The team consisting of CS majors Peter Steele, Chris Wu, and Andriy Katkov finished first.  They will be representing Virginia Tech at the 41st World Finals, to be held this coming May in Rapid City, SD.

The performance of all the Virginia Tech teams was outstanding, with four teams finishing in the top 14, and eight in the top 30.  According to Dr. Back, “I need to acknowledge the enthusiasm and hard work of all involved. This year, I had a group of 60-70 dedicated students that attended the Saturday practices. We did five full (five hour) practices on Saturdays during October and September, plus a qualification contest the week before, plus an additional six virtual contests on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I would also like to thank our sponsors, Eastman Chemical, stack@cs, and the CSRC!”

Congratulations to all the ICPC participants:

“PriorityQueues for President” – Peter Steele, Chris Wu, Andriy Katkov

“HashSets for President” – Jeff Robertson, Christy Coghlan, Nathan Lahn

“LinkedLists for President” – Andy Sin, Shengzhe Xu, Geson Chong

“TreeSets for President” – Daniel Moyer, Jamie Simon, Ariana Herbst

“ArrayDeques for President” – Eric Williamson, Lance Chao, Harrison Fang

“Hashtables for President” – Stu Harvey, Daniel Amick, Drew Maczugowski

“BitSets for President” – Luke Wolff, Andrew Lahann, Swaraj Dhumne

“TreeMaps for President” – Bryce Humphrey, Ryan Berft, Alexander Glasson

“ArrayLists for President” – Raju Nadimpalli, JooYoung Whang, Yevhen Pylypenko

“HashMaps for President” – Hunter Morris, Jameson Dyer, Bright Zheng


Godmar Back

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Successful corporate partnerships provide hands on learning experiences for CS students

Professor Eli Tilevich provided a great opportunity for students in his CS 4704 capstone course this fall.  Dr. Tilevich partnered with The MITRE Corporation, a member company of the department’s Computer Science Resources Consortium (CSRC) program.  The MITRE Corporation sponsored the course this fall and created hands-on learning experiences for students to work with real clients.  The MITRE Corporation managers met and one-on-one with students during the semester.  The results of the students’ hard work were displayed to company representatives on December 14.

Alexander DeRieux, Christie Goddard, Andrew Heatwole, David Pickle, Will Schrag presented on ERIS (Emergency Responder Information System)

Alex Martin, Anthony DiMarco, Riley Babcock, Victor Weiss presented onSkyBook (Aircraft Specification Aggregator)

Arman Bahraini, Zhizheng Chen, Taiwen Jin, Steffen Moseley, Sungha Song presented on GroupSafe (Group Location Safety System)

A summary of each team’s work is below:

ERIS (Emergency Responder Information System)

In times of crisis, effective communication and informed decision making can mean the difference between life and death. Modern-day first responder communication systems rely heavily on dispatch to control the flow of information among units. While this system has its merits, data flow to on the ground personnel is somewhat restricted to the speed that dispatch can process and disseminate information. In order to decrease response time, dispatch filters out much of the information they receive; some of which could actually be useful to responders. This tradeoff can lead to dangerous situations for firemen, police officers, and EMTs. ERIS aims to ease communication and data collection by creating a system to provide fast and detailed information sharing among first responders. ERIS application development was guided by the standard Android development paradigm, and utilized various APIs and SDKs to communicate with peripheral devices and remote services. The ERIS application provides users (responders) with relevant location and status information for incidents and other responders, and interacts with mobile phones and wearable computing devices (Recon Jet glasses, Motorola smartwatches, and Myo armbands) to facilitate collection and display of information.


SkyBook (Aircraft Specification Aggregator)

This project involves the aggregating, storing, and displaying of data on various types of commercial aircraft. The primary goal is to collect this data from multiple sources and make it accessible by two means: an intuitive web application and a RESTful API endpoint. This has been accomplished by utilizing a Python web-scraping library called Beautiful Soup to gather data from official manufacturer websites (Boeing, Airbus, etc) in addition to third-party sources like Aircraft Bluebook and storing that data in a SQLite database. A flexible Web API was created with use of the Django REST framework. Through making aircraft data available via these two highly useful mediums, this project resulted in a useful tool for the originally targeted users in addition to opening the door for a diverse variety of unplanned potential use cases.



GroupSafe (Group Location Safety System)

GroupSafe is an application designed to provide connectivity between all the members in a group at all times in order to ensure everyone’s safety. The goal of the application is to leverage current technologies available in modern smartphones to share and display locations on a map in real time. Users are able to create groups with unique names and passwords. Each group member shares his or her location and can chat with other members since websockets are utilized to provide a low overhead location and messaging system. In addition, the creator/host of the group can set up a radius which he/she expects everyone to be within at all time. If any member of the group is to wander past the radius set by the host, the application will send an alert to everyone in the group so they can react accordingly. For easy direct communication the app provides click to call or text. Google Maps is embedded in the app to show user locations, so in the event where a member does not respond to group chat, call, or text, everyone in the group will still be able to find the member by looking at the map. While the application was developed with college students and young adults as the primary clients in mind, other user bases may also find the app useful.




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CS graduate student participates in the 2016 Global Perspectives Program

Mohammed Seyam, computer science graduate student, was one of four students among the latest group of Virginia Tech Global Perspectives Program scholars who visited and studied programs at universities in Switzerland, Italy, and France for 13 days earlier this summer.  They and their fellow scholars researched trends and issues in higher education, teaming up with peers at the universities of Basel and Zurich in Switzerland.  After returning to the United States, the Global Perspective scholars presented their findings at the Swiss Embassy in Washington, D.C., continuing a tradition established in 2010.  Noha ElSherbiny, computer science graduate student, also participated in the program last year.

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Tapia 2016 through the eyes of 11 Hokies

From September 14th -17th, 9 CS students and 2 CS faculty (Cal Ribbens, Barbara Ryder) journeyed to Austin, Texas to participate in the 2016 ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing.  Of the approximately 1000 attendees, 536 were students, 135 were faculty and 260 were representatives from industry/government.  This was the 10th Tapia Conference whose theme, Diversity Matters, was reflected in keynote speeches, professional development programs, a student research poster session, a career fair, and “birds-of-a-feather” meetings on practical approaches to supporting diversity and inclusion.

Our two goals in attending Tapia were to: (i) expose CS@VT African-American and Latino/a graduate and undergraduate students to a professional computing conference in which they would be in the majority, and (ii) actively recruit minority graduate students for our MS/Ph.D. programs and for possible future faculty positions.

Dr. Ryder reported, “It was a thrill to personally meet and talk to so many African-American and Latino/a colleagues in computing, including several of our CS@VT alumni – Dr. Cheryl Seals (Auburn), Dr. Jeremy Barksdale (Microsoft), Dr. Kevin Buffardi (Cal State, Chico) and CS@VT Distinguished Alumna Dr. Jamika Burge.”  Dr. Ribbens stated: “The Tapia conference is a great opportunity for our students to meet peers and hear from incredible role models, and for faculty to share ideas and enthusiasm with other schools who are also committed to improving diversity in CS.”  The excitement of our student participants is expressed in their comments:

  • Sean Crenshaw: “Tapia gave me the opportunity to network with the best in the tech industry who are transforming current standards so that we, the next generation of minorities, can follow in their footsteps.”
  • Jazmine Zurita: “The conference was the perfect way to network with recruiters, more so than we can in standard career fairs.”
  • Gustavo Arango Argoty: “The most interesting aspect of the conference was to see how big companies develop computing applications to understand society and hence its diversity.”
  • Vanessa Cedeno: “Being able to meet other people with the passion of promoting and including diversity in Computer Science was exciting and inspiring.”
  • Souleymane Dia: “It’s been one of the best opportunity for me to directly interact with industry leaders and connect with them for future opportunities.”
  • Moeti Masiane : “The conference was a wonderful venue for networking, placing players from academia and industry in a fun and open environment.”

CS students Moeti Masiane, Tianna Woodson, Kelvin Aviles, and Teresa Lin also attended.  This was a great experience.  It continues a strong tradition of CS@VT participation in the Tapia conferences (we have been Gold Supporters of Tapia for many years).  We hope to offer the opportunity to attend to more of our students and faculty in future years.  To that end, alumni and friends of CS@VT can donate to the department’s Barbara Ryder Diversity in Computing Fund by sending a check to the VT Foundation account #861127.



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ICPC Programming Team Competes at World Finals

Once again, May found the Virginia Tech ACM ICPC Programming Team traveling across the globe to compete in the ICPC World Finals.  This year the competition was held in Phuket, Thailand, and included 128 teams, selected from a record 2,736 participating universities during fall regional contests.  The 2016 Virginia Tech team consisted of CS majors Dustin Pho, Peter Steele, and Chris Wu, with Dr. Godmar Back as their coach.

According to Back, “The competition involved 13 problems, of which the top three teams (St. Petersburg State, Shanghai Jiao Tong, and Harvard) solved 11, 11, and 10, respectively. The Virginia Tech team solved four problems, which ranked it 74th, an improvement over the last two years where we finished 92nd. The team is particularly proud of finishing 9th among the 25 teams from North America, which is our best showing since at least 2005.  The only North American teams finishing ahead of VT were Harvard, MIT, Waterloo, UCF, Berkeley, Cornell, Stanford, and Rice.”

Follow the ICPC Programming Team on Twitter Here.


ICPC pic 2016

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CS PhD Students Attend CRA-W Grad Cohort Workshop

The CS Department sent a group of eight women PhD students to the 2016 CRA-W Grad Cohort Workshop this year.  Doaa Altarawy, Sorour Amiri, Mai Dahshan, Michelle Dowling, Zahra Ghaed, Azam Moosavi, Elaheh Raisi, and Ziqian Song traveled to San Diego in April to participate in this two-day event organized by the Computing Research Association.  The annual workshop is aimed at building the pipeline of senior women in computing-related studies and research.  Presentations and discussions led by senior researchers and professionals offered advice on a variety of topics such as graduate school survival skills, networking, publishing, etc.  According to VT attendee Elaheh Raisi, “… resources introduced related to different skills such as presentation, writing, and research for graduate studies.  There were some female professionals as mentors and we could talk to them and ask for their help about any problem we might have.”  Doaa Altarawy reported that she was able “ … to learn more about networking and to actually practice it by knowing new women in computing, [and] to see examples of successful women who were able to overcome difficulties and boundaries and reach their goals.”   Michelle Dowling added, “the atmosphere was wonderfully relaxed and focused heavily on interacting with the audience and addressing specific concerns that people had, all while promoting networking and mentoring opportunities.”




CRA-W Grad Cohort

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18th Annual Women in Computing Day

The Association for Women in Computing (AWC) hosted the 18th Annual Women in Computing Day on Friday, April 1st.  About 80 middle school girls from five area schools attended. This  year, Abigail Bartolome and Angel Pak co-chaired the event. Marina Kiseleva (AWC chapter president), Jisu Park (AWC chapter vice president), and Deborah Tatar (AWC faculty advisor) were also instrumental in making the event successful. A special thanks is due to our friends from IBM who offered their time, to professor Wu Feng who led one of the demonstrations, and to all the graduate and undergraduate student volunteers.

Click here to read about the 2015 event.



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Virginia Tech Team advances to the 40th ACM-ICPC World Finals

Left to right: Chris Wu, Peter Steele, Dustin Pho, Dr. Ian Barland (contest site director)
Left to right: Chris Wu, Peter Steele, Dustin Pho, Dr. Ian Barland (contest site director)


A team of three students (Dustin Pho, Peter Steele, Chris Wu) have advanced to the ACM-ICPC World Finals by taking 2nd place in the 2015 MidAtlantic Regional intercollegiate programming competition, beating over 183 teams from other universities and colleges in the region. This is the third consecutive year that Virginia Tech’s ACM-ICPC Programming Team, led by its faculty Coach Dr. Godmar Back, has been able to send a team to the world’s premier programming competition for college students.

On November 7th 2015, Virginia Tech fielded seven teams of three students each, who competed among 185 teams from universities and colleges across the Mid-Atlantic region for a coveted spot at the ACM ICPC World Finals, which will be held on Phuket Island, Thailand in May 2016.  The Mid-Atlantic region comprises universities and colleges in the states of Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, D.C., East Pennsylvania, and South New Jersey.

The ACM ICPC contest fosters creativity, teamwork, and innovation in building new software programs, and enables students to test their ability to perform under pressure.  It is the oldest, largest, and most prestigious programming contest for college students in the world. Each year, almost 40,000 students participate worldwide.

All participating students were CS majors, ranging from sophomores who competed for the first time to seniors who participated for the 2nd or 3rd year.  Virginia Tech’s top-scoring team, which consisted of CS students Dustin Pho, Peter Steele, and Chris Wu, placed overall 2nd to secure a coveted spot at the World Finals. It is expected that only about 20-25 teams from North America will receive an invitation to participate in Thailand.

Overall, the Virginia Tech teams placed #2, #11, #16, #37, and #98, as follows:

#2 Team: “Java The Hutt”

  • Peter Steele
  • Dustin Pho
  • Chris Wu

#11 Team: “C3++”

  • Aziz Yusupov
  • Scott Pruett
  • Hassan Almas

#16 Team “R2O(1)”

  • Nathaniel Lahn
  • Harrison Fang
  • Rupin Khera

#37 Team “Adhocca”

  • Marcus Wanner
  • Monica Wei
  • Phillipe Gray

#98 Team “Modelica Falcon”

  • Katherine Staepel
  • Thomas Gaudioso
  • Madhur Mahajan

Honorable Mention: Team “Princess LUA”

  • Ravi Srinivasan
  • Bryan Kaperick
  • Matthew Petracca

Honorable Mention: Team “Han Kojo”

  • Zachary Hensley
  • Alexander Glasson
  • Jack Geissinger

Our teams prepared in weekly practices and multiple 5-hour mock contests held on the weekends leading up to the regional contest. These practices not only prepare students for the contest, but also prove extremely useful in preparation for interviews for internships and jobs.

The ACM Programming Team is open to all undergraduate students and to graduate students of any major who have not completed more than 5 years of post-K12 education. See here for complete eligibility requirements.

Students interested in participating in the team should contact Team Coach Dr. Godmar Back (, or visit the team web page at

The ACM-ICPC programming team thanks its sponsors Eastman Chemical and the stack@cs center for systems research.

All CS@VT teams are pictured below:


Programming Team 2

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