STEM-loving teen inspired by national conference SanTan Sun News

STEM-loving teen inspired by national conference

July 20th, 2018 | by SanTan Sun News
STEM-loving teen inspired by national conference
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By COLLEEN SPARKS

Managing Editor

An Arizona College Preparatory-Erie Campus teen who likes sharing her technological savvy with younger students participated in an international program where Nobel Laureates shared words of wisdom.

Elaina Ashton, 16, of Chandler, who will be a junior at ACP-Erie this coming academic year, was chosen to take part in the Congress of Future Science and Technology Leaders on the University of Massachusetts campus in Lowell recently.

The program is for honors high school students who are enthusiastic about science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) subjects.

The aim is to inspire, recognize, motivate and guide the best students in the country who want to become scientists to follow their dreams, and to offer a path, plan and resources to help them reach their goals.

“It was honestly amazing,” Ashton said. “They had so many variety of speakers from different backgrounds speaking about experience in the field, like science. A lot of them were scientists.

“They gave us time to meet one-on-one with a lot of speakers. I think I just like the fact that in science not all questions are answered. You can still be curious about aspects. I think in math, I just like how you can solve any problem that comes your way using formulas; there’s almost no way you can’t solve a problem.”

She said science is her favorite subject and, in particular, she enjoys computer science, robotics and chemistry. Ashton teaches robotics and other STEM subjects to children in the community, including Girl Scouts troops and Boys & Girls Clubs youths through her nonprofit organization, Education Empowers.

Elaina and her mother, Anna Prakash-Ashton, started Education Empowers a few years ago to share their passion for robotics with children in Arizona.

Elaina also has participated as team captain of her school’s robotics club last school year and she was elected captain of the VEX Robotics club for the coming academic year. She has been involved in robotics for more than six years.

“I like how you have to…collaborate with other people,” Elaina said. “You all are kind of nerding out at the same time, meeting other people that have the same interests and working on the same projects is amazing.”

Students heard Nobel Laureates and National Medal of Science recipients talk about heading scientific research. Deans from top tech universities in the world also offered students advice.

Elaina said she loved hearing Shree Bose, who won the Google Science Fair in 2011

As a teen, Bose earned the top prize for her research on drug resistance in ovarian cancer. She later graduated from Harvard University.

“She gave us a ton of advice and she really emphasized the fact that in order to be successful you have to be passionate about what you’re doing,” Elaina said.

She added that Bose talked about how she had received negative reactions to her projects and it is important to push ‘through hard moments.”

Elaina said another speaker who left an impression on her was Sean Stephenson, a board-certified therapist and doctor of clinical hypnosis who was born with a rare bone disorder that stunted his growth and made his bones very fragile.

Stephenson, who was not expected to survive at birth, is also a motivational speaker wrote the book, “Get Off Your ‘But’: How to End Self-Sabotage and Stand Up for Yourself.”

Stephenson “emphasized the fact that what we do in life is valuable and we’re valuable,” Elaina said.

Besides the valuable lessons, Elaina said she also enjoyed staying in the dorm at the University of Massachusetts. After the event ended, Elaina said her parents and brother, Ethan, 11, went to the area to visit tourist sites, including the Harvard Museum of Natural History and the Paul Revere House.

Elaina’s mother said the gathering “opened up more opportunities” for her daughter to network and give “back to the community.”

In elementary school, she said, Elaina wanted to be a dancer and then a painter, but now she wants to be an electrical or computer science engineer.

“That change has happened because of (her) exposure to engineering,” Prakash-Ashton said. “I’m a chemist by education. I work as a material engineer.”

“My daughter and I started getting interested in STEM,” she added. “She’s very much into giving back to the community…we are very passionate about STEM. If you look at the next few years, pretty much every job that can come up you need some kind of STEM skill set.

“We have to introduce children to STEM concepts at a very early age. Once we get them engaged, it’s easier for them to transition into engineering jobs. If you look at Arizona STEM reports, in the next five years half a million jobs in Arizona come up that need STEM skill sets.”

Elaina also recently received one of the Cox Connect2STEM Awards. Every award winner received a $1,000 grant to be given to the STEM program of their choice and Elaina gave her money to her and her mother’s nonprofit.

Elaina is also one of the chief science officers at her school and around Arizona. The program creates a conduit of diverse, young STEM leaders around the country and in Kuwait and the Middle East to boost communication and collaboration among CSOs and enhance school STEM career awareness and culture.

Elaina is also on Gov. Ducey’s CSO STEM Advisory Council.

Information: scitechleaders.com.

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