Alumnae Spotlight is where you get to meet our wonderful Astra S.T.E.A.M. Alumnae. In the past three years, we were lucky to have influenced over 80 young girls who are aspired to become young entrepreneurs in the STEAM fields. Each year, these young girls work in teams to come up with New Venture App ideas during a two-day Astra S.T.E.A.M. Summit. At the end of the Summit, they pitch their ideas in front of a panel of judges.
Through this experience, we want to encourage young girls to develop their interests in STEAM subjects as well as entrepreneurship, and to empower them to become the next generation of female scientists and women entrepreneurs.
In today’s Alumnae Spotlight, we would like to introduce you to our 2016 STEAMer -Sasha Williams!
This Fall Sasha Williams (Class of 2019) was selected for the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) Leaders of the Fast Track (LOFT) 2016 Video Game Innovation Fellowship sponsored by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, in Washington D.C. The ESA LOFT Video Game Innovation Fellowship serves as platform for top game developers by identifying and promoting the top 20 minority innovators (15-25 years old) who can create video games or mobile apps that will focus on new, technology-based approaches to address local and global social issues.
Sasha represented her and her team’s video game (Halls High) at the White House. Sasha’s video game is about a young teenage boy who learns to overcome life’s challenges and obstacles through education and facing ones-self. The game includes alternate realities, and as he matures, he advances to new levels. The video game combines fun, action, challenges and includes an education learning component. Sasha met with the White House Board of Science and Technology during her time in D.C. She learned the importance of youth influence in the video game industry and in the tech industry in general. She pitched her video game to Fae Jencks, Senior Policy Advisor, Public Engagement, Office of Science and Technology, Mario Cardona, Senior Policy Advisor for Elementary and Secondary Education and Rafael Lopez, Commissioner of the Administration on Children and Youth and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who are all on the Board of Science and Technology.
Sasha also participated in a Panel discussion with Nicole Turner-Lee, Ph.D. Fellow for the Center of Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institute, Michael Echols, former Deputy Director of Strategic Engagement and Cyber Infrastructure for the Division of Homeland Security and Rich Taylor, Sr. VP & President of the Entertainment Software Association and Antonio Tijerino, President & CEO, Hispanic Heritage Foundation. She learned to actively listen and create solutions to solve problems facing our world today. Sasha visited the office of her local Congressman, Mark DeSaulnier, Eleventh District, California. She was excited to tour the White House and walk the hallways of our current and past Presidents. Sasha believes that we can all be the change that we want to see.
Tell us a little more about yourself
My name is Sasha Williams. I am 16 years old, and attend Carondelet High School in Concord, California. I realized my passion for technology and arts at a young age. I was introduced to “Black Girls Code” when I was 12 years old. I learned that coding was fun and could open a world of possibilities. I could combine my love for the arts and technology. I would like to become CEO of my own tech company or write and direct movies. Since joining Black Girls Code I have participated in a number of Hackathons and mobile App workshops. In 2013 my team won second place in the Ignite Global Fund for Women’s Hackathon mobile app “Ohana.” My team competed against teams around the world. I look forward to attending university with a major in Computer Science.
What was your first impression when you heard about Astra STEAM Program?
I learned about Astra STEAM after a presentation that I had given at Million Women Mentors of California event. I was excited that there was an organization that focused on inspiring girls with an interest in technology.
What was your team’s business and App idea? And how did your team come up with the final idea and pitch?
Astra STEAM along with the other organizations that I am a member, continues to give me the opportunity to learn about technology and develop my leadership skills. Mostly, I am encouraged and supported to continue my dream to own a technology company and pursue a career in technology.
I attended the Astra STEAM Summit in Fall 2016. My team created a Fitness App. We developed the idea as a result of a general team consensus that health continues to be a primary concern across all demographics. Technology can create low cost solutions to address health care access.
My best memory was the friendships that I made with other STEAMers. I especially enjoyed creating our mobile app project. We were required to present and pitch our App idea. My team won second place and was rewarded with a $500 Stipend. I deposited the money in my college fund account.
What were your takeaways from the Astra STEAM Summit?
I learned a great deal about working with a team to solve a business or social problem. We also created a business plan and focused on our target customers, competitors and learned about budgets. These are the same skills that I will need when I build my own business. Thanks to Astra STEAM, I am off to a great start.
What is your dream career?
I absolutely love technology. I exercise my creative side through technology. I enjoy working with my mind, hands and creating possibilities from coding. I code, create fun games and solve problems. I am a member of GameHeads, a youth program at United Roots, in Oakland, California. I develop video games and learn about careers in the video game industry. I am the Level Designer and Art Designer for my team’s Video Game “Halls High.” I also love to perform on stage and enjoy sharing my passion through performance. My passions are computer technology and performing arts. I don’t have to choose; I will combine both. I will own a Technology Company and create Apps, animated movies and video games. There are no obstacles – the sky is the limit!
Who is your role model?
My mother has and continues to be my role-model. Her faith, perseverance and service continues to be a source of inspiration. Also, I admire Oprah Winfrey. She is a woman who came from nothing and made herself into everything I hope to become. She is powerful and inspirational. I am also inspired by how she uses her fame to make a difference in the world.
What’s your one advice for our new STEAMers?
As a girl in technology, you will often see few girls. Dismiss being underestimated and show them what you can do! Be the role-model and show other girls that they can pursue careers in technology. I believe “if you can see it, you can be it.”
Are you currently working on any personal/school project?
I am currently working with my team to complete the final levels of our Mobile App. “Halls High.” In association with the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, I introduced “Code as a Second Language” (CSL) class to my high school. The Code as a Second Language (CSL) class will now be integrated into the Computer Science Curriculum. I will teach Code as a Second Language (CSL) to my fellow classmates.
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