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Upper East Side High Schooler Wins National Tech Award

 Susannah Meyer (second from right) presents projects with other Hewitt students at a STEM fair.
Susannah Meyer (second from right) presents projects with other Hewitt students at a STEM fair.
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Erik Nauman

UPPER EAST SIDE — While her classmates are fiddling with their cellphones, this high schooler is designing apps for them.

A student from the Hewitt School, a prestigious K-12 girls’ academy on the Upper East Side, was recently recognized by the National Center for Women and Information Technology for her achievements in computer programming.

Susannah Meyer, a junior, was one of 30 young women to receive the “Aspirations in Computing” award from the New York affiliate of NCWIT. Meyer was also chosen from 2,300 young women around the country as a runner-up for the national version of the same award.

“I’ve always like math and science, and my brain gears towards things that are both methodical and creative,” Meyer said. “That’s exactly what programming is like.”

The “Aspirations in Computing” award honors young women for their tech-related achievements and serves as a talent-development program aiming to increase the number of women working in the tech sector. Award winners have the opportunity to network with mentors in the tech sector, apply for scholarships and internships, and develop computing programs for younger girls.

Meyer, who is also the co-editor-in-chief of her school’s digital newspaper, became interested in working in technology last year thanks to a programming class at Hewitt. Erik Nauman, the school’s technology coordinator, taught the class and said Meyer was a natural.

“She was the kind of student who would take an assignment and take it three notches up,” he said. “Some of her projects have grown and turned out have real applications outside of the classroom.”

For example, Meyer and a partner built a robot that notifies Hewitt’s teachers via Twitter when tours of prospective students are about to visit their classrooms.  

Meyer later attended the Drexel University Computing Academy, where she developed an Android app for the visually impaired. The application, WeatherSense, provides users with a voice-controlled, rather than touch, interface.

As an award winner, Meyer now has the opportunity to apply for a grant to create a computing class for younger girls. Her proposal is to teach middle school girls to design computer games based on social justice themes. She hopes to incorporate the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality gaming headset, into their designs. 

The grant, from Aspire-IT, would provide up to $3,000 for Meyer to implement the program. Winners will be announced at the end of February.

Whether or not she’s chosen as a grant recipient, Nauman said the Aspirations in Computing Award will inspire other girls in the school community who are becoming more and more interested in working with technology.

“I’ve been here for 10 years, and I’ve seen a real shift in the last few years,” he said. “Girls are now saying about programing, ‘I like this. This is what I’m interested in. This is cool.’”