Meet our Spring 2020 STEM CONNECT Scholars

Apr 04, 2020      By Victoria Grdina

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has partnered with with Southeast Community College and Western Nebraska Community College to build out the state’s STEM workforce through a new grant, STEM Career Opportunities in Nebraska: Networks, Experiential-learning and Computation Thinking.

The STEM CONNECT initiative will provide scholarships and academic support for low-income students, specifically targeting underrepresented minorities, women, and rural and first-generation students. Students who begin at a community college in the academic-transfer program will take courses to build their strengths in math and computer science, while the students who begin at Nebraska will major in math, computer science, computer engineering or software engineering.

The first 10 scholarship recipients were selected this spring. Of those 10, five will pursue educations in computing. Get to know a little bit more about those students:

Philip Chohon

Philip Chohon

Hometown: Wahoo, NE
High school: Bishop Neumann
Major: Computer Engineering
Year: First-Year/Freshman

What is the best project you’ve ever worked on or really admire in STEM? Space travel is the project in STEM that is the most fascinating.

How do you use STEM in your life? It allows me to have more understanding about what is happening in the world around me.

Who is someone (teacher, mentor, role model) in STEM you look up to and why? Elon Musk, because he is doing exciting things that impact humanity in amazing ways.

What excites you about STEM? STEM is on the edge of humanity's knowledge and it is where new and interesting things are being discovered and created.

What are you looking forward to in the STEM CONNECT program? Being part of a community who is interested in STEM and being able to connect with faculty members.

Emmanuel Lopez Mateo

Emmanuel Lopez Mateo

Hometown: Saline County, NE
High school: Crete
Major: Computer Science
Year: First-Year/Freshman

What’s your dream job? A security analyst.

What is the best project you’ve ever worked on or really admire in STEM? A project that I liked was applying the skills that I had acquired in one semester to build the concept behind a banking system. No matter how simple it may look, now I know that through the years of study here, I'll be able to do more impressive things.

How do you use STEM in your life? STEM plays a part in every aspect of my life from being part of my major to buying a candy from a vending machine.

Who is someone (teacher, mentor, role model) in STEM you look up to and why? I look up to all my professors and mentors because even though their role varies, they are trying to make a difference in this world.

What excites you about STEM? I have always wanted to pursue a career in STEM, because of people who are in this field that have allowed our society to operate in a more complex and efficient way from transportation to instantaneous exchange of information.

What are you looking forward to in the STEM CONNECT program? I’m looking forward to a supportive and encouraging community.

Caleb Marcoux

Caleb Marcoux

Hometown: Roca, NE
High school: Homeschool
Major: Software Engineering
Year: Second-Year/Sophomore

What’s your dream job? Helping others with my skills. Currently, I would like to work at Don't Panic Labs.

What is the best project you’ve ever worked on or really admire in STEM? Open Source Software. It is awesome that we can contribute to software that everyone can use and learn from.

How do you use STEM in your life? Everywhere. I am always using new things I learn and new technology to improve my efficiency and daily life. For example, today I set up an ssh profile and shared keys so that I can easily connect to the CSCE server.

Who is someone (teacher, mentor, role model) in STEM you look up to and why? Brady Garvin is our primary Software Engineering professor at UNL. He is incredibly passionate in his effort to help us understand the material, and always has a good way to answer questions. I believe people who take the time to care about other's knowledge and improve their lives, especially when they know so much, are worth looking up to.

What excites you about STEM? STEM is the future. I always dream up new ideas and concepts. STEM is making that future a reality.

What are you looking forward to in the STEM CONNECT program? Community can help a person become more invested in their work. The peers and mentors that I have met are all amazing and passionate, and I believe they will provide a sense of belonging and momentum toward growth.

Michael Sanders

Michael Sanders

Hometown: Omaha, NE
High school: Omaha Central
Major: Computer Science
Year: First-Year/Freshman

What’s your dream job? Being a professional athlete, or being a part of or making my own big tech company.

What is the best project you’ve ever worked on or really admire in STEM? I see cool inventions in the media all the time.

How do you use STEM in your life? In my opinion STEM is a mindset and a lifestyle. I believe that if you start thinking like a scientist an engineer or a mathematician that's half the work. Being a problem solver is the core of STEM and I've been one all my life.

Who is someone (teacher, mentor, role model) in STEM you look up to and why? People like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, and Mark Cuban have had an influence on me.

What excites you about STEM? A lot of things excite me about STEM. Probably the main reason is the constant challenge. STEM is a field where things are constantly improving. I'm a person that when things get easy I tend to get lazy. It excites me that being in this field matches how I want to live my life, getting better everyday.

What are you looking forward to in the STEM CONNECT program? Being able to have a support system in STEM that can allow me to make mistakes, grow, and learn so I can be the best me possible.

Read Michael's full story here.

Abby Seibel

Abby Seibel

Hometown: Elkhorn, NE
High school: Elkhorn
Major: Computer Engineering
Year: First-Year/Freshman

What’s your dream job? To work in environmental technology specifically with water and energy. I think it would be really awesome to help build a system for water management that better accounts for the flow of water, and reduces the ways in which treatment facilities waste water. I would also possibly be interested in other ways to innovate new technology that saves water. If I cannot work in the water sector, I think Energy would be a very cool area to work in. People are really weary of environmental technology because they think of technology as a social tool, or a tool that creates pollution, and I want them to see there are many ways technology can be implemented with water and how environmental technology is a pathway to a better future.

What is the best project you’ve ever worked on or really admire in STEM? I am really interested in things that use tech for clean energy and water. There are a lot of really inventive ways people are trying to save energy in addition to the more common wind and hydroelectric power sources. For example, it is an idea to try and harness energy in cities from the friction of foot traffic, and although this is just a kind of extravagant idea, it is cool that people care so much.

How do you use STEM in your life? In a basic sense I use it daily in my major, but I am also using it in my free time. The best example is that this summer I am going to be doing a research project in Iceland that focuses on renewable energy and environmental technology. I will be doing an independent project that I decide on after learning the basics of resource economics and I am hoping to focus on something that ties computer science into environmentalism.

Who is someone (teacher, mentor, role model) in STEM you look up to and why? Reshma Saujani - she is the woman who founded girls who code. Her movement is what started programs like the summer camp that taught me to code two years ago. Without her, tech would be even less accessible to women. In terms of people I have had as teachers, so far at UNL Kevin Gonzales and Chris Bourke have been the two professors who are really passionate about what they teach, and their passion makes learning so much fun. They relate what we are learning to the real world, and are so very helpful. Their passion makes me more excited about STEM and what I can do with it.

What excites you about STEM? I enjoy the fact that there are endless possibilities in the STEM world. Unlike other professions there is no strict domain as to what I get to do with my degree. I can make my own path, and if I don't like what I am doing, I have the resources to find a new project, or start a project of my own that is more impactful to me. I also really like the fact that STEM is focused on helping others. Overall, Engineering is here to help people live easier and more fulfilling lives.

What are you looking forward to in the STEM CONNECT program? I think that this program will help me actualize my goals instead of having them be these big ideas I have that don't get put into action. I also think it will help me learn more. I am newer to the technology field and can sometimes feel a little behind or out of place because I haven't been coding for years. I think that STEM CONNECT will be a really good support system for me, and will help me explore STEM more boldly.

Read Abby's full story here.