Carolina student Stephanie Yu at a Google demonstrationStephanie Yu, a sophomore computer science and chemistry major from Fayetteville, grew up with little technology at home. The family had no computer and didn’t watch TV.

When Yu started using a computer at her high school, she found that the Internet made life so much easier. She didn’t have to go to the library for a research project. She didn’t have to wait a half hour to hear the weather. She could easily contact friends and family members in Korea.

As co-chair of Technology without Borders within Campus Y, Yu is now working to increase technology use among people who lack access to computers and in places that lack access.

Group expands access to technology

The group strives to expand access to technology here and abroad. By itself or with partners, Technology without Borders mentors adults and children, holds classes, teaches coding to kids, and provides free or reduced-price laptops to underprivileged people.

One way to motivate schools and school districts to use computers for teaching and learning is to design educational games through which learning is fun instead of frustrating, Yu said.

Created educational tech games at White House

In September, Yu participated in the 48-hour Educational Game Jam at the White House in which more than 100 people – primarily professional designers and developers ­– created educational games. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy created the event to entice tech companies to invest in educational software.

Yu and two fellow Carolina classmates — Adam Aji and Jacob Settlemyre — created Accel-o-rama, a game in which players control the acceleration vector of a ship navigating its way through passages in space. As the game’s voiceover explains, Accel-o-rama introduces players “to basic concepts associated with acceleration without explicitly explaining them.”

“I definitely think that tech is a really, really important part of education in the U.S.,” Yu said.

Received Generation Google Scholarship

Yu came to UNC-Chapel Hill thanks in part by a Generation Google Scholarship, which Google provides to women and minority students to inspire them to become leaders in computing and technology by eliminating the barriers that would prevent them from entering the fields. As part of the scholarship, Yu spent three weeks at Google before school started freshman year.

The experience “it made me even more excited about computer science and tech in general,” Yu said.

Encouraging more women to pursue technology work

The ratio of women to men in lower level computer science classes at Carolina isn’t too skewed, but in higher level classes, Yu estimates that the ratio is around one to three. At school, she’s found that women are encouraged in computer science and tech. Through her internships, however, she’s found that the work environment for women in tech is a mixed bag.

When she graduates, Yu knows she wants to work in computer science but she’s undecided if she’ll pursue research or industry.

 

Yu’s Top four list of must-have tech gadgets or apps

1. Samsung Galaxy S4 cellphone

2. Google Nexus tablet

3. Google Drive

4. Dropbox

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