Systers Anita Borg Institute’s 2017 Pass-It-On Award Winners

10 min readJul 20, 2017


Systers Pass-It-On Systers Anita Borg Institute

Top Row: Chao M., Dilushi P., Ghada I., Graciela R. Bottom Row: Jafrina J., Jean F., Kristen W., Melissa M., Michelle G.

The Pass-It-On Awards program honors Anita Borg’s desire to create a network of women technologists helping one another. Women in computing from around the world apply for this award to receive a cash prize of up to $1,000 each. This award, which is funded by the Systers community and others, allows the winners to “pass on” the benefits of the award and fund their own projects to support other women in technology.

Meet the Anita Borg Institute’s Systers 2017 Pass-It-On Award Winners! This year, we had a total of 10 award winners, all of who found unique approaches to supporting women and encouraging them to join and stay in the STEM fields. These amazing women have demonstrated their ability to make an impact in their communities with the projects they presented. They have been invited to share their projects on stage during a lightning talk session at the Grace Hopper Celebration in Orlando, Florida this October 4–6, 2017! We can’t wait to hear all about their tremendous accomplishments.

2017 Pass-It-On Award Winners Global Impact
Michelle G.

Project Title: Techtonica

Project Description: San Francisco, CA, USA

“Feeling empowered by tech skills has made me passionate about helping underrepresented people join, feel comfortable in, and stay in the software industry.”

Last year, to provide people without their own computers the opportunity to learn some programming skills, I started organizing intro-to-coding workshops for low-income women and non-binary femme adults at computer labs in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco (an area next to well-known tech companies and famed for its poverty). While some attendees weren’t sure what “coding” referred to, others have wished for years that they could afford to quit their jobs and earn computer science degrees. Every single attendee has indicated that they wanted to attend another workshop, and many have said some version of, “Coding is so much easier and so much more interesting than I thought it would be.”

So I started a project called Techtonica. The long-term goal is to have companies fully cover students’ training and living costs and then hire them. I have started using my time, energy, skills, and company connections from leading two women-in-tech communities to bring together the people who need to build more diverse teams and the underrepresented people who just need the opportunity to learn technical skills that are highly-employable.

Graciela R.

Project Title: STEM Talks: Girls Equity & Computing Technologies

Project Description: Mexico City, Mexico

“Based on my marketing experience and inspired by Maria Montessori, for more than ten years, I have dedicated my time to join forces for social change, building important national and international alliances, proposing, among other things, that education reaches all social sectors.”

“STEM Talks: Girls Equality & Computing Technologies in Mexico” is a broader project that benefits groups of girls. Created to close the gender gap in technical fields. The project is aimed to female students, between the ages of 12 and 16, studying high school in Mexico, with no previous or minimum knowledge and/or experience in CPT but interested in studying it. Uses interactive conferences in order to invite, inspire and encourage girls to seek their place in the CPT field, make them believe that being a CPT engineer is not a difficult goal and they can become professional technologists in the future if they want to.

Melissa M.

Project Title: Bayesian Networks as a Method of Viable Statistical Analysis for Use in Trace Evidence

Project Location: Greenville, South Carolina, USA

“Both as a student and as a graduate teaching assistant, I worked extensively programming Statistical Analysis Software (SAS) to run both basic and complex statisical modeling applications to obtain experimental results. Since completing my MS, I have worked as a scientist, a senior research technologist, and, most currently, with the US federal Social Security administration disability program. I have utilized my computer knowledge at each of these jobs.”

Women are overwhelmingly more likely to be murdered, sexually assaulted, and stalked by men in the United States. In England and Wales, in the years 2015 to 2016, violent crime against women and girls reached a record high. These cases can be difficult to prosecute due to witnesses fear of retribution, as well as due to the variabilities of trace evidence that are often used to prosecute these crimes, such as hairs found without DNA.

The proposed project will use the principle of Bayesian networks to analyze, quantify, and better provide statistical probabilities. Bayesian networks are a statistical tool, for which computer analysis is needed to effectively compute the resulting statistical probabilities. They are models which describe how variables are related via statistical probabilities.

Kristen W.

Project Title: Umbrellables Workshop

Project Location: Columbus, Georgia, USA

“I am a computer science student at Columbus State University. I work as a tutorer, TA, researcher, and Google IgniteCS mentor.”

Geared towards women, the workshop will teach women about creating wearable technology as well as the role of computing in the creation of wearable electronic projects. In the workshop, women will have the opportunity to create light-up umbrellas using RGB cables, clear umbrellas, and color controllers. The workshop is also an opportunity for us to show an array of videos and presentations about computing and women in computing, as well as elaborate on the background of programming for chips and microcontrollers.

Ghada I.

Project Title: The WIT List

Project Location: Gaza, Palestinian Territory

“I am a passionate intercultural social entrepreneur based in Gaza, Palestine. I believe I have the ambition, energy, will and perseverance that can help me sustain my convictions and eventually achieve my goal towards a developed, more sophisticated society and be the change I’m longing to make.”

The WIT list (Women in Technology list) is a searchable, inclusive, online directory resource of organizations, lists, meetups and groups aimed at women and girls in STEM. By bringing everything in one place and providing the ability to search by country, city, age group, content area, and more, the WIT list makes it much easier for women, girls and allies to find and explore women in technology initiatives in their areas and fields.

Dilushi P.

Project Title: #include <orph>

Project Location: Negombo, Sri Lanka

“As a past Google Anita Borg memorial scholarship recipient, I am motivated to attract more women to computer science. Dr. Anita Borg’s example and advocacy caused many women to join the technical revolution — not just as bystanders but as active participants and leaders, and I believe I am one of them.”

When I was a high school student, the education related to computer science and the opportunities I could get involved in the field were not readily available to my awareness. I have experienced that it is not just only me, a majority of the Sri Lankan female community are victims of lack of knowledge in computer science. I needed to address this critical issue and provide it with a solution. To begin with, I decided to conduct workshops for local school children. It was only then I realized that not every student has access to computers or a similar device to practice what we will be teaching or actually see what is happening. Most of the students who are living by cities and a few living in rural areas have direct access to a personal computer.

Chao M.

Project Title: Mentorship to Computer Science female students at University

Project Location: Nairobi, Kenya

“I graduated with a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Cape Town in December 2015. My research focusses on supporting learners from resource-constrained environments, to learn programming on their mobile phones. I hold an MSc in Computer Science from the University of Oxford and a BSc in Mathematics and Computer Science from Kenya Methodist University.”

The mentorship program of 35 Computer Science students consist of 30% female students. However, I seek to have a 50–50 slot for male and female students from the phase starting in May 2017. Currently, only between 25–30% of the Computer Science student population at my University is female, a reflection of most universities in Kenya. The second part of the mentorship project involves hosting a workshop for female students and professionals who envision a career in academia and research. The last part of the mentorship program involves hosting scholarship-related workshops for female students in Computer Science. In November 2016, with support from Google, I hosted a Women Techmakers scholarship information and training session where 45 students attended from 15 universities in Kenya. Majority of these students attended such an event for the first time, showing that there is a need. One of the feedback received was to conduct such a training session outside of the city in order to reach students who are otherwise not in Nairobi.

Jean F.

Project Title: Coloring with CuSTEMized

Project Location: Boston, Massachusetts, USA

“Jean Fan is a woman technologist working towards her PhD in Bioinformatics at Harvard University. When she saw how tangible products that foster a positive STEM identity in girls were lacking, she applied her computer science skills to launch CuSTEMized to address this issue. She believes women currently within STEM are poised to change the face of STEM and inspire the next generation of scientists and innovators.”

CuSTEMized provides STEM-themed storybooks personalized to feature your child in order to help foster a positive STEM identity and inspire the next generation of scientists. Using our website at, you can personalize our STEM-inspirational storybooks to feature your child’s name and appearance with avatars. Our flagship product is an award winning picture storybook called The Little Book of Big Dreams, which we personalize to feature your child as the main character so she can read a book about herself dreaming about being in different STEM careers. We recently released a second book called My Scientific Name, which again we personalize using the letter of your child’s name as a way of introducing them to different STEM careers. Each page is developed with and feature real women and minority scientists in those STEM fields as a way of introducing kids to relatable role models.

Jafrina J.

Project Title: Dyuti

Project Location: Dhaka, Bangladesh

“I am always passionate about science and to spread this passion and love among the students of our country, especially among girls.”

“Dyuti” is a project where we give the drop outs and unprivileged children Computer Skill Training on Computer Programming, Computer Art and Illustrations, Office Applications (MS Word, Excel etc) and using internet as well. The sole purpose of Dyuti is to conquer poverty with computer technology so that the unprivileged can shine in their future. The word “Dyuti” means shine. If the drop out, unprivileged children can get computer training they can be a Future Computer Programmer, Graphics Designer or Photoshop Editor. Moreover, these skills can even help them in their future professional life. The possibilities are endless. Dyuti aims to give training to children who are atleast 15 years old. The mains objectives of Dyuti are making skillful youth, elevating poverty and empowering girls.

Lakshmi S.

Project Title: To transform women headed grass root level NGOs in South India in internet technologies for overall growth & development

Project Location: Trichy, Tamilnadu, India

“A seasoned professional graduated with Computer Technology, I have associated with many grass root level Non Governmental Organisations in rural parts of South India to transform with digital technologies to withstand the digital and competitive environment to save the very good & innovative grass-root level works that they do with the marginal sections of the society for the past 5 years”

The role of Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in overall Community Development is laudable in rural India. They implement various committed grass root level activities on health, education, environment and development issues with appropriate rural technologies with greatest people’s participation. That too the role of women headed NGOs are quite laudable. The role that they share with family, community and to the society is a notable thing to applause and to be continued.

In order to help the women headed NGOs that works in rural South India which implement extraordinary community development activities, it is required to help them to create a website using popular cost effective webservers and train them how to update them with regular field activities and how the social media sites to be used in an effective way to create greater visibility to the external world and to create quite a lot of opportunities for mobilization of required support to carry out the grass root level community developmental activities.

Thus, through this project, I would like to select 25 committed women headed NGOs to train them on website development through popular webservers and train them on how to design and update them with regular field activities just like to work in MS WORD atmosphere with just drag & drop approaches and to use social media sites effectively to help them to grow their organisation that would really help the under served community at large in South India. Through this they will be virtually connected to the external world and can mobilze support for the long run.




Systers, an Anita Borg Institute Community of Women in Computing. Established in 1987 by Dr. Anita Borg.