Kansas City shines with four national Girls Living STEM Awardees

Four students from the Kansas City metro recently received national recognition for their passion for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), winning the Girls Living STEM Award from the National STEM Learning Ecosystem.

The award recognizes young women in grades K-12 who show leadership qualities, inspire others, pursue STEM through coursework and extracurriculars and who look for opportunities to build STEM skills in others in their communities. Award winners were nominated from 84 communities in the National STEM Ecosystem.

Kansas City earned its official STEM Learning Ecosystem designation in 2015 in recognition of the region’s cross-sector collaborations with schools, local industry, museums, libraries and other nonprofits to create high quality STEM education in schools and beyond.

The KC STEM Alliance, which leads local STEM learning ecosystem work, recognized each of the local winners on National STEM Day this Friday, Nov. 8. The honorees include:

Avionna Thompson, AC Prep, Kansas City Missouri Public Schools
Nominated by Ericka Mabion

At 11, Avionna is the youngest of the local award winners. Described by her teacher as “innovative, creative, humble, collaborative and inspiring,” Avionna is making her mark in computer science at an early age. She successfully led her team in creating an operable computer program using tools from Code.org and was recognized for her leadership during an in-school Code.org Shark Tank competition.

“Avionna mentors her fellow students using integrity and grace,” Mabion said. “She humbly accepts challenges and presents quality work.”

Ashley Eddy, Shawnee Mission East High School
Nominated by Jessica Tickle

Ashley Eddy, a senior at Shawnee Mission East High School, has found her passion in engineering and robotics, taking every opportunity to learn and explore in high school to determine her college and career path. Teacher Jessica Tickle describes Ashley as being confident and a risk taker:

“Ashley jumps into any project with zeal and leads others to an inspiring solution. Ashley is often the only girl on the team or in the class, but this gives her no concern. Her bright smile and welcoming attitude quickly break down barriers.”

Ashley has mastered courses in digital electronics, civil engineering and architecture, and this year will tackle aerospace and the Project Lead The Way’s capstone engineering design and development course, all while serving as president of her school robotics team.

Leah Cooper, Van Horn High School, Independence School District
Nominated by Debbie Cox

Leah Cooper, a senior at Van Horn High School, has her sights set on biomedicine. As president of the school’s HOSA-Future Health Professionals, Leah led her team to Chapter of the Year honors and the 2019 National Service Project recognition for work with the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation, while also qualifying for the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Skills international competition.

She’s maintained top academic rankings while pursuing a rigorous workload that includes the Project Lead The Way biomedical pathway courses and participation in KC HealthTracks, the Healthe Foundation competition team and designing a Science City exhibit for Burns & McDonnell’s Battle of the Brain Competition.

Leah’s community outreach includes assisting with the school’s STEMathon, helping design the STEM-Targeted Educational Project (STEP)—a project to entice more students in elementary and middle school to be interested in science- and STEM-related fields—and serving on the district’s Biomed Advisory Committee.

Caroline Robinson, William Chrisman High School, Independence School District
Nominated by Jared Hook

A senior at William Chrisman High School, Caroline Robinson knows how to share her love for STEM in a multitude of ways. She serves as the STEM Academy Ambassador for the Ford Next Generation Learning Program, represents her FIRST Robotics team at outreach events and mentors a FIRST LEGO League Jr. team. She also plays an integral role in operating a qualifying tournament for up to 40 FIRST LEGO League teams each season and works to encourage formation of new teams both near and afar.

“As a two-time AFS sister, Carrie has made it her duty to promote STEM and FIRST Robotics to foreign exchange students who come to our country to gain a new experience,” teacher Jared Hook said.

Now in her senior year of the Project Lead The Way engineering pathway, Caroline is working with students from both the engineering and biomedical pathways on her senior capstone project. Her experiences with all her school has to offer in engineering makes her a natural fit to serve on the STEM advisory committee.

Along with her leadership roles on FIRST Robotics Team 1723 FIRST Bots of Independence, Caroline is class president and first chair in symphonic band.

KC STEM Alliance Executive Director Martha McCabe said the number of award winners from Kansas City reflects the influence of a collaborative approach to STEM education in the region.

“We’re thrilled for these young women to receive this recognition,” McCabe said. “Their leadership, outreach, tenacity and willingness to share their abilities make them terrific role models for us all.”

About Kansas City’s STEM Learning Ecosystem

The STEM Ecosystems initiative is a national effort to engage young people in science, technology, engineering and math through strong interconnected community networks.

In late 2015, Kansas City was among the first set of communities in the nation to receive an official STEM Learning Ecosystem designation from the STEM Funders Network. KC STEM Alliance serves as the backbone organization, encouraging all parts of the community to actively engage in building KC’s STEM learning ecosystem. The ecosystem’s mission is to ensure access and equity to quality STEM experiences for all.