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Allison Thompson's Winning Essay
September 13, 2006

My love affair with computer science began response in eighth grade, when my friends and I created our first website. It was the first time any of us had used the internet for anything but a school assignment, and it opened up a whole new world for me.

A little more than five years later, I have become the ultimate “geek chick.” I came to this realization when I reached into my jeans and found lip-gloss in one pocket, and a pen drive in the other.

So what caused this change? I have a sneaking suspicion it was the influence of my friends. They introduced me to video games and online gaming. Many of my happiest memories begin with the words, “I can beat that score,” and revolve around the tap-click of game controllers or computer keys, and the shrieks of triumph and aggravation when games finished. Although we no longer play games together, we are still connected by bonds made of love and CAT5 cables.

It was an easy jump from the world of the gamer to the world of programmer. After playing hundreds of games, limited game play or functionality rapidly became for me a frustration unlike any other. “I can beat that score,” became “I could code this better.”

My metamorphosis from gamer to programmer was complete when I realized I
wasn’t reading webpages anymore – I was studying their code, to see how
they did it and how I could improve it.

I am happy with the transformation.

My one unhappiness stems from the responses I get when I tell the members of the opposite sex that I plan to major in Computer Science.

Reactions tend to be range from a jaw dropped below the equator to a sputtered, “Really?” Not all boys react this way, but most do. It’s annoying, and it makes my fingers itch with an urge to challenge them to a computer game.

Oddly, perhaps, these responses also drive me forward.

I want to help create a world where a girl doesn’t get that reaction. I hope to be in a position someday to encourage girls to take hold of life by the keyboard – and take off. I know that with encouragement, any girl can soar.

The percent of women in computers is low.

And I want to beat that “score.”