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Future Leaders in Technology Scholarship - College Award

1 winner$2,500
Next Application Deadline
Jan 16, 2023
Next Winners Announced
Feb 16, 2023
Education Level
Recent scholarship winners

Right now, Black and Latinx people only make up around 5% - 8% of the tech workforce. Women account for a mere 1 in every four tech jobs. For Native Americans and Indigenous groups, employment numbers are even lower, at around 1% at leading tech companies. These numbers reflect an improvement over the last few years, but this is not nearly enough.

The tech industry sets out to serve a remarkably diverse world. To accomplish this, the industry itself has to reflect that world. At Virtasant, we understand the need to embrace fresh perspectives, probe unexamined problems, and tap into unique ideas. We want to support the innovative minds that represent the groups and communities that are still getting left behind in tech.

To achieve this mission, we created the Future Leaders in Technology scholarship for students from these communities, who are pursuing careers in tech.

The scholarship includes a $2,500 award to one college or university junior or senior student.

The scholarship is open to college and university students pursuing a degree in computer science, electrical engineering or data science. You must also be a member of an underrepresented group, including: Black or African American, Hispanic or Latinx, American Indian or Native American, LGBTQA+, and Women.

Selection Criteria:
Passion, Impact, Drive
Published November 8, 2022
Essay Topic

What area of tech are you interested in studying and why? Tell us about a problem that you hope to solve by way of your future education and career in tech.

400–600 words

Winners and Finalists

Winning Application

Arisa Chue
Stanford UniversitySpringfield, VA
Dee Oliveira
Worcester Polytechnic InstituteWorcester, MA
Eight million metric tons. That’s how much plastic is dumped into our oceans every year. That’s equivalent to 57,000 blue whales or 17.6 billion pounds. Fast fashion, microplastics, and the growing trend of hyperconsumption in our society are killing our oceans at a rapid pace. We are destroying the ecosystems of species yet to be discovered. The climate crisis is being ignored, but the effects of what we are doing to our oceans will soon be felt when our sources of nutrition become contaminated by microplastics, our beaches become dumping grounds, and our drinking water becomes toxic. Using my Computer Science and Robotic Engineering degrees, I want to facilitate the design and production of biomimetic AUV’s (Autonomous Underwater Vehicles) to help clean up our oceans and begin reversing the effects of hyperconsumption. Biomimicry has become an increasingly popular addition to the world of Robotics, and I genuinely believe it is the key to saving our oceans. The robots could have the following abilities… Trash collection: The robots will launch a sequence for trash collection. The bot would launch a net and begin a lawnmower sequence that has the bot move in horizontally to collect trash. Once the bags fill, the AUVs will tie off the net and bring them to a pre-programmed location to be disposed of properly. Microplastics Collection: In a similar approach to the trash collection process, we can also have the robots collect microplastics. The AUVs will have filters that entrap microplastics within the bot and can be emptied once the filter is full. Deadzone Detection: Due to pollution excess nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus are causing a surplus of algae in our oceans. When Algae die their decomposition sucks up the oxygen in the water leaving very little for the other organisms causing them to die. The robots would detect the levels of nitrogen and phosphorus and –if the levels are elevated– remove the algae, therefore stopping the creation of another dead zone. Video: Due to the biomimicry, we’d have the ability to use these AUVs for other research, such as data collection. The AUVs would be equipped with video cameras to monitor the ocean from a remote location. GPS: The robots will need to be equipped with GPS to keep track of it. The robot will use GPS to help with maintenance. If there’s an issue, the robot will be able to find its way back to its launch point or a new point written into its system. GPS can be used to track species of other animals and the currents of our oceans to see where pollution is coming from. AUV/ROV mode: The robot would be able to switch between an AUV mode and an ROV mode. This will allow for the robot to complete tasks for research, clean-up, and tracking on its own, and also be able to be redirected and controlled by a scientist if research needs change. I’ve always had a passion for computer science (specifically AI) and Robotics, and I believe that my idea can help save our oceans. While obtaining my degree I plan to conduct research and work on writing the code and the design features needed to bring my idea to life. I want to make a change in the world, and I know using Computer Science and Robotics is the way to do it.
Madison Hehir
Michigan Technological UniversityGrand Haven, MI
FIRST robotics inspired my love for engineering, but it also helped me recognize that I have to be the solution to the world's problems. When Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST robotics, gave his speech at the 2020 FIRST robotics opening ceremony, he spoke about the ever-growing energy crisis. Yet he said he was not worried, because my generation would be prepared to find solutions. I remember sitting in the back of my dad's truck, watching the livestream, and suddenly realizing that I needed to help develop and install renewable energy. There was no moment of hesitation, with a few simple words I had discovered my career goal. As I studied different types of renewable energy generation, I found myself particularly intrigued by photovoltaic (PV) modules, commonly known as solar panels. I have already taken a few courses that focus on renewable energy sources, and PV modules are always the most widely accepted renewable energy generation source by the general public. Energy collected from PV modules also tends to be cheaper than energy from coal or natural gas plants. PV modules are currently only about 20% efficient, but they have so much potential. I see PV modules as a puzzle; if you strategically place them, you can optimize the efficiency of the space. My favorite growing solar array design is called agrivoltaics. This allows a field to hold both PV modules and low-growing crops or grass for grazing animals. Developing technology also allows PV modules to be placed almost anywhere: my solar consulting group within Michigan Tech's Alternative Energy Enterprise designed solar configurations to sit in fields, on old landfill sites, and on rooftops. PV modules can also track the movements of the sun, absorb sunlight reflected off the ground... the possibilities are endless! There are even see-through PV modules that can replace windows. And as our nation becomes more tech savvy, we can even consider placing PV modules in space to have 100% efficiency. Once I graduate, I would love to work designing PV modules or to be with a PV module consulting agency to help others install solar arrays. My thriving passion for PV modules along with my previous consulting experiences will make me an excellent candidate for one of these job positions. I want to be on the front lines of the renewable energy transition, and if I can help as many people and organizations come closer to net-zero carbon emissions, I can feel satisfied knowing that my passion helped save our planet and save my clients some money.
Kaylin Moss
Marist CollegePoughkeepsie, NY


When is the scholarship application deadline?

The application deadline is Jan 16, 2023. Winners will be announced on Feb 16, 2023.

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