Zanesville teen recognized for computing, academic skills | Zanesville Times Recorder | zanesvilletimesrecorder.com
ZANESVILLE -- If a virtual keyboard is in the future, Emily Vanasdale can't wait to see it being invented.
Or she might be the inventor herself.
Ever since she can remember, the 17-year-old Zanesville girl has had a keen interest in computers and how they work. At 3, she started experimenting with an old Mac, and by 11 she created her own website with games. The boom in technology has kept her busy in recent years thinking up new games and programs, and her hours in front of the computer have served her well.
Today, Vanasdale will be recognized as an Ohio winner of the National Center for Women and Information Technology Award for Aspirations in Computing at TechColumbus.
"I was one out of 10 (Ohio) girls awarded last year, and one of 15 this year," she said. "It recognizes me for accomplishments in areas like academics, technology and computing, volunteer work, etc. I'm both nervous and excited (about the ceremony), but I also feel empowered by my accomplishments. It's an honor, and I appreciate it."
NCWIT is a nonprofit coalition of more than 200 prominent corporations, academic institutions, government agencies and other nonprofits working to improve U.S. innovation, competitiveness and work-force sustainability by increasing women's participation in information technology. NCWIT's work spans kindergarten through 12th grade and higher education through industry and academic careers.
Leading up to her NCWIT recognitions, Vanasdale has successfully created games and applications that earned rave reviews. Her most recent project was an Android app for the Restoration that featured information about the event and links to bands' and speakers' pages.
She also produced winning games for Muskingum University's Games By Teens Contest. The contest began in 2009. Vanasdale took top-three spots each consecutive year -- second place in 2009 with "Running to Freedom," second place in 2010 with "Running to Freedom 2," and first place in 2011 with "Skylar Keyes and the Nazi Loot." They can be downloaded at gamesbyteens.org.
"They're all puzzle games suitable for all ages, and they have educational information," she said. "This is something I want to continue doing. I enjoy programming. I envision what I want to accomplish, get a picture of it, and put the puzzles together. I get ideas from school, movies, anywhere."
Demonstrating "Skylar Keyes," Vanasdale said the player needs to figure out the answer to each level to unlock the secret cave where Nazi loot is stored. The missing letters around the border form the answer, and the answer is also one of the items in each scene.
"She's a storyteller," her mother, Jessica Vanasdale, said. "She makes everything educational and family-friendly."
Family is an important thing to Emily. She picked up her passion for technology from her father, Jason Vanasdale. She said he owned a wireless business when it started taking off in Ohio and built computers from scratch.
She is homeschooled, and sets up shop in her "office area" in the family's basement. She'd also like to stay close to home as she goes on to pursue programming in higher education.
Technology is in Vanasdale's blood, and this is only the beginning of what she hopes will be a long, enriching experience.
"I've applied to Muskingum University, Mount Vernon (Nazarene University), and Ohio University Zanesville," she said. "I want to stay close to my family. After college I'd like to be a stay-at-home mom with a manageable business."
Emily and Jessica said they appreciate the doors that are being opened for women in the realm of technology. They also enjoy seeing the variety of girls recognized at the NCWIT awards and hearing their stories and perspectives. Emily is also passionate about promoting the program and exploration of technological possibilities to her peers.
"I encourage girls to get involved with it," she said. "Some don't get involved because they're afraid of sexism, but they need to fight it. Take a swing at it. There's a great future in technology, if it's used right."