The NCWIT 2023 Aspirations in Computing Educator Awards Connecticut Affiliate Winners have been announced and congratulations go out to Chinma Uche, Academy of Aerospace and Engineering educator, and Laura Juarez, the Robotics Director of CT STEM Academy!

The NCWIT 2023 Aspirations in Computing Educator Awards Connecticut Affiliate Winners have been announced and congratulations go out to Chinma Uche, Academy of Aerospace and Engineering educator, and Laura Juarez, the Robotics Director of CT STEM Academy! 

Our reporter got to speak to Laura about her inspiring work advocating for representation and access in the STEM field.  Laura was nominated and encouraged to apply for this award by Aspirations in Computing – 2023 Award National Winner Yasmeen Galal, who worked with Laura in robotics and came back as a mentor for the VEX Robotics team. 

Laura Juarez started working for CT STEM Academy in 2017 and was initially in charge of inventory and organization of the STEM materials the program offered. When Christopher Stone, the Director of CT STEM Academy, needed faculty to go out into the field and deliver lessons from their mobile center, Laura found herself discovering her passion while running her own classes. She started her first project with the now national initiative through NCWIT TECHNOLOchicas (through LULA in partnership with Televisa), and she noticed that there were opportunities for Latino girls and wanted to connect the resources to the populations she served to provide mentorship and representation. “I made it my mission to get it out there and help these girls become a part of the community, and know that even though it is very well-known that it is a male-dominated field, females have a spot as well. The resources are there, you just have to know how to use them.” Laura included programming that highlighted NASA opportunities in her weekly class, and even connected her students to a Latina female astronaut, leading to inspiration for both her students and Laura. 

Laura felt motivated to pursue education in computer science to expand offerings through CT STEM Academy by taking classes through Google’s CS First and looking at how to include and promote Hour of Code and computer science. With the Academy’s first world competition for VEX IQ robots in 2019 under then director Liana Michaud, Laura knew that there could be stares from other teams as the all-girl team was not the norm. She recounts how the team reported back that “Ms. Laura everyone was looking like we we’re the weird ones” and she knew she had to change this for students. Since that competition, “two girls out of the four came back as mentors and have continued their robotics career and have noticed since their first time the lack of females at these competitions. They feel out of place and get those weird looks!”  This led to actively recruiting and encouraging more girls to join the program and get engaged with female-led activities. As Laura notes, “I love the ways that girls can get involved with coding is through our Academy (we will be running summer classes at our location in Wallingford), Girls Who Code offers tons of programs all over the country, has also started a movement for this and if any girl is interested in coding they can always find programs online to begin learning the basics of coding for free.” In addition to the robotics and NASA classes, there are also engineering projects, led by all female staff, and in the summer - all-girls coding, all-girls engineering, and all-girls robotics led by all female staff. Laura also runs NASA Astrocamp that ensures a certain percentage of girls are involved as they connect with Astronauts either in person or remotely and get to work with NASA materials. She notes that everything should start small before expanding, and every day, she strives for something bigger and better for her students. “It is wonderful to see how girls get to make the connection that girls can be a part of the field and it’s not just a male-dominated field.” (At this point in the interview, the reporter became biased and fawned over Laura’s accomplishments.)

Laura Juarez is young enough to change her career and has found her calling in STEM and STEM education. By working in the field, she grew to love it and cannot see herself doing anything other than being in this field. When asked what motivated that, Laura notes that “kids make a connection with what we’re working with. Hearing the girls say I can see myself doing this in 10 years or 5 years. The kids really changed my life and way of thinking.” As an educator who encourages others to find their passions, makes and holds space for others to find themself in the field, and is a lifelong learner, Laura has left an indelible impression on her students. She sees students and works to reach them, citing that her words of wisdom surround one thing: patience. “Nowadays, patience is not something we have, but we grow to learn to have. We come to earn patience.”

When CT STEM Academy opened its new location in Wallingford, CT in October 2022, the course offerings could expand to initially support the local area with the hopes of expanding back towards Litchfield County as they book into the 2024-2025 school year for programs. If you would like to know more about their expansive offerings or to find Laura, please go to As she notes, “I admire teachers. They don’t know it, but they change lives,” and after our conversation, it is readily apparent that Laura is one of those teachers who has changed and will continue to change lives. Congratulations, again to the 2023 Aspirations in Computing Educator Awards Connecticut Affiliate Winner, Miss Laura Juarez!