Announcing the EWCP Scholarship for Social Change

EWCP Inc. is proud to announce a new scholarship opportunity for FIRST participants.

The EWCP Scholarship for Social Change is a one-time, $1000 scholarship open to high school or college applicants who have participated in FTC or FRC-- mentor-based youth STEM programs which create frameworks and build skillsets for addressing inequality and injustice. The scholarship will be awarded on the basis of a 400-500 word essay which answers the question:

Using what you have learned in your FIRST experience, how will you continue to bring about social change?

EWCP will publish the scholarship winner’s essay here and on our website.

The deadline to apply for this scholarship is Monday, 1 March 2021. More information about the scholarship, including application instructions, can be found at ewcp.org/scholarship.

About us
EWCP Inc. is a 501c3 public charity established in 2018. Our nonprofit mission is to develop the sustainability of competitive youth STEM teams and strengthen the diversity, robustness, and impact of the youth STEM education community through strategic advocacy, expert consensus-building, and technical leadership. EWCP welcomes tax-deductible donations in support of this scholarship via the PayPal Giving Fund.

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This is a cool opportunity and a very easy application process. Thanks to those involved with putting this together.

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I just wanted to thank you guys along with the entire FIRST community and its supporters for providing these new scholarships opportunities to the students. We all definitely appreciate it!

Best of luck to everyone participating!

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1 month remaining to apply for this year’s EWCP Scholarship for Social Change!

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Also you can donate to the EWCP to support this scholarship and get a tax deduction as the EWCP is a 501©3 Donate with PayPal Giving Fund

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1 week remaining to apply for this year’s EWCP Scholarship for Social Change!

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EWCP is proud to announce the winner of our inaugural Scholarship for Social Change!

Maria Izzi, from FTC 10357 “Volt-e-mort” in Herndon, VA. Maria is a high school senior and plans to attend Duke University majoring in Computer Science.

In addition to our winner, we would like to recognize two finalists:

  • Ethan S, from FTC 11444 “Garnet Squadron” in Columbia, SC. Ethan is an undergraduate student at University of South Carolina, majoring in Mechanical Engineering.

  • Shrinidhi K, FRC 540 “TALON 540” in Henrico, VA. Shrinidhi is a high school senior and plans to attend University of Virginia, majoring in Neuroscience and Political Science.

We couldn’t be prouder of these three students, and we believe they are well equipped (in part because of their FIRST experiences) to address social inequities throughout their personal, academic, and professional journeys.

From all of us at EWCP, we’d like to thank all the applicants for participating in our organization’s first-ever scholarship program, and for submitting such insightful and inspiring essays.

Maria’s winning essay

When I learned that an Arab-American-owned store reported George Floyd, I was forced to confront an evaded reality: racism pervaded my Muslim community. I realized it had always existed, as I thought back to summers when my mom “scrubbed the darkness” off my face, to colorism in Indian beauty standards, to my own culpable silence while friends used the N-word, blasé.

This racism has roots in misinformation. My parents interacted with social media about Asian or white changemakers, but didn’t see many Black ones, rather only finding Black people in posts about criminals. I want to work to fight misinformation, using my technical and interpersonal skills, in part gained from FIRST programs.

I’m currently working on computational cancer research at Harvard’s Parmigiani Lab. I have also gained some data science experience working with the Coronavirus Visualization Team, a student group founded out of Harvard, to create data visualizations surrounding the pandemic. I hope to move to more interdisciplinary research, applying my Python, R, heuristics and data science skills alongside psychology, economics, and other principles.

I plan to investigate problems like media misinformation, specifically vulnerability, policy solutions, and COVID/emergency news. A large part of the reason that social media is able to intensify biases, from racism to political ideologies, is because it obstructs opposing viewpoints. By gently exposing users to these different perspectives, they can gain a more comprehensive view of all topics, reducing the current polarization of the world while still allowing the enjoyment of social media.

This product can look like either a policy change to current media platforms, a new platform with an altered algorithm, or an external browser extension/app. The scale of this plan is infinite; while I will start with a small group, such as people like my parents, the product can eventually grow to accommodate all audiences. I have already begun part of this process through creating informative COVID visualizations which provide accurate, in-context data to users. A large part of misinformation comes from non-contextual or misrepresented data at an individual level, so this is already a leap on the path to a solution.

I owe much of my inclination toward this change to FIRST, as it taught me how working small-scale, from the ground up can have magnified impacts, sometimes even more than larger events. Our FIRST Tech Challenge team held many events with a small audience, as well as some with larger ones, including workshops, multi-team collaborative meet n’ greets, and multi-session classes. We discovered that even inspiring one student to start a team, or exposing one person to a new CAD skill could make a huge change in the FIRST community, and thus, across the world.

By leveraging the power of trickle-up change through data science and social media, I hope to help people build independent opinions, ultimately creating a more informed, open-minded world.

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A report on the judging process used for the 2021 EWCP Scholarship for Social Change.

Background
The EWCP Scholarship for Social Change is a small FIRST scholarship established in 2020 by EWCP, Inc, a nonprofit with the mission of strengthening the diversity, robustness, and impact of youth STEM education through strategic advocacy, expert consensus-building, and technical leadership.

As part of that mission, and to provide a resource for similar community scholarships, we wish to publish some notes on the judging process used to determine the 2021 award winners. We recommend this judging strategy for scholarship programs of similar size.

Timeline
Application deadline: 11:59 PM EST, Monday 3/1/2021
Anonymization phase: 3/1 - 3/15
Round 1 judging: 3/15 - 3/29
Round 2 judging: 3/29 - 4/13
Actual date of award notification: 4/24
Publicized target date for award notification: 4/29

Anonymization phase
After the essay submission deadline, a group of anonymizers removed identifying information including names, locations, institutions, and specific youth STEM competitions from all essays. Essays were assigned a unique identification number before being sent to the judges to ensure we removed as much potential bias as possible.

Round 1 judging
Essays went through two rounds of judging. The first round of judging saw every essay read by two judges and evaluated using this rubric:

Use the following convention for each criteria:

  • 0 - Does not satisfy this requirement
  • 1 - Somewhat satisfies requirement
  • 2 - Meets requirement
  • 3 - exceeds requirement

Criteria:

  • Effort - Student has clearly put effort into their essay
  • Plan - Clearly Communicated: Essay explains the mechanism by which the plan provides a solution to the problem statement
  • Plan - Demonstrates Thoughtful Understanding: Essay demonstrates empathetic thinking and thoughtful understanding of the problem statement, problem statement is relevant
  • Plan - Achievable/Actionable: Essay demonstrates that plan is achievable and has actionable items
  • Plan - Scale: This plan has a significant impact as measured by population size, duration of effect, and/or magnitude of effect
  • Connected/tied back to FIRST Experience: Essay links to ideas and concepts from FIRST experience
  • Originality: Essay and plan demonstrate original thinking

Round 1 scores were computed for each essay by adding the scores for each rubric category given by both judges who reviewed that essay.

Downselection for round 2
The essays were sorted by total score. Scholarship administrators selected a position in the ordered list where there was a conspicuously large gap in score between neighboring essays. In the case of the 2021 scholarship, there was a large gap between the 11th and 12th essays in the sorted list. All 11 top essays were then sent forward to a second round of judging.

Round 2 judging
Next, every judge was asked to read all top essays and identify their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place choices. A weight was assigned to each of these three ranks, and the overall winner was the essay with the highest weighted sum.

Deanonymization and winner notification
Having identified the winning essay, the scholarship administrators asked the anonymization team to reveal the author.

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Well, this essay made my jaw drop. Congratulations to the winner and thanks for allowing your essay to be shared; it’s important for people to see how passionate young people are about the real world social issues we all face today, and then seeing that passion turn into action.

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Sometimes hearing about the awesomeness of students in this program reminds us why we mentor. And sometimes, like when you haven’t engaged with students in over a year, that’s a wonderful thing. Thanks for sharing the essay, and congrats to the winner and finalists!

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As a judge, it was heartening to see so many fantastic ideas and diverse perspectives from the next generation. With so many great submissions, picking my favorites wasn’t easy. Thank you to everyone who took the time to apply and I’d like to again congratulate Maria, Ethan, and Shrinidhi.

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