The Baskin School of Engineering at UC Santa Cruz is helping to sponsor a new award for young women in the greater San Francisco Bay Area who are interested in computing and technology.

"We are very excited about this as a way to draw more girls into our computing majors," said Charlie McDowell, professor of computer science and associate dean for undergraduate affairs in the Baskin School of Engineering.

McDowell and Adrienne Harrell, the school's director of undergraduate student affairs, worked with a group of other sponsors and the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) to establish a Bay Area Affiliate competition for the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing.

As part of an effort to encourage more young women to choose careers in technology, NCWIT seeks to recognize young women (grades 9 to 12) who have outstanding achievements and aspirations in computing and technology. The NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing was created to acknowledge the computing aspirations of young women, introduce them to leadership opportunities in the field, and generate visibility for women's participation in computing-related pursuits.

"Encouraging more young women's interest in technology careers is critical; our workforce needs their creativity and their innovation," said Lucy Sanders, CEO and cofounder of NCWIT. "This award helps us recognize and encourage talent that might otherwise be overlooked."

NCWIT has expanded the Award for Aspirations in Computing at the local level through an Affiliate system. The Bay Area Affiliate is composed of corporations, nonprofit organizations, and higher education institutions that share the common goal of encouraging more young women to aspire to a career in computing and technology. Applicants who apply for the Bay Area Affiliate Award will also be invited to apply for the national award.

Award recipients will be selected for their outstanding aptitude and interest in information technology and computing, solid leadership ability, good academic history, and plans for post-secondary education. Applications must be submitted online by Friday, April 2.

Each Bay Area Affiliate Award recipient will receive a $250 gift card; a Day@Google; a 1GB Microsoft flash drive; a one-year membership to the Computer History Museum; an engraved award for both award recipient and recipient's school; and more.

The award is sponsored by the following organizations, which comprise the Bay Area Affiliates: Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, Baskin School of Engineering at UC Santa Cruz, ETR Associates, Girls Inc. of the Island City, Google, Intel Corporation, Microsoft, MOUSE Squad Student Tech, NSBE Alumni Extension - Silicon Valley Chapter, Palo Alto Unified School District, SDForum Tech Women's Program, San Jose State University, and Techbridge.

NCWIT is a collaboration of nearly 200 prominent corporations, academic institutions, government agencies, and nonprofits working to increase women's participation in information technology.