LACC Latina Twins Take Top Prize at AT&T Hack-a-thon
Twins America and Penelope Lopez are first-generation Latina students majoring in computer science. America is a full-time student at LACC and Penelope is currently takes classes at LACC and California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA). Recently, the twins were accepted into the renowned Silicon Valley accelerator program, Women’s Startup Lab, that begins on February 23. The two-week program accepts only 20 females from a highly competitive applicant pool; the Lab’s mission is to bring together women entrepreneurs from across globe to develop their leadership skills within their STEM-related fields.
America and Penelope grew up in East Los Angeles in the Ramona Gardens housing project in Boyle Heights. They attended Lincoln High School. Under the tutelage of Professors Munir Samplewalla and Jayesh Bhakta, and by accessing the resources of the LACC STEM Academy and CSIT department, they realized their passion for technology and were able develop and pursue their interests in computer science.
Since starting classes at LACC in fall 2014, they have attended more than eight conferences and nine hack-a-thons throughout California and the United States, while keeping up with their studies. Most recently, they attended the AT&T Developer Summit and Hack-a-thon in Las Vegas where the 24-year-old twins took the top prize in the Women in Tech Challenge. Their winning project was the “Body Camera Hack,” a prototype camera with face-tracking technology that can be worn by law enforcement officers to record their actions in the field. The camera was inspired both by the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, MO, and their own experiences growing up in Boyle Heights.
The camera is also useful for journalists and researchers recording weather events, astronauts repairing equipment on spacewalks and business owners in high-crime neighborhoods. With the recent win in Las Vegas, they have attracted the attention of tech industry leaders, who encouraged them to apply for the Women’s Startup Lab. As a result, they were accepted and awarded a scholarship that pays for half the cost of attendance. The sisters have created a crowdfunding page to help raise the additional $5,000.00.
The twins continue to go to as many conferences, hack-a-thons, and workshops as possible. As they attend these events, it is a reminder to them of how far they have come–and how few women there are in technology—and even fewer are Latinas. America and Penelope realize they are role models for girls interested in STEM and are paying it forward by working with Lincoln High School on developing after-school clubs and programs to teach students how to build apps and help them understand the creativity and fun that exists in a STEM career . In addition, both young women were elected to their neighborhood council and are informing their community of the opportunities available to them in technology fields.
In their spare time, this dynamic duo can be found riding around town on their Honda motorcycle, taking care of the neighborhood dogs, and pushing each other to develop new and better apps. Their favorites are those that help students pass motorcycle driving tests and those that feature trivia games.
As America reflects on her childhood, she states, “I owe it to my parents to graduate and LACC put me on that path”. Both girls plan to transfer and graduate with a B.S. in Computer Science, Penelope from CSULA and America’s goal is to transfer to USC.
Supporting More Students Like America and Penelope
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