Posted by Cate Sauer on Oct 22, 2021

Emily Yuan Headshot
This month we spoke with 2021 Cutler-Bell Winner Emily Yuan regarding her experience applying for the prize.

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This month we spoke with 2021 Cutler-Bell Winner Emily Yuan regarding her experience applying for the prize. Yuan is in her first semester at the University of Michigan and won the award last year while a senior at Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville, Maryland.

Emily, it’s so great to connect with you again. Can you share how you heard about this prize?

Honestly, I found it online while researching for colleges and scholarships. The prize seemed very niche and fit after I had just completed a CS project over the summer of 2021. I had reached out in the spring of 2019 to a research lab and ended up completing a CS project that was interesting to me, and that is what I ended up submitting for the prize application.

Did you experience any barriers or hesitations while in the application process?

I did not think my project had a chance. In reading about the 2019-2020 winners, the projects seemed so much more complex. Reading about these winners, I felt disconnected. I still applied on a whim. The essay portions were difficult for me to complete, and it was hard to describe and explain.

How are your CS courses going this fall?

I’m taking two now, and the courses and the rest of my experience, in general, have been different from high school. No one is holding your hand in college or guiding you through planning or helping manage your time necessarily. You have to be able to be accountable and follow up when you need help.

What would you say to a senior HS student that is considering applying?

Just go for it, and put yourself out there. As mentioned, I didn’t think my project was a good fit, and I ended up winning! My only advice is to make sure you are passionate about the project you created, and it will make the application process and the essay portions easier to complete.

CSTA supports this student award and CS teachers. What advice would you like to give to CS teachers reading this?

My CS teacher in high school was excellent, fortunately. I would just say that most students taking CS in high school are having their first exposure to the topic. We need to understand how these concepts are used in the real world, how are they used in jobs? What fields use CS? What are real-life examples of CS?

Moving forward, what are you most excited about as you continue on your college journey?

I am continuing to meet people from various backgrounds and experiences. Since coming to Ann Arbor, I have been exposed to so many cultures, languages, and it’s been amazing.
Skip to 00:30 to learn about Emily’s project! 
Summary of Emily Yuan’s project: In the United States, more than half of violent crimes are not reported. And while most victims of violent crimes seek out medical treatment, the current system they use to report details provides general, unmappable data. Others choose not to share data because of fear. To address these issues, Emily Yuan created Spatial Drilldown, a visual interactive mapping system where users click down on parcels on a map to report incident locations. The goal of this application was to ensure the preservation of privacy. Yuan worked with the CDC research team and nurses from Atlanta Grady Memorial Hospital to test this prototype. Spatial Drilldown provides a novel, interactive technique for collecting crime data, precisely that which can be mapped, thus improving the quality of current violence data. Yuan hopes to integrate the application into electronic medical records systems for actual use and expand the crime data to help reduce local violence.
Applications for the Cutler-Bell Prize are now open! Learn more and encourage your students to apply.