Terry O'Banion Student Technology Award Winners

2019

Student Developer Champion: Thomas Soteros

Thomas Soteros is a full-time student enrolled in Johnson County Community College’s software development program, with a goal of earning a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. Maintaining a 4.0 GPA over the last three semesters and making the President’s List, Soteros demonstrates his passion for technology and excellence in the classroom. His professor, Jacob Kier, describes him as knowledgeable, prepared, and friendly. “Though C++ is often considered one of the more challenging languages to learn, Thomas enjoys the intricacies and algorithmic detail that the language affords, said Kier. “It is a regular occurrence for Thomas to develop advanced, clever, and more efficient approaches to a problem. Often these are approaches I hadn’t considered myself!” This level of dedication is particularly admirable given the adversity Soteros has faced. Diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2017, he completed treatment and persevered to continue his education.

Student Technology Champion: Sandra J. Roman

Sandra J. Roman is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Computer Science at Morton College. She is the current chapter president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), a member of Phi Theta Kappa honor society, and dedicated to serving her community. Whether it is teaching kids code at Morton College’s summer STEM camp or organizing her SHPE colleagues for a hunger walk that donated 3,762 lbs. of food to a community food pantry, Roman uses her skills to lift those in need. Despite challenging health issues and supporting herself as a full-time student with part-time employment, she looks to build on her achievements and make technology her life’s work and mission. As her instructor Carlos Dominguez confirms, “Sandra uses her growing knowledge of technology to address social problems; she is humble, hard-working, and deeply committed to the success of everyone in the community.”

Student Technology Champion: Ibrahim Sackey

Cuyahoga Community College student Ibrahim Sackey is pursuing dual degrees in Information Technology Networking Hardware and Networking Software. He intends to transfer to a four-year university to complete his bachelor’s degree in Network Operations and Security. Sackey has earned ten professional certificates and demonstrates his leadership and knowledge as President of the Information Technology Career Advancement Club, a Phi Theta Kappa honor society member, and a Mandel Scholar. He is described by one of his professors as self-directed, focused, and independent, and “undoubtedly the best student” he has encountered in his 20-plus years of teaching. The youngest of four children and a first-generation college student, Sackey is attending Tri-C full time and working part time to support himself and assist his mom with household expenses. He is surpassing expectations with a 3.95 cumulative GPA.

2018

Student Developer Champion: Matthew Hartmann

Matthew Hartmann is enrolled in Moraine Valley Community College’s Information Management System’s program. Hartmann is a natural talent in technology, having taken apart and re-assembled his first computer at age twelve. His professors describe him as a determined student with a natural ability for coding. Completely self-supporting and independent, he is putting himself through college and takes public transport to keep within his budget and manage living expenses. With his passion for coding and ambition, Hartmann will undoubtably go far in his career. As his professor Mr. Patitucci explained, “Matt produced some of the most ambitious and sophisticated work I have seen in my eighteen-year career. He pushed himself beyond the scope of our coursework, venturing into areas of technology where no student has gone in my class. While his classmates were coding (fictitious) online shops and art galleries, Matt was coding real-time cryptocurrency price-tracking software, in earnest. In my opinion, he is Silicon Valley material.”

Student Technology Champion: KOH Ze Kai (Leo)

Koh Ze Kai (Leo) is enrolled in Singapore’s Institute of Technical Education (ITE) Higher National ITE Certificate in Electronics Engineering program. A humanitarian, Koh believes that technology should benefit mankind and help others, particularly those who may be facing disabilities. In the short time he’s been enrolled in college, he has acquired multiple computer coding and design skills, including CAD & circuit design, electronic circuit assembly and troubleshooting, micro-controller programming, and knowledge of C++, Linux, and Python programming. Currently, he is working with a team to develop a Smart Display system for the college, allowing the public to make enquiries about courses offered via voice-assisted technology. Hardworking, reliable, and ambitious, Koh makes time to help others. He has maintained a GPA of 4.0 and was awarded the Service Star Award 2018 (Gold) for his achievements in the area of technology.

Student Technology Champion: Randy Felser

Randy Felser is enrolled in Valencia College’s Information Technology program and is an example of what sheer will and determination to overcome obstacles can achieve. Prior to 2009, Felser was working in the retail management field. Facing sudden unemployment as a result of the slumping economy, however, turned out to be the least of his life challenges. Determined to surmount personal and economic hardship, Felser enrolled in Valencia’s technology program with the goal of forging a sustainable career path to support his family. He has realized success academically by achieving a 4.0 GPA and taking a leadership role, as Treasurer in the college’s technology club. Patient and giving, Felser volunteers as a student tutor and repairs computers on the side. His professor, Heith Hennel, offers, “Randy’s unselfishness is evident through his helping of others and volunteering for events. He is truly an asset to college and will be an asset in the computer technology industry.”

2017

Student Developer Champion: Ethan P. Pawelski

Ethan P. Pawelski is enrolled in Southwestern Michigan College’s Application Development program. Ethan has undertaken, on a voluntary basis, tutoring his fellow students in app development as his college’s tutoring department does not provide this service. Ethan maintains a 4.0 GPA, and, after earning a two-year Application Development A.A.S. as a distinguished graduate, he plans to complete a bachelor’s degree, also in Application Development. “Ethan is intelligent, ambitious, driven, and extremely creative. He can MacGyver all sorts of innovative contraptions and goes above and beyond to exceed my expectations,” states Professor Christine Stiles.

Student Technology Champion: Emilie C. Robertson

Emilie C. Robertson is enrolled in Anne Arundel Community College’s Web Design and Small Business degree program. Overcoming challenging circumstances, she is working her way through college and maintains a 4.0 GPA and is also a member of Phi Theta Kappa. With a demonstrated focus, attention to detail, and innate creativity, she supports her concepts with a strong understanding of technology and balances it with a deep empathy for people who use the Web. Her instructor, Erik Dunham, explains, “Web design gives her a chance to help others communicate their messages to millions of other people in ways that are creative and new.” He states, “I am continually impressed with her observations and desire to make the Web a useful space for everyone.”

Student Technology Champion: Michael Vazquez

Michael Vazquez is enrolled in Moraine Valley Community College’s Information Management Systems program, earning eight industry certifications in his academic career, studying part-time over a five-year period. Michael was recommended for this award based on his outstanding academic performance and perseverance to overcome family and cultural barriers to higher education. He is a first-generation college student who is working his way through school with plans to transfer to receive a bachelor’s degree in the technology field. He serves on campus as a technology tutor, building empathetic relationships with his fellow students. As his department chair Michelle August asserts, “In my seventeen years of teaching, few students have matched him in kindness, genuineness, and positivity. Michael has technical skills and people skills in equal abundance; a rare find!”

2016

Student Developer Champion: Benjamin Carpenter

Benjamin Carpenter is a freshman enrolled in Johnson County Community College’s Web Development & Digital Media program. Ben has undertaken, on a voluntary basis, the building of a personal food computer (PFC). The food computer movement is led by the MIT Media Lab Open Agriculture Initiative. These computers are built from scratch and only a few currently exist. The PFC supports sustainability goals and can grow food in any location, regardless of climate, addressing global hunger and nutrition. Ben maintains a 4.0 GPA, and, after earning a two-year Computer Information Systems A.A.S. at Johnson County Community College, he plans to start his career or, perhaps, transfer to a four-year university to complete a bachelor’s degree. “Ben’s joy, curiosity about how things work, and patience make him an exceptional candidate for this honor,” states Professor Lisa Friedrichsen.

Student Technology Champion: Katrina Zayas

Katrina Zayas is enrolled in Valencia College’s Information Technology program. Overcoming a challenging early life, she is working her way through college and has earned top grades and a spot on the President’s List, and is also a member of Phi Theta Kappa. As the first female Vice President of Valencia’s Technology Club, she has volunteered over 150 hours to teach students computer programming, and provides computer repair services for students. Katrina was on the winning team of the Deloitte Challenge, in which students are asked to come up with a real-world solution to a problem that the firm is facing. Her instructor, Heith Hennel, explains that this scholarship will help Katrina reach her goal of obtaining a bachelor’s degree in information technology. He confirms, “This scholarship will really help. You will never meet a more well-mannered, high-achieving, goal-setting student.”

Student Technology Champion: Michael B. Sammons

Mike Sammons is enrolled in Kirkwood Community College’s innovative Energy Production and Distribution Technologies program. Mike was recommended for this award based on his outstanding academic performance and aptitude placing him in the 99th percentile of his class. Mike is ambitiously pursuing two honors programs, an unprecedented achievement in his department. He is developing his own version of FarmBot Genesis, which seeks to automate small-scale and greenhouse farming to get more fresh produce to more people in the most economical way. As his instructor Chad Dougherty asserts, “During the past year, I have had a chance to work with Mike on a number of occasions. He is an exceptional student and a joy to have in the classroom. His creativity and inquisitive mind are an absolute pleasure.”

2015

Student Developer Champion: Zachary Endrulat

According to Dawn Patitucci, Zachary Endrulat is an ideal student. “He pushes himself hard, confronts challenges head on, and digs deep into problem solving and research.” Zachary has taken a few night classes at a time for the past four years while working during the day. He is finally nearing graduation with a degree in programming, but knows he will never stop learning. “The world keeps changing and growing; one can never know it all, so I just keep going and changing with it,” he said.

Student Technology Champion: Whitney King

Whitney King has been working and attending school for the past eight years. She is currently pursuing an associate’s degree in business intelligence, after which she plans to enroll in the Bachelor of Applied Science program at Bellevue College. Whitney, who maintains an A average, is engaged in class discussions and her work is always complete, accurate, and on time. Debi Griggs nominated Whitney for this award as “a worthy student who will benefit from pursuing additional education in technology and who can serve as a role model to other females interested in entering STEM fields.”

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