Stories

A student takes notes on her laptop in a virtual reality class at UIC

UIC student Afifa Nadeem poses with networking technology in front of a mural by Pablo Serrano in the Chicago neighborhood of Pilsen

Designing a network (and networking)

Sprinternships definitely can help your résumé. Can they also help Chicago communities? The five UIC students who held Sprinternships with Cisco Systems in 2021 can answer this question with a resounding “yes.”

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Sarah Iqbal, Ammara Ashraf, and Farah Iqbal with their Expo design project “Interactive Arduino Mini Piano” in Wheaton, May 2, 2021.

Bringing out tech's musical side

Pianos: wood, strings, and metal? Not in the computer science division of UIC’s Engineering Expo. Three women showed how an instrument that has stood the test of centuries could be updated as a tech project.

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Reem Jaghlit, head of diversity, equity, and inclusion for ActiveCampaign, wears a bright blue coat on the sidewalk in front of a building.

Culture matters

It’s not just the work you do that’s important — it’s the place where you do it. Reem Jaghlit talks about the benefits of finding a workplace culture that celebrates you, no matter who you are (or who you want to be).

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Arpita Kumari, UIC '21, sits with her laptop in a natural outdoor park setting

College: more than just class

Arpita Kumari details how involvement with a student organization at the University of Illinois Chicago provided the valuable insight that computing and technology were indeed the right place for her.

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Illustration of autonomous vehicles driving on a tree-lined highway

Advancing tech for the common good

Data scientist Fran Berman held an online visit with Break Through Tech Chicago participants and other UIC students to talk about the range of ethical and logistical issues that concern developers of autonomous vehicles.

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The Chicago skyline at night with an open rail bridge in the foreground

Chicago organizations invest in the future of 115 Sprinterns

Chicago women and nonbinary individuals will get a head start on tech work experience in May 2021 thanks to these committed partner companies and organizations.

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Johnnalee Kutzke, a master's student in computer science at UIC, in Lincoln Park, Chicago

Knowing what's right

In this HOW (“Her Own Words”) column, computer science graduate student Johnnalee Kutzke breaks down her reactions to other people always pushing her away from tech.

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Doris Espiritu at the American Chemical Society conference

In a flashback to childhood, the start of a career

Always a scientist and now a community college professor, Doris Espiritu has found ways to integrate technology into her own research and has opened up the process of data-driven investigation to new generations of young people.

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A computer screen shows a panel of participants in Winter Guild

Winter Guild 2021: For great tech, start with people

Sometimes, the best mobile app isn’t about the flashiest tech or the loudest bells and whistles. It’s about keen knowledge of the wants and needs of your app’s users. Winter Guild participants brainstormed their way to apps designed with real people in mind.

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Cecilia Avila, UIC '20, in front of a professionally painted mural in Chicago

Cecilia Avila, UIC CS '20, wins GET Chicago Fellowship

Avila will work in a team to develop a technological solution for a challenge faced by underrepresented groups in tech, especially women. She is excited to make industry connections and experience the mentorship that comes with the fellowship.

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Naomi Kaduwela, head of Kavi Labs, with the Cloud Gate sculpture (

A big “YES” to computer science changed my life

An unexpected conversation in her college academic advisor’s office changed the course of Naomi Kaduwela’s career. Read about that fateful day and the experiences at GE Healthcare and Kavi Global that followed.

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Sarah Ather in front of a professionally painted mural in Chicago

Finding your power — and using it to lift others

In this column in our HOW series, Sarah Ather, a 2019 UIC computer science graduate, tells the powerful story of how she discovered that she needed tech and, perhaps more importantly, tech needed her.

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Teaching assistants for the Girls Who Code program prepare a lesson for participants

Coding a gender remix for the next generation

Girls Who Code, a nationwide program for secondary school students, offered Gina Gerace a door into tech. Now she gives back to the program at UIC as a college-level mentor.

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Amita Shetty on UIC's campus in a large red Adirondack chair, with the Sears Tower in the background

Break Through Tech Chicago announces strategic expert as new director

Amita Shetty, an experienced strategy executive at the rail leasing company GATX, seeks to create more space for women in technology in Chicago by achieving sustainable change at scale.

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Heather Kuhn, UIC '19, codes at her home computer

And you know what? I did it.

Heather Kuhn knows what it’s like to be the only woman in the room. It’s a situation that made her want to work harder and defy all odds.

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A bridge over the Chicago River in the Loop

Bringing the brains of tech to the heart of Chicago

In this first-person column, Nimeesha Chan talks about what it was like to work with students from all over the Chicago area on a city-wide challenge to improve economic opportunity and financial security.

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Shanon Reckinger leads a section of Break Through Tech Summer Guild from her home in 2020

Solving old problems with new tech

Food insecurity is a wide-ranging problem, affecting the people who need better access to food, the organizations that seek to provide that access, and more. Summer Guild participants considered how tech could help to address several of those aspects.

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An expanse of countryside in Santo Domingo, MX

The computational power of the puff-ball cactus

In our inaugural HOW (in “Her Own Words”) column, Hilda Mendoza-Avila traces the roots of her interest in tech to a small town in northern Mexico called Santo Domingo.

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Colorful illustration showing people around the world connected in a network

Talk to me

In an exploratory UIC computer science course called CS 100, Break Through Tech Chicago students simulated a “network” to learn about the history of the internet.

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A man looks over his roommate's shoulder to see what is on her computer screen

Your roommate as cyber threat

Break Through Tech Chicago students explored “threat modeling” in the exploratory introductory computer science course CS 100.

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A student manipulates sound files on a laptop with a pair of headphones nearby

That code sounds great!

Music can be code. Code can be music. Break Through Tech Chicago students enrolled in UIC’s exploratory computer science course, CS 100, discovered how.

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