ASU computer science major Tiffany Ticlo will pass on her crown but continue to inspire children to combine code and creativity

“It’s bittersweet.”

That’s how Tiffany Ticlo describes her spring months of milestones. In May, she will graduate summa cum laude from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in computer science with an emphasis in software engineering from the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence, part of the Fulton Schools. In June, she will pass her crown to the next Miss Arizona, bringing an end to her own successful reign.

Ticlo, a former Miss Scottsdale, was crowned Miss Arizona in June 2023. Combining her love for engineering with her passion for helping children, she dedicated her time to a community service initiative called STEAM: Bringing Science and the Arts to All Students.

Many people are aware of the need to encourage children to participate in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, education. ASU has played a vital role in efforts to support teachers and students who might feel challenged by STEM learning.

But Ticlo’s work takes the next step.

The “A” in STEAM represents the arts.

“This is incredibly important because, while the left side of the brain is trained in logical thinking and analytical processing, the right side is often neglected when too much emphasis is placed on STEM topics,” Ticlo says. “The arts stimulate emotional perception and creativity.”

Incorporating the arts into STEM education helps her make students comfortable with complex technical topics and engage them in the learning process. As part of her outreach efforts, Ticlo visits elementary schools and teaches children as young as the fifth grade to create their own video games using the programming language Lua. She inspires students to imagine interactive worlds while they learn technical concepts that can be built on in the future. One project popular with the students was creating their own Mad Libs games, a simple coding project that can be taught in a single lesson.

“At the start of the day, the students didn’t know what Mad Libs were,” she says. “They hadn’t done any coding before. At the end of our lesson, I asked how many kids would be interested in pursuing a career in STEAM and almost all of them raised their hands. As a woman in software engineering, that was really heartwarming.”

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