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It’s full STEAM ahead as Miss Arizona graduates

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

by | Apr 12, 2024 | Features, Students

Tiffany Ticlo, reigning Miss Arizona and a computer science undergraduate student in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, visits an elementary school and teaches students to create their own video games. She plans to continue her community service work as she graduates and prepares for a career as a solutions analyst. Image courtesy of Tiffany Ticlo

“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.

Tiffany Ticlo teaching young students

Ticlo works with students, combining artistic and technical projects in the hopes of making STEAM education as inclusive as possible. Image courtesy of Tiffany Ticlo


The art of connecting with kids

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.”

Ticlo became interested in engineering at a young age. Her father and sisters are both engineers who inspired her to join a robotics club and participate in school science fairs.

She believes her education in the Fulton Schools has prepared her well for her career work. Ticlo learned a variety of programming languages, such as Python and C++, and found inspiration in her engineering classes, focusing on the development of applications for mobile devices. She developed an iOS application for the Miss Valley of the Sun organization that connects delegates, sponsors and members of the public with the scholarship nonprofit.

At times, things got hectic. Ticlo had to balance four to five weekly Miss Arizona appearances with her challenging class load and her work as an American Pistachio Growers Ambassador.

“Luckily, pistachios are the antioxidant powerhouse,” Ticlo says with a laugh.

album cover of Tiffany Ticlo - Elevate

Despite her technical career path, Ticlo makes sure to incorporate the arts into her own life. She has recorded two music singles, including “Elevate,” that have provided her with a creative outlet and are designed to raise awareness of mental health issues. Image courtesy of Tiffany Ticlo

Inspired by family, focused on the future

Even though her family had a technical focus, they also encouraged her to explore her creative side.

“My family was very arts-oriented,” Ticlo says. “I really loved painting classes. We did a lot of karaoke.”

That love of music stuck. Ticlo has released two singles, “Find Forever” and “Elevate,” which are available from all top streaming services. Her next track, “Boxes,” will drop this month.

“Music has always been an emotional outlet for me,” she says. “All of my songs talk about my mental health journey. I wanted to share the message that it’s okay not to be okay sometimes.”

After graduation, Ticlo plans to take a job as a solutions analyst and continue her community outreach. She will also take a STEAM approach to balance her creative and analytical sides in her own life, preserving her arts focus by recording more music.

Ticlo hopes to serve as a role model for kids who want to pursue careers in STEM fields. She believes it’s important to teach children to see challenges and failures as an important aspect of success.

“Something that I’ve learned during my time here as an undergraduate student is that failures are steppingstones towards growth,” Ticlo says. “It’s okay to fall down sometimes, as long as the number of times that you fall down is one less than the number of times that you get back up again.”

About The Author

Kelly deVos

Kelly deVos is the communications specialist for the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence. She and holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Arizona State University. Her work has been featured in the New York Times as well as on Vulture, Salon and Bustle. She is a past nominee for the Georgia Peach, Gateway and TASHYA book awards.

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