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Future Leader Winner Combines Coding, Robotics & Altruism

LAFAYETTE, Colo (CBS4) – Every month, CBS4, along with the Colorado School of Mines and PDC Energy, honors a high school student excelling in science, technology, engineering, and math, STEM. The Future Leaders winner gets $1,000 in prize money, and a profile on CBS4. This month's winner is a junior at Peak to Peak Charter School in Lafayette. Makenna Turner said that she believes in "access to opportunity and education," and she adheres to that philosophy in everything she does.

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"What is this apparatus I see on your ear? What is this?" CBS4's Ashton Altieri asked Turner.

"This is my wearable device," Turner replied displaying the green device hooked over her ear. "What it does is tracks your accelerometer data, and transmits it to the computer."

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At age 13, Turner designed and built her own fitness tracker as part of a seminar class she took. She got to choose her own area of study, and she chose product production and prototyping.  It's the exact same kind of work she's doing now at the University of Colorado's ATLAS Institute. Turner is working with a graduate student to develop a wearable device that teaches skills, like hitting a golf ball.

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"It's a mix between figuring out the proper algorithm to use and being able to see how people interact with the device and the IOS app that's been developed with it," she explained.

Turner is also a lead on her high school FTC Robotics Team. They're developing a rover robot for competition.

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"We basically create a visual model of what the field would look like, and what our robot would look like in the field, and so I'm captain of that team. It's a big challenge because it is something that's unique to our team," she told CBS4.

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At the heart of all of these projects is computer coding.

"Makenna, you were telling me you know a lot of different coding languages, what do you like best about the process of coding?" Altieri asked.

"It's something that really is just a destressor for me, to write lines of code and see something show up on the screen," Turner replied.

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Currently, she has three websites in development.

"I think the website I'm most proud of is, it's my personal website. I'm not proud of it because it shows my coding ability the strongest, but I'm proud of it because it shows who I am the strongest," she said.

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Turner is an international philanthropist. Last year, Makenna collected boxes full of supplies for a school in Puerto Rico devastated by the hurricane.

"After hearing about all the schools closing down, or starting to close down, I was just in awe. It's tragic that these kids are not getting an education. I value my education."

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Turner is currently doing a new round of fundraising for another load of school supplies for Puerto Rico.

LINK: Makenna's Puerto Rico School Supply Fundraising Page

She's also hoping to study computer science and mechanical engineering at Stanford after high school.

Know a high school student thriving in STEM? Click here to nominate them for Future Leaders and a chance to receive a $1,000 award!

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