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Miss Arizona, computer science major wants to inspire children to combine code and creativity

Tiffany Ticlo wearing a dress, her Miss Arizona sash and crown, sits at a desk in front of a classroom, pointing to a presentation screen.

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. Courtesy image

April 15, 2024

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2024 graduates.

“It’s bittersweet.”

That’s how Tiffany Ticlo describes reaching this milestone. In May, she will graduate summa cum laude from the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence, part of 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. 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.

And Ticlo’s work takes that to heart.

Tiffany Ticlo helps students with an art project.
Ticlo works with students, combining artistic and technical projects in the hope of making STEAM education as inclusive as possible. Courtesy image

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 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. Ticlo learned a variety of programming languages, such as Python and C++, and found inspiration in her engineering classes, which focused 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 nonprofit scholarship.

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.

Tiffany Ticlo posing in an elevator.
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. Courtesy image

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.”

Bonus content

Listen to a Spotify playlist inspired by Ticlo's music.

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