Author Archives: Storey Blackwell

Meet The 2014/2015 Domino Award Winners

Julia HeilJulia Heil is a sophomore at the University of Colorado Boulder majoring in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology as well as Computer Science. After completing an internship as a storyboard writer for a mobile application called “Zombie Joe”, Julia took an interest in video game programming and design. She is also interested in pursuing computational biology as a combination of her majors. Julia is also a member of CU’s equestrian team, and has enjoyed riding horses since she was young.


Austin HollerAfter earning a business degree and working in the hospitality industry for 2 years, Austin Holler decided, “I wanted to have a greater purpose in this world, giving to it in a way that I know could make a difference,” returning to school to pursue a degree in Computer Science and University of Colorado Boulder. In addition to attending CU Boulder, Austin works full-time and is a budding entrepreneur, with his sights set on receiving his Masters in Computer Science.


Will PreachukWill Preachuk is a Sophomore Computer Science Student at the University of Nebraska Lincoln and a member of both the UNL Honors Program and The Computer Science honors Program. He is currently the main writer for the college radio station’s blog and has a twice monthly music review column. Will is a former bone marrow donor and a spokesman for Be The Match, an organization that works toward getting people into the national bone marrow registry. He is also an avid volunteer for the SQL Server community in his home state of Minnesota and co-authored an article for an upcoming publication of the Professional Association of SQL Server Minnesota’s (PASS-MN) yearly guidebook.


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Topplers Announces Winners of the Annual Domino Award Prize for Computer Science Students

Students awarded trips to SXSW Interactive for their essays honoring the contributions of Richard Stallman, Paul Baran, and Barbara Liskov.

Boulder, CO – January 9, 2014 – Topplers ( announced today that it has awarded the 2014/2015 Domino Award for Computer Science.  The Domino Award was founded in 2002 to encourage students to “think big” by seeing how seemingly simple technology advancements in the past have spurred chains of momentum that have added up to significant impacts in modern society and to inspire these students to see the potential they have to make a difference in the world through their future work.

Nationwide, over 100 Students from 44 schools participated in this year’s competition. Winning essays honored Richard Stallman, a pioneer in the open source movement, Paul Baran, a pioneer in the development of computer networks, and Barbara Liskov, a professor at MIT whose work designing programming languages led to the development of object oriented programming. Topplers congratulates winners Austin Holler and Julia Heil, students at University of Colorado, Boulder and Will Preachuk, a student at University of Nebraska, Lincoln. The winners will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to see tech innovation first-hand at the SXSW Interactive festival this coming spring.

Topplers was excited to offer the Domino Award to students nationwide for the first time in its 12 year history. “When we started the Domino Award at University of Colorado, we didn’t realize we were setting in motion a domino topple that would eventually bring this unique opportunity to students across the country. It is truly amazing that the Award has been able to grow so that we can honor the significant contributions of past computer scientists and use this to help inspire more students to think about the impact they can make as computer scientists,” said Herb Morreale, founder of Topplers and the Domino Award.

Topplers would like to thank Return Path for joining as a sponsor, University of Colorado’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Department of Computer Science for continued support of the program, professors Clayton Lewis (University of Colorado, Boulder), Ken Anderson (University of Colorado, Boulder), and Andre van der Hoek (University of California, Irvine) for their guidance and promotion of the program, and volunteers Ian Smith (2012 winner), Nithin Jilla (2013 winner), Andy Sautens (Return Path), and John Gary (SendGrid) for their help reading and scoring entries.

“The Domino Award is one of Topplers’ programs dedicated to inspiring individuals to make a positive impact on the world. Topplers’ sponsors and supporters of the Domino Award have helped to bring this inspiration to students across the country and the reception of our program in its first year offered at a national level has been extraordinary,” said Topplers’ Executive Director, Storey Blackwell.

Topplers is seeking additional sponsors to further expand the award and bring this inspiring opportunity to thousands more computer science students.  For more information on sponsoring or participating in the Domino Award program, visit

About Our Sponsor Return PathReturnPathLogo

Return Path is a consumer intelligence company. We analyze the world’s largest collection of email data to show marketers how to stay connected to their audiences, strengthen their customer engagement, and protect their brands from fraud. Our solutions help mailbox providers around the world deliver great user experiences and build trust in email by ensuring that wanted messages reach the inbox while spam and abuse don’t. Consumers use Return Path technology to manage their inboxes and make email work better for them. Find out more about Return Path at

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Domino Award Deadline Extended!

As a national competition, we recognize that not all academic calendars are the same, so we’ve extended the deadline for the Topplers Domino Award to allow students in computer science programs across the US to participate.

Only 500 words on a computer scientist who has made a positive impact on the world through their work, makes it easy to participate. Winners are awarded a trip to SXSW Interactive this spring with the opportunity to explore the latest in innovation, meet with influential technologists, and get inspired!

Essays are due October 29, 2014.

Please contact us with any questions:

We look forward to reading your entries!

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2014/2015 Domino Award Competition Opens September 15th

Topplers is excited to announce that this year’s Domino Award competition will begin accepting essays on September 15th.

Instructions for submitting an essay will be available on the Student page.

In the meantime, check out this video showing some of the fun our Award winners have had on their trips:


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Tech, Inspiration, and More Tech at South-by-Southwest Interactive

Alex Tsankov, Nithin Jilla, and Brittany Arthur          (l to r) show their dominos while looking through the SXSW Interactive schedule

Alex Tsankov, Nithin Jilla, and Brittany Arthur (l to r) show their dominos while looking through the SXSW Interactive schedule

In 2013, Topplers took the first step in our dream to expand the Domino Award, by adding Awards at University of California at Irvine and University of California at Santa Cruz to our long-running program at University of Colorado. The three winners from the award joined Topplers and Domino Award founder Herb Morreale for an all-expenses paid long weekend of tech, inspiration, and more tech this past spring at the South-by-Southwest (SXSW) Interactive festival in Austin, Texas.

“What’s so amazing about this opportunity is that it allows you to take inspiration from things that you might have never imagined yourself taking inspiration from.” -Alex Tsankov

What better place to inspire these bright students to think about the impact they can have on the world through technology, than at a giant conference and festival attended by inspirational players in their chosen field of computer science. As Steven James Snyder of TIME said, “that’s still what makes South By Southwest Interactive an indispensable gathering of the minds – that this isn’t just a place focused on individual inventors or celebrities but on societal advancements. One impressive pitch here can be the starting point for a process/product that will change the way we communicate, vote, volunteer, and live our daily lives.”

Brittany Arthur, Alex Tsankov, Nithin Jilla, and Herb Morreale      (l to r) meet Ryan Holmes (center), CEO of Hootsuite.

Brittany Arthur, Alex Tsankov, Nithin Jilla, and Herb Morreale (l to r) meet Ryan Holmes (center), CEO of Hootsuite.

With a schedule packed with multiple presentations, panels, meetups, workshops, and exhibitions spread over multiple venues, choosing what to see was a hard task, but the award winners gamely made the most of their time.

They attended some great presentations including a presentation from Stephen Wolfram, Founder and CEO of Wolfram Research, who spoke about the implications of advances in technology on product development, industry, and research. Keynote speaker, astrophysicist Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, inspired with his unique insights about the universe around us, just before the debut of his television show Cosmos.

They also spent time exploring at the Create exhibit hall, where the latest advances in technology, like 3D printers, quadcopter drones, Raspberry Pi, and Arduino, are being used for new and exciting applications.  Among the meetups and companies available to meet with, a highlight was meeting and talking to Ryan Holmes, the CEO of Hootsuite, a fast-growing and highly respected company in the social media space.

“I like talking to people who are in the industry. Everyone is so inspiring. It’s really cool to think that

Having fun in Austin

Having fun in Austin

you have a team and you are working on a project that is so personal to you. It sounds exciting!” – Brittany Arthur

Beyond their time exploring the conference halls (collecting as many t-shirts as possible), listening to engaging talks, and meeting with their tech heroes, Nithin Jilla (UC Irvine), Brittany Arthur (UC Santa Cruz), and Alex Tsankov (CU Boulder) took some time to enjoy all that SXSW Interactive had to offer: having their picture taken with Success Kid, “crashing” a few industry parties, spotting Shaq (yes, that Shaq), and catching some local music that Austin is so famous for.

Nithin gets serious with       Success Kid

Nithin gets serious with Success Kid

“This experience has given me an opportunity to already help people. I’m hoping that this will lay the foundation for future opportunities where I can help serve others and make an impact.” -Nithin Jilla

A big thanks to all of our 2013/2014 Domino Award sponsors Adeptive SoftwareApplied TrustClickBank, and Gold Systems, whose generous support made this inspiring trip possible.

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Domino Award Featured in NCWIT’s Academic Alliance Newsletter

NCWIT logoThe National Center for Women & Information Technology’s Academic Alliance featured the Domino Award  in their recent newsletter. As we begin our preparations for the 2014 Domino Award, we are looking for universities interested in bringing this unique program to their students. For 2014, our goal is to partner with 10 universities, offering 10 Domino Award prizes to students around the country.

If you are interested in learning more about how easy it is to bring the Domino Award to your computer science students, please contact us: dominoaward @

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2013 University of California Santa Cruz Domino Award

Brittany Arthur

Brittany Arthur

The first Domino Award at University of California Santa Cruz was recently awarded by Topplers to Brittany Arthur, a junior in the Game Design program in the Computer Science department at the Baskins School of Engineering.

Brittany’s essay on Alan Turing was a standout in the submissions we received. She received a $500 scholarship and will join winners Alex Tsankov from University of Colorado and Nithin Jilla from University of California Irvine on an all-expenses paid trip to experience innovations in technology first-hand.

Brittany told us that one of her greatest interests has been in designing, testing, and observing learning environments for 4th-7th graders in science and math. After college she looks forward to being involved in developing STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) educational games and learning tools.

Topplers would like to thank our sponsors for generously supporting the Domino Award:  Adeptive SoftwareApplied TrustClickBank, and Gold Systems. Our sponsors have been vital in expanding the Domino Award this year and we are grateful for their continued support. And a special thanks to Jim Whitehead Chair of the Computer Science department and Charlie McDowell Associate Dean of Engineering for Undergraduate Affairs for their work in bringing the Domino Award to their students.
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2013 University of California Irvine Domino Award Presentation

Nithin Jilla (c) is presented with the 2013 Domino Award by Hal Stern (l), Dean of the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Science

Nithin Jilla (c) is presented with the 2013 Domino Award by Hal Stern (l), Dean of the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Science and Tony Givargis, Associate Dean for Student Affairs (r).

Topplers was very excited to present our first Domino Award at University of California Irvine this past May. With the help of André van der Hoek, the Chair of the Department of Informatics, the Domino Award was offered to students in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences.

We had lots of great submission and the winning essay on Grace Hopper’s impact on computer science was submitted by Nithin Jilla. Nithin just graduated this spring and already has an impressive resume of accomplishments.

Nithin received a $500 scholarship and will join winners Alex Tsankov from University of Colorado and Brittany Arthur from University of California Santa Cruz on an all-expenses paid trip to experience innovations in technology first-hand.

Topplers would like to thank our sponsors for generously supporting the Domino Award:  Adeptive SoftwareApplied TrustClickBankGold Systems, and the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences. Our sponsors have been vital in expanding the Domino Award this year and we are grateful for their continued support.

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2013 University of Colorado Domino Award Presentation

Herb and Alex at CU

Topplers founder Herb Morreale (L) discusses meeting Richard Stallman with 2013 Domino Award winner and CU freshman Alex Tsankov (R).

Topplers was excited to award the 2013 Domino Award to Alex Tsankov, a freshman in the Computer Sciences  Department at University of Colorado Boulder (CU). Alex’s essay on Richard Stallman’s lasting influence on computing was selected to receive a $500 scholarship and an all-expenses paid trip to experience innovations in technology first-hand.

This year’s award was presented at CU’s Computer Science Expo, by Professor Ken Anderson and Topplers founder Herb Morreale, a CU alumnus. Alex will be joining Domino Award winners from University of California, Irvine and University of California, Santa Cruz this coming fall for the trip portion of the award.

Topplers would like to thank our sponsors for generously supporting the Domino Award:  Adeptive Software, Applied Trust, ClickBank, and Gold Systems. Our sponsors are essential to helping keep the Domino Award going every year and we are grateful for their continued support.

CU CS fair crowd

Attendees view Senior Thesis projects at CU’s Computer Science Expo before the presentation of the 2013 Domino Award


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2012 Domino Award – It’s that time again!

Are You The Next Domino Award Winner?

Since 2002, the Domino Award has been given to two students in the CS department who write short essays honoring a computer scientist who’s work “Set Big Things In Motion.”  Like a domino topple, all it takes is a simple “flick” and big things can happen.  For you, that flick is writing a 500 word essay (about a page), and submitting it before spring break (deadline Mar. 23).  If your essay is selected as one of the top two you receive:

  • $500 cash reward
  • All expenses paid trip to a place that will inspire you to think big.  For example, check out this video of a previous trip to Spaceport America.  Our next trip is tentatively scheduled for this Fall in Silicon Valley.
  • The ability to meet and network with leaders in the tech community.

Everyone that submits an essay is invited to the awards banquet in April where there’s a keynote speaker and, of course, pizza!

Here are some resources so you can learn more:

Again, the deadline is 3/23.  This is a unique opportunity so don’t wait to the last minute.

Submit your essay to Professor Lewis: <> and Herb Morreale <>.

If you’re business is interested in being one of this year’s sponsors to help expand the opportunities for the winners and get exposure to students in the CS department at the University of Colorado please contact  Here’s the list of last years sponsors.

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