(WTNH) — For 14 years, the Connecticut Technology Council has honored women who exhibit excellence in STEM fields with the Women of Innovation Awards.

50 finalists are chosen from across the state in categories ranging from leading large businesses to outstanding high school students.

Candace Freedberg and Ayana Klein are two of the 50 finalists up for awards during the Women of Innovation Award Dinner on March 28th. The event starts at 5:00 p.m. at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville.Candace Freedenberg – Founder & President of Untapped Potential Inc.

-2018 Women of Innovation Finalist

-Founded Untapped Potential to help women return to the workforce after raising children

-Provides network of support, mentors, skills training, mid-career internships and more

-Helps companies, particularly technology companies, take advantage of talent pool of mothers returning to work

-Candace’s background is in science–she holds patents in laser and optics, worked for IBM and Kodak

-Says major investment is being made in additive manufacturing in CT and there’s no reason women can’t play major roles in this field

-Feels young women and girls need more role models in STEM–it needs to be seen as cool–and events like Women of Innovation are a great start

-Points out that mothers returning to the workforce are often particularly tech savvy from using apps and online tools in parentingAyana Klein – Co-founder 3Dux/design

-2018 Women of Innovation Finalist

-Founded company with younger brother that makes architectural model kids using 3D printed connected and common cardboard

-Enjoys intersection of STEM and art (STEAM) and started a business to encourage connecting these subjects

-Designed her products with a mission of encouraging hands on learning away from screens

-3Dux/design was named to Martha Stewart Living’s “8 Favorite American-Made Goods to Gift This Year” in 2017

-The kits are in constant production at Ayana’s home using a 3D printer

-More than 20 CT schools have purchased the kits for use in classrooms

-Ayana says that as a young female entrepreneur in CT she has been supported and encouraged and never held back

-Doesn’t feel she’s at any disadvantage in her field because male engineers and entrepreneurs are currently more common

To register for the event, visit http://tech.ct.org/events/details/2018-women-of-innovation-awards-252