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Posted: May 07, 2018

The “Hidden Figures” of 2018

Bria Snell, India Skinner and Mikayla Sharrieff
Inclusive Innovation Incubator
Bria Snell, India Skinner and Mikayla Sharrieff

By Julie Morgan

India Skinner, Mikayla Sharrieff, and Bria Snell are names we’ll probably see again.

These three young ladies are 17-year-old high school juniors at Benjamin Banneker High School in Washington, DC.

They’ve come up with a way to purify lead-contaminated water in drinking fountains and are one group of 8 finalists in a NASA science competition.

Apparently, they got the idea from the fact that you can’t drink out of some of the fountains at their school due to lead contamination.

This according to a Washington Post article.

The students are similar to Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson (the real-life subjects of the 2016 movie Hidden Figures) in that their smarts have gained the attention of NASA but they’re different because WE have knowledge of their hard work now and not decades later.  

They are also similar because efforts to sideline them came fast and hard. 

How so?

The trio of brilliant black teens was almost brought down by hackers but NASA ultimately shut them down.

NASA released this statement:

On Sunday, April 29, hackers attempted to change the vote totals in the NASA OPSPARC Challenge, so managers of the challenge decided to end public voting to protect the integrity of the results. The challenge team has an accurate record of the voting results prior to the attempted disruption. The top three Public Choice teams in each category will be notified and recognized on the challenge website. In accordance with the judging criteria and voting procedures stated on the OPSPARC website, a panel of NASA Goddard judges will make a final determination of the winners using the published rubrics. 

Before the voting ended, members of the public were using social media to generate support for particular teams in the public voting. NASA supports this kind of community-based effort to encourage students to engage with science, technology, engineering and math and recognizes social media as an important tool for that support. Votes generated this way are legitimate and will be counted. Unfortunately, it was brought to NASA’s attention on Monday, April 30, that some members of the public used social media, not to encourage students and support STEM, but to attack a particular student team based on their race and encouraged others to disrupt the contest and manipulate the vote, and the attempt to manipulate the vote occurred shortly after those posts. NASA continues to support outreach and education for all Americans, and encourages all of our children to reach for the stars.

The grand prize is a trip to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in MD.  with a $4,000 stipend.

They’ll find out if they’re winners soon.  

But they’ve already won in a sense.  

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser of Washington D.C awarded them $4,000 to continue their efforts.  In addition, they’ve received the support from the likes of Chelsea Clinton and others.


According to Inclusive Innovation Incubator the teens were introduced to this NASA Challenge through the organization “as part of our ongoing effort at In3 to expose kids to opportunities in the STEM field.” 

India, Mikayla, and Bria you embody #BlackGirlMagic as #WomenInSTEM.

Congratulations on all your accomplishments, now and in the future!