3 Black teens finalists for prestigious NASA competition
District of Columbia
Carol Ozemhoya | OW Contributor | 5/3/2018, 10:20 a.m.
It looks like racist hackers tried to derail the voting for three Black high school girls who became finalists in a prestigious competition sponsored by NASA. According to the San Francisco Gate, the three young ladies from the District of Columbia’s Banneker High School worked together as a team to develop a method to purify water that has been contaminated with lead in school drinking fountains and were named finalists in a NASA competition. The team is the only one that is all Black and female to make it to the top eight. “Hidden Figures” in the making,” one of the teens wrote in a celebratory text message to her teammates and coaches, a reference to the 2016 movie about the true story of three African-American women who worked for NASA in the 1960s. Next the competition went to public voting and the three 17-year-olds – Mikayla Sharrieff, Brian Snell and India Skinner began to enlist friends and family on social media to promote their project and gather votes. But a site known for pushing hoaxes and spewing racial content began to work to make sure the teens wouldn’t win. According to the SF Gate, anonymous posters used racial epithets, argued that the students' project didn't deserve to be a finalist and said the Black community was voting for the teens only because of their race. They urged people to vote against the Banneker trio, and one user offered to put the topic on an Internet thread about President Donald Trump to garner more attention. They recommended computer programs that would hack the voting system to give a team of teenage boys a boost. NASA said in a statement that voting had been compromised, prompting it to shut down public voting earlier than expected. The federal space agency said it encourages the use of social media to build support for projects but wrote in a statement Tuesday that public voting was ended because people “attempted to change the vote totals.” A panel of judges will assess the projects and the winner will be announced some time this month.