D.C. Mayor Awards The Only All-Black, All-Female Team In NASA Science Competition With $4,000 Grant

 Photo credit: Evelyn Hockstein 

11th graders Mikayla Sharrieff, India Skinner and Bria Snell made up the only all-Black and all-female team to be named finalists in the NASA Goddard Optimus Prime Spinoff Promotion and Research Challenge. For their project, the Benjamin Banneker Academic High School students created a water filter developed to clean drinking water in schools. 

When NASA opened up public choice voting for the next round of the competition, the ladies' project garnered thousands upon thousands of votes- until anonymous racist online trolls from the website 4chan tried to hack the results and swing the vote against them, causing NASA to close down public voting early. 

"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 said in a statement.

Following the news, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who supported the ladies' project from the beginning, awarded them a $4,000 grant to help them continue their work. The amount is the same one that NASA said it would award to its final winner. 

"Through their brilliance and passion, Mikayla, India, and Bria are bringing our vision (for the competition) to life and making our city proud," Bowser said in a statement. “Mikayla, India, and Bria are just the type of people and scientists our world needs more of and we are proud to support their dreams."

In addition to the $4,000, a GoFundMe campaign, created by the ladies of Black Women Who Plan and Create, has raised more than $20,000 to support the students' project. Even with the hacking attempt, Mikayla, India, and Bria still have a chance of winning the competition, as NASA will chose the final winner based on their published rubrics. 

"The ladies are ecstatic about the experience and opportunity the NASA challenge provided," the Inclusive Innovation Incubator said in a statement. "While it is true they had amazing community support in the popular public voting, the challenge is focused on the delivery of the scientific exploration ... Win or lose -- the girls met their goals and will wish the final winner congratulations."

Thank you Mayor Bower for using our platform to support the next generation of scientists. Ladies, we're already so proud of you!


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