In celebration of Black History Month, SWE wants to highlight African American heroes in STEM that have inspired these SWENexters: Michaela James, Madalyn Nguyen and May H.
Michaela is a homeschooled high school freshman in Washington, DC, and also enrolled in the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) in their Honors Program. She is currently carrying 9 college credits and has a total of 16 credits. She plans to pursue a technical undergraduate degree, and my career goal is to write Cybersecurity Policy.
Michaela is the founder and student coordinator of the Air Force 1s, a Cyber Club. In this role, she presents lessons to prepare her teammates to participate in the US Air Force CyberPatriot competition and she also participates as a competitor. In addition, she teaches Scratch virtually to a group of middle and high school students. She received the prestigious National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) Award for Aspirations in Computing in January, 2021.
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On September, 22, 2017, I was among 9 members of Black Girls Code, who were fortunate to meet my hero, Katherine Johnson, in person. I was present at the renaming of NASA Langley Research Center to the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility. — a $23 million consolidated computer center that is used to run entry, descent and landing simulations for the 2020 Mars rover, perform computational fluid dynamics tests to simulate wind tunnels, and develop and model new polymers before they are used in a lab. The ribbon-cutting ceremony included then 99-year-old Johnson, Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Sen. Mark Warner, “Hidden Figures” author and Hampton native Margot Lee Shetterly, local politicians and other dignitaries.
Madalyn, a junior at Poway High School Engineering Academy, is a STEM enthusiast, passionate FIRST Youth mentor & volunteer. She is the Chief Project Officer for FRC Team Spyder 1622 where she manages 15 subteam leads and oversees the building of 120 lb industrial size robots for competition. She is the Founder & Past-President of Poway High School (PHS) SWENext Club, Gold Award Girl Scout, & FIRST Dean’s List Winner 2020.
She organized and hosted last year’s webinar named Virtual STEMinists: STEM Careers Series which impacted over 700 attendees worldwide. PHS SWENext mentor, Dr. Mary Isaac, and SWE Counselor, Dr. Tracy Nguyen, will be recognized by WE Local 2021 for Outstanding Outreach Event for supporting this successful webinar. Under Madalyn’s leadership, PHS SWENext Club won SWENEXT Best Practices Award at WE20, DesignLab $1000 grant at WELocal San Diego, DesignLab $1000 grant at WE Local St. Louis, and the DesignLab Grand Prize at WE19 in Anaheim. Since founding her SWENext, Madalyn is instrumental in starting many other SWENext clubs.
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Katherine Johnson was the focal point of the recently released, critically-acclaimed film Hidden Figures, where her work, alongside that of Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, as a “human computer,” powered the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit. It was with the help of these three women that NASA won the Space Race—the race for dominance in spaceflight capability and exploration.
Calculating trajectories, launch windows, and more for many flights, Katherine’s work “proved as critical to the success of the Apollo Moon landing program and the start of the Space Shuttle program.”
May is a senior at Poway High School and is the current president of her SWENext chapter. May’s life revolves mainly around the STEM related clubs she’s in, since she has always had a passion for math and science, as well as reading and cats. She aspires to become a chemical engineer so that she will be able to make a difference in the pharmaceutical and environmental aspects of our world.
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One strong African American STEM role model that I look up to is Mary Jackson, a former NASA engineer. Through the film Hidden Figures, I was able to see the struggles that she had to go through as a woman and a person of color in the NASA workplace, which allowed me to understand and empathize with her on a deeper level. She was an incredibly resilient and determined person who always knew what she believed in and fought fiercely for her beliefs, which is what I admire the most about her.
I had never heard of Mary Jackson until I watched Hidden Figures last year, which I think is a big issue. As I pursue a career in STEM, I plan to expand my efforts in spreading STEM to a more diverse group of girls so that I can inspire more girls of minorities to become the next generation of female STEM role models.
- Black History Month: Highlighting African American Engineers, Pt. 3
- Black History Month: Highlighting African American Engineers, Pt. 2
- Black History Month: It’s Not What We Can Do, But Rather What We Are Doing