Hackers Try to Ruin NASA Competition for Three Black Teens

More about the teen scientists        How racist hackers tried to ruin odds for black teens in NASA science contest

More about the teen scientists How racist hackers tried to ruin odds for black teens in NASA science contest

Recently, three Black girls from D.C.'s Benjamin Banneker Academic High School entered the NASA Goddard's Optimus Prime Spinoff Promotion and Research Challenge (OPSPARC) student competition to win a trip to NASA.

"Hidden figures in the making", one of the teens wrote in a celebratory text message to her teammates and coaches, referring to the 2016 biopic about the three African-American women who worked for NASA in the 1960s.

Sharrieff, Skinner and Snell did not talk about the controversies tainting the voting but said in interviews Tuesday that they are excited about the positive attention their project has received from classmates, the D.C. community and even strangers on social media.

Anonymous posters on the internet forum 4chan worked against the team, posting racial epithets, claiming the girls were getting support exclusively due to their race, and suggesting hacking the voting to ensure that another team won, according to the Post.

The trio - the only all-female, all-black group in the finals - engineered a filter that purifies drinking water in old public-school buildings by detecting impurities such as chlorine, copper, and bromine.

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The next phase of the competition involved public voting, and the teens turned to social media to drum up support, The Washington Post reported.

Bowser's administration announced Thursday that it would award US$4,000 to help three DC high school students who faced a torrent of racist comments when they used social media to encourage people to vote for them in a NASA competition.

However, some users of 4chan's "politically incorrect" board (abbreviated as /pol/), where hoaxes and conspiracy theories often originate, complained the teens were getting a lot of votes because they were black and spearheaded an effort to torpedo their campaign.

Her initial tweet about the project, noting that "We are the only team from the east coast & female minority group!" has been retweeted almost 3,000 times since being posted on April 23.

"NASA continues to support outreach and education for all Americans, and encourages all of our children to reach for the stars".

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They volunteer at the city-funded Inclusive Innovation Incubator - a technology lab focused on diversity and entrepreneurship near Howard University - and their mentor at the incubator encouraged them to compete and supervised them on weekends as they built a prototype for the NASA competition.

Their completed filtration system ended up being based off of NASA's automatic pool purifiers. An electric fan spins the water while filtering floss - a type of fiber - collects contaminated particles. Once clean, the water is transferred by a straw into the second jar.

"Ours actually shows you that the water you are drinking is clean", Snell said.

Sharrieff, Snell and Skinner, who are all on the cheerleading team, said they plan to go to college and pursue careers rooted in science. "And for people to see our faces, and see we're just regular girls, and we want to be scientists".

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