NASA Dedicates Facility In Honor Of ‘Hidden Figures’ Heroine Katherine Johnson

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“We’re here to honor the legacy of one of the most admired and inspirational people ever associated with NASA.”

Katherine G. Johnson, the human computer behind some of NASA’s biggest advancements, attended the ribbon cutting of the research facility named in her honor on Friday.

The 99-year-old mathematician was thrust into the spotlight last year when the Oscar-nominated film “Hidden Figures” told the story of three black women who broke barriers at NASA.  Johnson, along with Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, shattered the segregational norms within the agency in the 1960s to push forward some of the country’s greatest aerospace advancements.

The Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility is a state-of-the-art facility run by NASA’s Langley Research Center. The building, which cost $23 million, will consolidate four of the organization’s data centers as a part of Langley’s 20-year revitalization plan.

“We’re here to honor the legacy of one of the most admired and inspirational people ever associated with NASA,” said Langley Director David Bowles in a press release. “I can’t imagine a better tribute to Mrs. Johnson’s character and accomplishments than this building that will bear her name.”

Johnson helped to calculate the coordinates for the very first human spaceflight and was the first woman in the organization to receive authorial credit on a research paper. Johnson calculated life-and-death analytical geometry equations to earn the respect of the white men who dominated the industry at the time.

Continue onto the Huffington Post to read the complete article.

How Today’s Google Doodle, Dr. Virginia Apgar, Made A Big Difference

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Today is the birthday of Dr. Virginia Apgar, who has helped make many, many, many birthdays possible.  The pioneering doctor lived from June 7, 1909, to August 7, 1974, and is the subject of today’s Google Doodle. You can’t really go through medical school without knowing Apgar’s name, at least her last name. Here’s why.

In 1952, Dr. Apgar unveiled the Apgar score. Besides being her last name, Apgar stands for the following five domains “Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration” of the score. Basically 1 minute and 5 minutes after a baby is born, doctors, nurses, and midwives will score the baby from 0 to 2 (with 2 being the best) for each of these domains. The following table from the KidsHealth website shows how this scoring is done:

You then sum the 5 domain scores to get a sense of the baby’s overall health. If you do the math, you will see that the total score can range from a 0 to a 10 with a higher score being better. A baby rarely scores a 10, because most babies have at least blue hands and feet when they are born (hey, life ain’t easy and not everyone is the best at everything). A score of 7 or higher is normal. Lower than 7 merits immediate medical attention such as potentially oxygen, clearing out the airway, or physical stimulation to get the heart beating faster as the U.S. National Library of Medicine describes. Time may be all that the baby needs, since low scores at 1 minute frequently become normal at 5 minutes. Sometimes a doctor, nurse, or midwife may check an Apgar score 10 minutes after birth if any questions remain.

Of course, an Apgar score is only an immediate assessment and usually does not forecast either good or bad health in the future. So putting your good Apgar score on your resume will impress no one. A high Apgar score doesn’t necessarily mean that everything will be beer and Skittles from thereon. Similarly babies with low initial Apgar scores can go on to have very healthy lives.

While it may seem routine now, using a standardized way to check a baby’s health was not standard practice before Dr. Apgar invented the score. Newborn care was a lot more haphazard, making survival among infants, especially those born prematurely, more challenging.

It was an accomplishment for Dr. Apgar even to get to a position to make such an important invention. Back when she graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1929 and then from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1933, the “Apgar” score for the medical careers of women and minorities was very, very low. Very few were even allowed into medical school, let alone progress in their careers afterwards. But Dr. Apgar was a persistent pioneer, eventually becoming the first woman to achieve the rank of full professor at her medical alma mater in 1949. Things aren’t smooth sailing for women and minorities today in medical and academic careers. But you can thank Dr. Apgar for at least making some initial inroads.

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

The new Sally Ride stamp ensures astronaut will be a role model for generations

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by: Lynn Sherr

Sally Ride soared into history 35 years ago as the first American woman in space. This week, six years after her death made her eligible for recognition, the United States Postal Service is commemorating her extraordinary achievement with a postage stamp.

It’s an iconic honor, a time-hallowed tribute to a genuine hero who joins superstars from George Washington to John Lennon in the American stampbook.

True, an envelope bearing the image of Sally in space gear will take longer to get across town than it took her to orbit Earth.

But this bold young woman whose grin once lit up the skies — the jaunty astrophysicist who broke the ultimate glass ceiling and convinced millions that they, too, could do anything — remains a valuable role model for today’s emerging leaders. Her beaming face on a tiny rectangle of colored paper represents the perfect intersection between the daring achievements of the recent past and the lofty goals of the #MeToo revolution.

Ride was born in 1951, when outer space was science fiction and women’s rights were almost nonexistent. She fully appreciated that her selection as one of NASA’s first six female astronauts was due largely to the women’s movement, which had liberated more than one men’s club. In 1982, when she was chosen as the first woman to fly, she mused, publicly, “maybe it’s too bad that our society isn’t further along and that this is such a big deal.”

That she did not reveal she was a lesbian until her obituary was published, or rightfully felt she could not reveal it without risking her career, shows just how much further we had to travel.

I met Sally in 1981 when, as a reporter for ABC News, I interviewed her for a story on the upcoming space shuttle and its new breed of astronauts. Her unflappable manner and unreserved feminism were refreshing, and we quickly became friends. Just before the June 1983 launch, she confessed, candidly, that yes, she did feel under pressure:  “not to mess up.”

Sally never elaborated — she rarely did — but I knew what she meant.  She didn’t want to mess up for space exploration, because she cared about its goals; she didn’t want to mess up for NASA, because she deeply respected its mission; she didn’t want to mess up for her crew, because she was a team player; but mostly, she didn’t want to mess up for other women, because she knew she was their representative on that first, critical flight.

She understood that you can’t be one if you can’t see one.

Sally proved that you don’t need the right plumbing to have the right stuff. Throughout her life — another shuttle mission, several years managing and investigating NASA,  teaching physics, creating a company to entice youngsters to the sciences that so entranced her — she learned how to succeed in a world often set against her. With wry wit.

Continue onto USA Today to read the complete article.

The Pipeline: How A Mars 2020 Engineer Started Her Career Later In Life

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When Melony Mahaarachchi interviewed at SpaceX in 2010, she was asked a question that would make most candidates go into panic mode: “We hire rock stars at SpaceX. You just presented a failed project. How do you expect us to think you’re a rock star?”

Mahaarachchi didn’t skip a beat when she answered, “Two reasons: Number one, rock stars are rock stars because they failed at the beginning and learned from their mistakes. Number two, be happy I failed before joining SpaceX so that failure is not at your cost.”

That searing reply was a bit unusual, but it was carefully crafted well before the presentation. Mahaarachchi, then applying for her first job, was different from many of her fellow applicants. The recent UCLA engineering grad was at least 10 years older, with two young children, and no summer internship experience. (“I was busy doing summertime with my kids.”)

But Mahaarachchi knew she was qualified enough to get the job as a mechanical design engineer and excel at it. So when an on-site interview was scheduled with only three days to prep, she started searching for a way to stand out in the competitive pool of candidates. Mahaarachchi was asked to create a 30-minute presentation on an engineering project. The audience would include her hiring manager, the VP of her prospective department, and the entire team of people in that department. She was also told that Elon Musk, SpaceX founder and tech wunderkind, might attend.

Mahaarachchi spent an entire day learning everything she could about Musk, reading blogs and biographies and watching every interview she could find on YouTube. She took notes: Musk liked going to Burning Man, he sold a computer game when he was 12, and as a student at the University of Pennsylvania, he reportedly turned a frat house into a nightclub. Since there’s so much coverage of Musk, Mahaarachchi confesses she also found out about “a lot of private things you should not know about your future boss.”

But the perceptive engineer derived a larger, more important message from her research on Musk and SpaceX: “I realized he was a man with many failures. At that time, SpaceX had not even launched the Dragon.”

So she decided to appeal to her future boss’s history with losing, and present her senior project from UCLA — one which her entire team had failed. It was a risky, but clever move, that ultimately paid off. By the time she arrived home, Mahaarachchi had a job offer waiting in her inbox.

Mahaarachchi’s journey to that first job was anything but usual, but it speaks to the persistence that has always defined her.

Continue onto Refinery29 to read the complete article.

Karlie Kloss and Teach for America team up to help 1,000 girls learn to code

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Karlie Kloss’ passion for coding hasn’t faded. And to prove it, the 25-year-old model and entrepreneur is taking her nonprofit coding program to the next level.

After taking a coding class herself, Kloss launched Kode With Klossy in 2015 in the hopes of making coding lessons more accessible to young girls and inspiring them to pursue careers in the tech industry. Now, the program is expanding its reach by launching 50 coding summer camps in 25 cities across America.

As a result, Kode With Klossy will be able to serve 1,000 girls this year between the ages of 13 and 18. The nonprofit is also partnering with Teach For America in a new initiative to train educators, so they can bring coding curricula back to their own communities.

“I initially took a coding class because I wanted to understand what this language I kept hearing about was,” Kloss said, explaining that she didn’t originally set out to start a nonprofit.

But after realizing what a powerful role coding plays in creating technologies that can transform society, she knew it was something she wanted to expose others to.

“I realized coding is amazing and thought, ‘How did I not have access to these skills sooner?'” she said.

“I wanted to offer that experience and that kind of learning to other girls who also might not have access to it,” she added, “because it’s going to continue to be relevant in the world that we live in.”

A day in the life of a Koder

The 1,000 girls that will get the opportunity to attend Karlie’s coding camps this summer will ultimately learn how to build a mobile app or website by the end of the two-week program.

Kode With Klossy currently teaches different “tracks,” including back-end and front-end development, allowing kids to learn the fundamentals of programming languages such as HTML, CSS, Ruby, and Javascript.

“This year we’ve also got a really exciting new track on Swift, so the girls at our camps not only learn the ABCs of code, but real-world examples of tech that touches our lives today,” Kloss said. “They’re learning what a loop is or how to interpolate using concepts or ideas that touch their lives, like Instagram, Twitter, or Postmates.”

Continue onto Mashable to read the complete article.

Power Up: Computing Student Publishes Hand-Drawn Game on Google Play

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Prior to taking the game modification development course taught by University Lecturer D.J. Kehoe last spring, computer science major Angela Vitaletti ’18 had never developed or programmed a videogame before.

“I would always bite off more than I could chew, and never finish,” said Vitaletti, who is from Middlesex and transferred to NJIT from Northampton Community College in Pennsylvania. “I took game mod as a way to motivate myself because it has real deadlines and projects that D.J. helps make achievable.”

To guide the learning process and create a culture of accountability, Vitaletti worked side-by-side with Kehoe to determine her individual project deliverables.

“We feel that this approach is a good analogue for working in industry and gives students a sense of ownership of the work that they do,” said Kehoe, who graduated from NJIT in 2009 with an M.S. in computer science. “It’s nice to give students portfolio-building projects that they can feel proud to show off.”

Upon completion of the course, not only was Vitaletti armed with work samples for her portfolio, she managed to publish a game on Google Play.

It’s called Doodle Doo, a digitally hand-drawn mobile game that puts players’ short-term memory to the test. The scribbles that live inside students’ notebooks inspired the concept. Offering four levels of difficulty, Doodle Doo personifies the youthful joy and reckless fun of high school, where wacky hijinks and tomfoolery abound.

Level one requires you to memorize which students hurled paper balls behind a teacher’s back before the pesky pupils scatter back to their seats, while level four transports you to a gymnasium during a power outage. When the lights come on, you must remember and identify what has disappeared from the space.

“The scenarios are ridiculous, but a lot of fun,” said Vitaletti, who drew the entire game by hand, down to the font. And while she’s ear-to-ear smiles now, the journey to complete Doodle Doo was often challenging.

“I spent nearly every single day developing the game,” she recalled. “I would spend hours trying to work out what seemed like a simple problem. There were a lot of times I wanted to give up. But I didn’t. I kept going.”

This display of perseverance, along with salable skills, project management experience and a strong work ethic, is exactly what Kehoe wants the students to take away from the course.

“The game development projects are substantial and daunting,” he admitted. “But after getting through them, our students can face a large project and complete it.”

Continue onto the New Jersey Institute of Technology Newsroom to read the complete article.

Katsuko Saruhashi turned radioactive fallout into a scientific legacy

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Today’s Google Doodle celebrates Japanese geochemist Katsuko Saruhashi, whose research helped reveal the insidious spread of radioactive fallout from the US nuclear testing ground in the Pacific. If she were still alive, today would have been her 98th birthday.

In 1957, Saruhashi became the first woman to receive a PhD in chemistry in Japan. Her work focused on measuring the molecules in seawater, like carbon dioxide, oxygen, and also radioactive molecules like cesium-137. Just 12 years before she received her PhD, the United States dropped atomic bombs that devastated the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the US continued to unleash a torrent of radioactive fallout in the Pacific as it tested bigger and bigger bombs. By 1958, the US had exploded 67 nuclear devices around the Marshall Islands — leaving a long legacy of contamination behind.

Saruhashi worked at the Central Meteorological Observatory in Tokyo to develop more sensitive methods of measuring radioactive fallout. It was a challenging task, says Toshihiro Higuchi, a historian at Georgetown University and expert on Cold War science. “The amount of fallout that we are talking about is really tiny, and then we are talking about the vast ocean,” he says.

Saruhashi and her colleagues discovered that fallout didn’t disperse evenly in the ocean. The concentrations of radioactive cesium near Japan, for example, were much higher than the concentrations along the West Coast of the US. The team proposed that the high levels were because Japan is downstream of the Pacific nuclear testing ground. But others suspected that the measurements might be off, Higuchi says. “There was a controversy over her argument that the radioactive fallout in seawater was more than what they used to think.”

To settle the dispute, the US Atomic Energy Commission funded a lab swap. Saruhashi took a six-month leave of absence from her work at the Central Meteorological Observatory in Japan and visited Scripps Institute of Oceanography. There, she and oceanographer Ted Folsom compared their methods and discovered that Saruhashi’s technique was spot-on: the two teams’ methods produced almost identical results.

Saruhashi worked to support female scientists, and in 1958 she co-founded the Society of Japanese Women Scientists, which pushed for nuclear disarmament and peace. “She was very conscious of the social responsibility of scientists in general,” Higuchi says. Saruhashi died in 2007. But she left behind a legacy of scientific research, including an award called the Saruhashi Prize for top natural scientists who are women. “She was a trailblazer,” Higuchi says.

Read the complete article on The Verge

Mae Jemison: Diversity In STEM Isn’t A Nicety, It’s A Necessity

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The first African-American woman in space discusses her agricultural science initiative.

Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space, knows firsthand the importance of exposing kids to STEM topics early. She also knows the significance of having kids see themselves in movies, on TV, and in certain careers.

“It means making sure that people get those images that show they have those things available to them,” Jemison told HuffPost.

Jemison is collaborating on “Science Matters,” an initiative to encourage kids of all ages and backgrounds to pursue agricultural science from pharmaceutical and life science company Bayer and youth development organization National 4-H Council. Jemison, a physician and chemical engineer, knows the field of agricultural science can sound intimidating, but she and Jennifer Sirangelo, CEO and president of the National 4-H Council, have set out to change that.

Digging into agricultural science can be as simple as asking, “Where does my food come from?” An increasingly popular way to kick-start this sort of interest is through urban gardens, Jemison explained.

“There’s nothing more exciting to see something growing ― and you can eat it!” Jemison said. “That’s something parents can do with their kids as well.”

Sirangelo agreed, noting that agricultural science is more than horticulture and animal science and has huge applications for our future.

“The need to produce more food with fewer resources over the coming decades is going to push our science even further,” she told HuffPost.

As Jemison put it, we need to prepare our kids “to not just survive, but thrive.”

Bringing more children into STEM topics like agricultural science isn’t enough, though. Diversity is imperative, especially for women and people of color, groups underrepresented in these fields, Jemison said.

“We’re losing talent and we’re losing capability by not including them,” she told HuffPost. “When people think about why it is important to have a diversity of talent in a field, they think of it as a nicety. No, it’s a necessity. We get better solutions.”

Continue onto the HuffingtonPost to read the complete article.

A Wrinkle in Time creators encourage girls to channel their inner warriors, pursue their dreams

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HP joined Ava DuVernay and Reese Witherspoon to celebrate Black Girls Code and its mission to boost women of color in tech.

Everything starts with a story. Just ask Sasha Williams, a 16-year old with big dreams. On Feb. 24th, Williams didn’t just get a selfie — she got a hug and words of encouragement from Ava DuVernay, the directing powerhouse whose work, from 13th to Selma, tackles inclusion and racial division head on and continues to find new ways to define the art of storytelling.

The occasion was an event organized by HP, Disney and Nissan to bring together girls from Black Girls Code, a nonprofit that nurtures the tech skills of girls of color, to celebrate the release of DuVernay’s big-budget film, A Wrinkle in Time. With seven chapters in the U.S. and South Africa for girls 7 to 17, Black Girls Code runs after-school programs, summer camps and hackathons where local groups build projects ranging from websites to robots.

Giddy and tearful, Williams was electrified by her encounter with the director. “I’ve always looked up to [Ava]” says the young California native, who hopes to one day become a virtual-reality game designer. “And now, for her to take on this story about a little black girl trying to become a warrior, about being who you are, it’s just really inspiring.”

Williams wasn’t the only one energized by the moment. At the event, part coding challenge/part affirmation, 40 or so girls were treated to the first public showing of the film, as well as talks with several of the movie’s stars, including Storm Reid, who plays the story’s hero, Meg Murry; Reese Witherspoon; Chris Pine; and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

A movement to create the leaders of tomorrow

“Just like a lot of you, my daughter just wanted to be able to create the games she was engaging in,” said Kimberly Bryant, the founder of Black Girls Code, while leading a panel at the event. She began BGC in 2011 out of frustration when her then-12-year-old daughter, Kia, started going to tech programs and camps — and found she was the only black girl in the room. It was a scenario that Bryant, who had a successful career in biotech, knew all too well. “My frustration grew into a movement that now, hopefully, will help all of you become the leaders that much older engineers like myself will look up to in the coming years.”

Continue onto the HP Newsroom to read the complete article.

Odette Harris named America’s second female African-American neurosurgery professor at Stanford

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Odette Harris M.D. ’96 has made history by becoming America’s second African-American female professor of neurosurgery.Stanford’s department of neurosurgery announced her promotion on Tuesday.

Harris joins Lu Chen as the second female professor in the department of neurosurgery at the School of Medicine.

Harris, who specializes in traumatic brain injury, has served as the director of brain injury in the department of neurosurgery and the associate chief of staff of polytrauma and rehabilitation at the Palo Alto Veterans Administration Health Care System since 2009. Harris is also a Clayman Institute Faculty Research Fellow and was awarded the William P. Van Wagenen Fellowship Award from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

Harris said she developed a passion for the physical sciences and chemistry while studying at an all-girls high school.

“All those cliches about girl schools and empowering girls and women, I think they’re true,” Harris said in an interview with Stanford Medicine.

During her undergraduate years at Dartmouth College, Harris said she sought to surround herself with “strong women.”

It was not until she attended Stanford School of Medicine that she said she experienced a “turning point both in terms of gender and race.” Harris was the only black woman in the School of Medicine’s class of 1996. She was also one of only two women during her neurosurgical residency at Stanford University Medical Center.

Nonetheless, Harris described her experience in medical school and residency as a positive one.

“My mentor was a white man who is blond and as East Coast as can be,” Harris said. “His skin color was irrelevant, as was mine to his experience of mentoring me.”

Continue onto Stanford University’s Newsroom to read the complete article.

Twitter is now specifically focusing on increasing black, Latinx and female representation

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Twitter met or surpassed many of the diversity and inclusion goals it set for itself for 2017, the company announced today. Twitter is now 38.4 percent female, compared to 37 percent in 2016. Regarding underrepresented minorities at Twitter, representation increased from 11 percent in 2016 to 12.5 percent in 2017.

While Twitter increased the overall representation of women and underrepresented minorities, it missed its goals for overall representation of underrepresented minorities, as well as underrepresented minorities in technical roles. At the leadership level, Twitter went from 30 percent female in 2016 to 32.5 percent female in 2017, and underrepresented minorities now account for 10.1 percent of employees at the leadership level, compared to just 6 percent in 2016.

Moving forward, Twitter intends to set two-year goals but will continue its practice of releasing yearly diversity reports. The rationale for the two-year period, Twitter VP of Intersectionality, Culture and Diversity Candi Castleberry Singleton explained in a blog post, is to better enable Twitter to assess its progress, “develop specific programming, and adapt our strategies along the way.”

Twitter is also now specifically looking at increasing the representation of women, black and Latinx people — groups that continue to be underrepresented in tech. Twitter is 3.4 percent black, 3.4 percent Latinx and 38.4 percent female. By 2019, Twitter wants to be 43 percent female, 5 percent black and 5 percent Latinx.

“We’re focused on powering positive change by fostering respectful conversations, creating deeper human connections, and encouraging diverse interactions across the company,” Singleton wrote in a blog post. “We’re calling this strategy Intersectionality, Culture and Diversity (ICD) and we’re making it a part of everything we do at Twitter.”

Continue onto TechCrunch to read the complete article.