Modern Figures Toolkit

I recently had the opportunity to go with other employees of NASA Ames Research Center to view the recently released movie Hidden Figures, which highlighted the critical role three African-American women played in the early stages of the space race with the Soviet Union. A key theme of the movie, beyond the technical prowess of these talented women, was the persistent lack of confidence in their abilities displayed by their management and workmates, and the overt discrimination they faced in the NSA organization in the early and mid-60’s.

This brought back memories of my early years in rural north Georgia, where similar practices prevailed. I can remember asking my mother “why do they have two water fountains everywhere we go (the bank, health clinic, courthouse, for example)? And why are there two recreation swimming pools-a whites one and a coloreds one? And even separate schools? My mother, who had grown up as a sharecropper’s daughter in the 20’s and 30’s, knew this was wrong. I will always remember what she told me, “everybody is the same-we are all equal and don’t you ever forget that”, as she hugged me. I am so thankful that I had parents that were great role models. But for a long time, the South didn’t agree with my mother, and the contrast was stark when we visited other states and didn’t see these practices. Yet there were plenty examples of people in authority in the south taking action to break down barriers, just as the Kevin Costner character in the movie displayed. I can think of a former mayor of Dalton, Georgia, for instance, who demolished the colored recreation center while he was in office.

NASA realizes how important this movie is, and has created several websites to visit, where there are many activities you can bring back to your classroom. Go see this movie, and use it as a teaching moment in your classrooms. It has many valuable lessons to teach us all.

Check out this website:

Modern Figures | NASA

As seen in the movie Hidden Figures, NASA has a long-standing cultural commitment to excellence.

Modern Figures Toolkit

The NASA Modern Figures Toolkit is a collection of resources and educational activities for students in grades K-12. Each educational activity and resource includes a brief description, as well as information about how the activities and lessons align to education standards. Resources highlighted include videos, historical references and STEM materials.

Check out these Youtubes:
NASA’s “Hidden Figures” Inspire Today’s Women
The Stream – NASA’s ‘Hidden Figures’
NASA’s Modern Figures
Inspired by Hidden Figures What Advice Would You Give to Young Women in “STEM”?
Real People Behind NASA’s Hidden Figures

Check out this story about Jendai Robinson.  It would be great to share in a career class or any other class.  It reminds me of what it took for the women in “Hidden Figures” – Determination!
Knowing How to Get What She Wants

Author: Ruth Marlaire
Last Updated: Jan. 10, 2017 Editor: Rick Chen

Born and raised in New Jersey, Jendai Robinson graduated from School No. 6 in Linden and Elizabeth High School in Elizabeth. She was a curious child, but not a straight A student in elementary school.  If she received attention from her teachers, she was more likely to be well behaved and get good grades. One period, however, she did get straight A’s and was awarded two tickets to a Brooklyn Nets basketball game.

Once in high school, she was disappointed by the dismissive attitude of some teachers. To gain their attention and to show them how serious she was about receiving a quality education, she applied to a gifted and talented program and joined several extracurricular activities, such as the U.S. Marines Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) and cross-country, indoor and outdoor track.

While growing up, both of her parents worked. Her mother worked at night, and her father worked during the day. She remembers accompanying her dad to his job as an auto technician and the science projects about the solar system he had given her to encourage her curiosity.

Jendai knew in high school she wanted to go to medical school to become a physician. She also knew she would need financial assistance. During her senior year of high school, she started going to the career development office to research colleges and universities and possible financial aid programs. She applied to more than 17 schools and scholarship programs. By the end of her senior year in 2008, she was accepted into Virginia State University in Petersburg.

Determined to succeed, Jendai learned the intricacies of an academic financial assistance system well enough to receive multiple internships from a variety of institutions. She received four NASA Education internships, including three at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley: the Undergraduate Student Research Project (USRP) in 2011 and 2013 and the NASA EPA Academy in 2012, and another NASA internship in 2013 at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. She also received summer internships from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond in 2009 and the University of Cincinnati in Ohio in 2010, and a half-year internship from the Shannon Point Marine Center in Anacortes, Washington. “These internship experiences helped narrow my interests and lead me to find my true passions,” said Jendai.

When at Ames in 2011 and 2013, she worked in research laboratories studying the properties of nanoporous alumina for biosensing applications, and analyzing sugar derivatives in carbonaceous meteorites, respectively. At Goddard, she helped investigate technical designs for orbiting aerospace missions.

While in college, Jendai found the coursework challenging; she struggled with modern geometry and inorganic chemistry. She overcame her learning obstacles by seeking additional help from the college professors during office hours and doing extra assignments. She also had many mentors and was a member of several support and networking groups. During her most trying times, she attributes the help and support of her family, friends and mentors instrumental to her success. “Anytime I needed a pep talk or accountability partner they stepped-up to fill that role for me,” she said.

Jendai graduated in December 2012 from Virginia State. Her decision to pursue a Ph.D. was inspired by the older students she met in the internship program at VCU, and advice from her mentors.

To go further in school, Jendai once again diligently researched the system for financial aid opportunities. She applied for and received the 2013 NASA Harriet G. Jenkins Fellowship to pursue a doctoral degree in chemistry. She works at Ames, where she helps develop plasmonic and electrochemical devices for biosensing applications. “My participation in the education programs at NASA have been incredible experiences; I have been exposed to so many great opportunities. NASA has truly convinced me that the sky is not the limit!”

Karen Roark
Ames Research Center