As I pored over my advanced copy of Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, I couldn’t believe I never had heard of this true story of black female mathematicians working at NASA during the space race. Known as human computers, these women did the math calculations that helped launch rockets into space and get astronauts on the moon.
Now between the book, the movie version of the same name, and articles like DynaMath’s “Rocket Woman,” this story is being told. On top of it all, the 2017 Oscar nominations are in, and Hidden Figures has made the list!
Recently, I visited NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia to interview Christine Darden for “Rocket Woman,” our story on the space program’s human computers. Darden worked at Langley for decades as a computer and engineer and is featured in the book.
Hearing her story was inspiring — and educational. From an early age, Darden was influenced by great teachers and mentors. Growing up in North Carolina in the 1940s and 50s, teachers encouraged her to work hard to overcome the obstacles of her segregated school and community.
Later, a high school geometry teacher helped Darden discover a love of math. From there, she went on to study math at the undergraduate and graduate level. Eventually that led to a job at NASA and a PhD in engineering. She broke gender and racial barriers in becoming a pioneer in field of supersonic flight.
Sharing inspiration from a STEM role model
So many of your students face obstacles every day — whether it’s thinking through a challenging math problem to handling a bully’s taunts to understanding the complex world around them.
We hope that Darden’s story of perseverance and math passion helps inspires your students too. Check out our video on Darden’s life and work here:
Stories of perseverance are always worth sharing. And we’d love to hear yours! E-mail us!
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