NASA grant funds new Meharry Data Science Summer Academy

This article was updated July 21, 2022.

NASA has awarded Meharry’s School of Applied Computational Sciences funding to establish a data science and robotics summer program that will expose underrepresented high school students to NASA research and data science tools.

Meharry SACS will use the funding to create the Meharry Data Science Summer Academy, to be held July 18–29. The free, two-week program will feature hands-on exposure to NASA research and data science. Students who will be in grades 9–12 during the 2022–2023 school year are encouraged to apply.

Eugene Levin

“We have planned an exciting two weeks that will introduce students to how data science and robotics can solve real-world problems,” says Dr. Eugene Levin, professor, spatial data science, who will lead the program as principal investigator for the grant.

“During the first week, we will learn how data is used for robots in both terrestrial and extraterrestrial environments,” says Levin. “We will then move to gaining some fun, hands-on experiences in programming and robotics in the second week.”

Sian Proctor

The Data Science Summer Academy will feature two special guests. Dr. Sian Proctor, the first Black woman to pilot a spacecraft, will visit with students and share her experience as an astronaut. Students will also work with a Go1 Side Intelligent Robot, a sophisticated quadruped robot, with built-in artificial intelligence, thanks to support from Stokes Education.

“This is a great opportunity for students who enjoy robotics, math, science, coding and other STEM subjects,” says Dr. Levin. “We are incredibly excited that Dr. Proctor is joining us. She will really make our program a memorable experience for our students.”

The 2022 Meharry Data Science Summer Academy will be the first occurrence of a new annual summer program for the College.

“Dean Fortune Mhlanga has an inspiring vision to share our passion with data science to underrepresented students each year,” says Dr. Levin. “I know that my co-principal investigators and I will look back in awe at the impact we have helped make through this summer academy.”

The summer academy co-principal investigators are Dr. Todd Gary, director, external research development partnership, David Lockett, grants proposal development and awards management specialist, and Dr. Vibhuti Gupta, assistant professor, computer science and data science, who will also serve as an instructor.

The NASA funding was made through the Minority University Research and Education project. NASA’s goal is to support “the dreams of students from traditionally underrepresented and underserved communities to enter careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).” In total, NASA awarded $640,000 to ten 10 Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Predominantly Black Institutions.

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