Meharry Data Science Summer Academy
Free, two-week NASA Robotics and Data Science Summer Program for 15 students in grades 9-12.
On July 17 – 29, 17 students, mostly from underrepresented backgrounds, learned to apply coding and data science to robotics on the Meharry Medical College campus.
The students were attending the Meharry Data Science Summer Academy, funded by NASA through the Minority University Research and Education project and provided to students at no cost. 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.
In addition to courses in programming, robotics and data science, special sessions featured Black professionals in data science and robotics, Kenneth Harris, the deputy lead integration engineer for the NASA James Webb Telescope’s Integrated Science Instrument Module Electronic Components, and Dr. Sian Proctor, the first Black woman to pilot a spacecraft.
The overwhelming message was clear. A future in science and technology is within each student’s grasp.
“Dean Mhlanga told us on the first day that we all have our own dominion in this world,” says Jamal Wicker, a senior at Pearl Cohn Entertainment High School. “Dr. Proctor, in her welcome video, said everyone has their black magic, their own unique talents. And this camp has confirmed that. The whole group has confirmed that if you work hard you can achieve it. You can do it.”
Valeria Romero, a ninth grader at the Nashville School of the Arts, agreed.
“This has taught me that computer science or being in the tech world is not as hard as you think,” says Romero. “I feel like everybody can do it with the right amount of studying and determination. If you put your mind to it, you can get there.”
Dr. Sian Proctor visits Data Science Summer Academy
“What I want you to think about, especially all of you young kids in the audience. Is that you have this space to inspire. I am not talking about outer space. I am talking about the space you inhabit. There will only ever be one of you, and your space matters.” Dr. Sian Proctor
On July 28, students enjoyed the unforgettable experience of meeting astronaut Dr. Sian Proctor, the first Black woman to pilot a spacecraft.
Dr. Proctor — geoscientist, explorer, space artist, and astronaut — was the mission pilot for the Inspiration4 all-civilian orbital mission to space. She visited with each student individually, signed a copy of her book of space art and poetry, Space2Inspire, and shared her inspiring story as the pilot for Inspiration4 to more than 80 guests in the Cal Turner Center Ballroom. She then returned the following day for the academy graduation.
Live Quadruped Robot presentation
The students also saw firsthand how artificial intelligence is advancing robotics through a live presentation of a Go1 Side Intelligent Robot. Stokes Education, the North American distributor of Unitree Quadruped Robots, brought the sophisticated quadruped robot, also known as a robotic dog.