Black Teen Girl Scientists Targeted by Hackers Because of Their Race in NASA Competition

India Skinner (from left), Mikayla Sharrieff and Bria Snell, 11th graders from the District of Columbia, are finalists in a NASA youth science competition. (Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post)

Hackers attempted to alter voting results in a NASA competition in order to attack high school students based on their race. The competition from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center encourages students to find “spinoff” technology in their everyday lives and allows the public to vote via social media to support the students’ projects.

On April 29, however, NASA shut down the public voting after learning hackers were trying to change the final vote totals to attack one of the teams based on their race. NASA wrote in a statement, “It was brought to NASA’s attention … that some members of the public used social media, not to encourage students and support STEM, but to attack a particular student team based on their race and encouraged others to disrupt the contest and manipulate the vote, and the attempt to manipulate the vote occurred shortly after those posts.”

According to The Washington Post, the students being attacked were Mikayla Sharrieff, India Skinner and Bria Snell from Banneker High School in Washington, D.C. The three girls had created a product intended to purify school water by checking for chemicals such as chlorine and lead. The team was among eight finalists in the competition and winnners will be announced later this month.

– Blair Halliday