Astronaut Jeanette Epps to be NASA’s 1st African-American Crew Member on International Space Station

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps (photo via mashable.com)

article by Miriam Kramer via mashable.com

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps is set to become the first African-American crewmember on the International Space Station when she flies to space next year, the space agency announced Wednesday.

Epps’ months-long trip should begin in 2018, and it will mark the first time she has traveled to orbit, following in the footsteps of the women who inspired her to become an astronaut.  “It was about 1980, I was nine years old. My brother came home and he looked at my grades and my twin sisters’ grades and he said, ‘You know, you guys can probably become aerospace engineers or even astronauts,'” Epps said in a NASA video interview.

“And this was at the time that Sally Ride [the first American woman to fly in space] and a group of women were selected to become astronauts — the first time in history. So, he made that comment and I said, ‘Wow, that would be so cool.'”   While other African-American astronauts have flown to the Space Station for brief stays during the outpost’s construction, Epps will be the first African-American crewmember to live and work on the station for an extended period of time.

Robert Curbeam, Stephanie Wilson, Joan Higginbotham, Al Drew, Leland Melvin and Robert Satcher, along with their space shuttle crewmates, helped to complete the space station during its first 11 years,” space historian Robert Pearlman, who runs the website collectSPACE.com, told Mashable.

Melvin actually encouraged Epps to apply to become an astronaut when the space agency put out a call for their 2009 class, Epps said. And that encouragement paid off. Epps was selected as one of 14 astronaut candidates in NASA’s 2009 class. NASA received 3,500 astronaut applications that year. Her astronaut selection wasn’t the first time she worked with the space agency, however. Epps was a NASA fellow while at the University of Maryland for graduate school in aerospace engineering and then worked in a lab at Ford Motor Company for more than two years, according to the space agency.

From there, Epps’ path to becoming an astronaut takes a decidedly atypical turn. Most astronauts come to the Astronaut Corps either through training in science or as a military officer, but after Ford, Epps spent more than seven years at the Central Intelligence Agency as a technical intelligence officer.”I did a lot of scientific stuff, but I also did a lot of operational stuff,” Epps said. “We worked in non-proliferation issues, which was great. It’s reverse engineering at its best.” Epps also volunteered to go to Iraq with the CIA for four months to help search for weapons of mass destruction.

To read full article, go to: NASA’s first African-American Space Station crewmember is your new role model

Documentary on Floyd Norman, 1st Black Animator at Disney, Now on Netflix

article via shadowandact.com

After a theatrical run in USA theaters that kicked off in late August, the documentary “Floyd Norman – An Animated Life” – an intimate journey through the celebrated life and career of the legendary animator Floyd Norman, the first African American animator at Disney – is now streaming on Netflix.

Directed by Michael Fiore and Erik Sharkey, the crowd-pleaser recently won the award for Best documentary at the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con. Born in 1935 in Santa Barbara, Norman’s love of animation first came when his mother took him to see Disney’s “Bambi” and “Dumbo.”  By the time he was a high schooler, he knew his goal was to be an animator at Disney Studios. After graduation, with the help of a friend, Norman got an appointment at Disney and he walked into Disney Studios, portfolio in hand, for an interview. But instead of getting a job, he was told to go to school, which Norman said later was the best advice anyone had ever given him. He entered the Art Center College of Design and two years later, got a call to go work for Disney. He dropped out of school and started working at the studio the following Monday.

He worked on various features including “Sleeping Beauty,” “The Sword in the Stone,” “The Jungle Book,” and several short subjects. He left Disney after Walt Disney died in 1966, and, with Ron Sullivan, formed AfroKids Animation Studio. Among the other properties they created was the first “Fat Albert” television special which aired in 1969 on NBC (the later more well-known Fat Albert TV series was made by Filmation Associates, not AfroKids). But starting in the early 1970s, Norman returned to Disney to work on projects like “Robin Hood.”

To read more, go to: Award-Winning New Doc on Floyd Norman, 1st Black Animator to Work for Disney, Now Streaming on Netflix – Shadow and Act

21st Century Fox and Pepsico Team Up to Offer STEM Scholarships with “Hidden Figures” Contest for Girls and Women

hidden-figures-750x315_orig

Are you a real-life “hidden figure” on her way to changing the world? You could win a scholarship to help make your STEM dreams come true! PepsiCo and 21st Century Fox are partnering to find the next generation of girls and women who will lead the way in STEM. Sound like you? Enter the Search for Hidden Figures contest by Dec. 10!

Prizes are awards of $200,000 total in scholarships to 12 standout finalists. Winners will also receive exclusive opportunities and more from PepsiCo and Hidden Figures.

For more information and contest rules, go to https://searchforhiddenfigures.com

Oando Foundation and Theirworld Charities Partner to Empower Young Nigerian Women and Girls Through Tech

image015

Mrs Adekanla Adegoke, Head, Oando Foundation with pupils of Olisa Primary School at the launch of Oando Foundation and Theirworld Code Clubs for Girls at Olisa Primary School, Papa Ajao Mushin (photo via venturesafrica.com)

article by Fumnanya Agbugah via venturesafrica.com

Global children’s charity Theirworld and Oando Foundation, an independent charity organization, have partnered to empower Nigerian girls and young women. This initiative is geared towards providing them with a unique opportunity to learn important technology skills in a safe environment through an innovative pilot project known as Code Clubs.

“With a safe space to learn and play, a mentor to inspire, and access to technology to be able to explore, create, and code we can increase learning opportunities and empower girls to fulfill their potential,” said Sarah Brown, President of Theirworld.

Despite thousands of jobs being created in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) industries across Africa, gender discrimination, lack of access to education and technology have often kept girls out of the work force. This has also made it impossible to break the cycle of poverty.

As a result of the several issues affecting the development of women in Africa, Code Club Nigeria is set to be launched ahead of Africa Code Week in collaboration with the Oando Foundation.

What is the code club?

The Code Club’s are low-cost, sustainable and scalable safe spaces where girls can be empowered by learning to code, foster creative thinking and increase knowledge and skill-set for the future.

Over 600 girls aged six to twenty-five in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania will join the Code Clubs in its pilot phase with the aim of reaching thousands more with its self-sustaining model – where girls who have completed the course will return to mentor the next cohort of girls, with community support to augment the scalability of the project.

To read full article, go to: http://venturesafrica.com/oando-foundation-and-theirworld-partner-to-empower-nigerian-girls-and-young-women-through-ict/amp/

Godwin Gabriel Launches Moovn, a Ride-Sharing App to Compete with Uber, Lyft in U.S. and Abroad

Moovn creator and CEO Godwin Gabriel (photo via urbvangeekz.com)

article by Wilfred Ainsworth via urbangeekz.com

Ride-sharing technology has boomed into a multi-billion dollar industry within the past decade with the biggest names being Uber and Lyft.  Now a new platform, led by an innovative chief executive, looks to stake a claim in the global marketplace.  Moovn is a ride-hailing app that is currently operating in 7 U.S. cities and has plans to rapidly expand in both western and emerging markets.

Founded by Tanzanian-born Godwin Gabriel, the mobile application also operates in 3 cities in Africa: Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; and Gabriel’s home city, Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania.  In an interview with UrbanGeekz, Gabriel talks about teaching himself to code and developing the software to launch the platform. Still, he admits his beta launch was “amateurish at best” and states, “It wasn’t until we received investor backing that I was able to hire and collaborate with a team of seasoned developers to transform the platform into what we have today.”

When asked what his biggest challenges are, he says, “The market, for the most part, is currently being dominated by Uber and Lyft with these companies enjoying the benefits of having first mover advantage with the transportation technology space. However, we’re confident that the global market remains sizable enough for all of us to fit in and play.”

In fact, operating in Africa has been a smart business strategy, particularly with the rise smartphone usage across the continent. It is also a chance to do business in markets that hadn’t been explored by big name brands. “I believe Moovn is changing lives – particularly in Africa and developing markets,” he says. “For instance, drivers earn more on our platform, are reducing idle time and are able to provide and build their communities.”

Gabriel has an impressive track record climbing the ranks of corporate America. He also has an MBA from the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business. Stepping out in faith as a tech entrepreneur, he quickly realized that he had to differentiate his brand to create a competitive transportation technology platform.

Moovn sets itself apart from most ride-sharing applications because it allows the rider to pre-schedule trips up to a month in advance, instead of only being able to request one for immediate service. It also allows different vehicle options depending upon local modes of transportation, such as motorcycles and tricycles in developing economies. Other unique features include the movement of products and services from the marketplace to the consumer and the ability to enable businesses to keep track of their transport logistics.

To read full article, go to: African-American Launches Ride-Sharing App to Compete with Uber, Lyft – UrbanGeekz

Black and Latino Youth to Benefit from Google’s New ‘Code Next’ Lab

(Photo by Ariel Skelley via essence.com)

Tech giant Google is aiming to foster the next generation of leaders by increasing learning opportunities for students of color by spearheading an initiative aimed towards encouraging young people of color to pursue careers in technology.

Launched earlier this week by the multimedia behemoth, the Code Next program was established in an effort to combat recent Google statistics citing that 51 percent of Black students and 47 percent of Latino students lack access to computer science classes in their schools.

Stressing the importance of students being given adequate learning tools to broaden their knowledge of technology in today’s constantly evolving tech environment, Code Next will provide enriching curriculum that serves to connect computer science to the students’ daily lives.

To read full, original article, go to: http://www.essence.com/news/google-code-next-lab

Asante Mahapa, South Africa’s 1st Black Female Pilot, Inspires Girls to Aim High

Asnath Mahapa is South Africa’s first African female pilot. (photo via cnn.com)

article by Hira Humayan, Amanda Sealy, CNN and Phoebe Parke, for CNN via cnn.com

Asnath Mahapa was fascinated by planes as a teenager, little did she know she would break boundaries with them by becoming South Africa’s first African female pilot.

“It just dawned on me that those big things that we see in the skies, someone is actually in charge of them,” she told CNN. “I thought if someone can fly this thing, that means I can also do it.”

Mahapa, whose father didn’t want her to become a pilot, overcame a number of obstacles before she took to the skies.  “When I told my father I wanted to become a pilot, he never even entertained the idea, ” she explained.

Challenging route to success

She enrolled in a course in electrical engineering at the University of Cape Town in line with her father’s wishes, only to drop out a year later. She later started flight school, which came with it’s own set of challenges.

“I was the only woman in my class the whole time,” she said. “I had to work very hard. I had to probably work ten times harder than the men that I was with in the classroom.”

Mahapa also felt sick the first few times she took to the skies. But that didn’t stop her. “My first time, I felt sick,” she said. “I was persistent, I went back again, I went back until I stopped feeling sick.”

Her hard work and determination paid off and in 1998 she broke barriers by taking to the skies as the first female African pilot in South Africa.

“I didn’t know I was the first black woman until 2003, until about four years later. And I was still the only one at the time and I did not know,” she said.  “Before I knew it I was on TV, front page of newspapers, and that came as a shock because I was still young, I was 22 at the time, I was very young.”

Charting a new course

Mahapa was not content with just breaking barriers, she wanted to train and inspire a new generation of pilots, so in 2012 she opened the African College of Aviation.

“For me, it’s about trying to help women who aspire to become pilots,” she said. “I still see a lot of black women going through the same things that I went through at that time. They still struggle to get jobs after they qualify.

“Most of them they struggle with finances because it’s a very expensive industry.” In addition to cost, according to Mahapa the field is still very male dominated, something she is committed to change.

To read full article and see video, go to: South Africa’s first black female pilot inspiring girls to aim high – CNN.com