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"Hidden Figures" to inspire city students to pursue STEM careers

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

A collaborative effort between Western New York STEM Hub, AT&T and the Girl Scouts will allow more than 200 Buffalo Public School students, Girls Scouts and teachers to see the movie" Hidden Figures" Saturday. WBFO's Senior Reporter Eileen Buckley says the event is designed to help encourage a new generation of women to consider STEM careers.

“I hope to learn how hard black women have to work in the industry–especially in this time, it was especially frowned upon that women work at all and especially black people work,” said Danya Flood as she reflected on the theme of "Hidden Figures." Flood is a ninth grader at the Math, Science & Technology School in Buffalo. 

Flood will be attending the Regal on Elmwood Saturday to see "Hidden Figures" to watch the real-life story of three African-American women. They were mathematicians who helped with Astronaut John Glenn's space flight on Apollo 11.  Flood said she's excited to be inspired by this story.

“A sense of power and confidence that if they do it that we can do it too,” Flood explained. 

Hamlin Park eighth grader Gabriella Melendez is very excited to have a chance to watch the movie about space.  

“I want to see the movie specifically because it has something to do with space and I feel like that’s something I want to do,” Melendez remarked.       

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Danya Flood,, 9th grader at the Math, Science & Technology School in Buffalo & Hamlin Park 8th grader Gabriella Melendez.

You may recall Melendez was the principal investigator of a STEM project called "Spud Launchers" in December of 2015. It won a national competition for the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. Her experiment with two other students will see if a potato can grow in space onboard the International Space Station.  

“Basically it’s three girls and in my project it was three girls, so I feel like watching the movie – it’s going to make me learn something. Us three girls, it’s going to bring us a little closer together. A different way to look at what we are going through,” Melendez replied.

Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley
In December of 2015 three Hamlin Park students were selected for a space experiment.

On February 15, Melendez and the two other students that helped develop the Spud Launchers will travel to Florida to see their experiment launched into space.

“When it comes back down that’s when we will figure out whether or it grew in microgravity or it didn’t,” Melendez explained.

“The potatoes are in the mail. They’re ready to get shipped off and the girls get to go on February 15 to see the launch actually happen,” said Andrew Franz, teacher and team advisor for the space experiment.  He is thrilled for the students and their success.

“It’s kind of cool. I keep telling them that the location they are being shipped to when the launch is actually happening is called Banana Creek and that’s where every single movie that you see that launch go off people are viewing it from Banana Creek,” said Franz.

Saturday's private movie screening is free for the students through a sponsorship from AT &T. They’ve secured the purchase of more than 280 tickets for students.   

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Buffalo School Board Member Sharon Belton Cottman tells the Buffalo students the sky is the limit, encouraging them to study STEM.

Buffalo School Board Member Sharon Belton-Cottman said viewing this historic movie is a symbolic to the work these young woman are learning in their STEM programs in the classrooms.

“We have our young people going down to see their experiment launched into space and looking at them with their bright eyes and their future ahead of them to realize the sky–there is no limit,” declared Belton-Cottman.

Research indicates that by the year 2020 there will be 2.4-millon unfilled STEM jobs. Melendez and Flood are inspired by science and both envision careers within the field.

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Inside a lab at the the Math, Science & Technology School in Buffalo.

“I would like to be a cardio thoracic surgeon when I grow up because I like working and how it works, and how it can be our power house for what keeps us alive every day, what gets us breathing every day,” Flood said. 

“I’ve been interested in bio-chem. I like dealing with chemicals and a lot of stuff like that,” Melendez responded.

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