Free Resource Friday: Mission 5 From the Wonder League Robotics Competition - 2021-22
Celebrate Women's History Month by Learning About Katherine Johnson, the NASA Mathematician Who Helped Us Get to the Moon
Last year’s Wonder League Robotics Competition shined a spotlight on five leaders in STEM fields. In Mission #5, we featured Katherine Johnson, the mathematician whose work was instrumental to the success of NASA’s Mercury and Apollo Missions, and beyond.
For Free Resource Friday and in honor of Women’s History Month, we are making this Mission available to the public for the first time!
Katherine Johnson née Coleman, was born in West Virginia 1918 and graduated high school at the age of 14! She graduated Summa Cum Laude from West Virginia State in 1937. They had to create new math courses just to keep up with her insatiable appetite for knowledge! She was the first African American woman and one of the first three African American people allowed to study at the graduate level at West Virginia University.
Starting in 1953, she worked as a “computer” at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). In 1958, NACA was superseded by NASA and she transitioned to calculating flight trajectories for the first Americans headed into space. If you’ve seen the film, Hidden Figures, then you know the story of how John Glen refused to depart for the first orbit in space until Ms. Johnson had verified the numbers. Her calculations also helped the astronauts on Apollo 13 make it home safely. Later in her career, she even worked on planning out missions to Mars!
Katherine Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then President Barack Obama in 2015, and was awarded countless other awards and honorary degrees.
She passed away at the age of 101 in February of 2020.
A Class Connect license provides access to all of the missions from the Wonder League Robotics Competition to use as in-class activities. Learn more about Class Connect and how you bring this comprehensive STEM learning resource to your class.