Nashville, Tenn.—On July 17-29, 17 young 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 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.”