"When Computers Wore Skirts:" Katherine Johnson, Christine Darden, and the "West Computers"

"When Computers Wore Skirts:" Katherine Johnson, Christine Darden, and the "West Computers"

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Melba Roy Mouton, a computer, in 1960

Melba Roy Mouton, a computer, in 1960

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In this lesson plan, students will learn about the “West Computers” or “West Area Computers” – a group of African-American women who worked as “human computers” at NASA Langley Research Center from the 1940s onward.  This story was adapted into the 2016 Academy Award-nominated film Hidden Figures, starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe.  They will also learn about two women in particular – Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden – who started working at NASA as computers and made significant contributions to spaceflight.