“Hidden Figures” Inspires A Scholarship Contest For Minority STEM Aspirants

Grand prize winners Yuna Shin and Joy Buolamwini will receive $50,000 in scholarships to further their training.

“Hidden Figures” Inspires A Scholarship Contest For Minority STEM Aspirants

WHAT: scholarship—inspired by Fox’s Hidden Figures about black female NASA mathematicians during America’s space race—has chosen two grand-prize winners from more than 7,300 submissions.


WHO: Grand Prize Winners Yuna Shin from Bothell, WA (ages 13-19 category) and Joy Buolamwini from Cambridge, MA (20-plus). Judges: Hidden Figures producer Pharrell Williams and Donna Gigliotti, Fox 2000 president Elizabeth Gabler, and New York Academy of Sciences president Ellis Rubinstein.

WHY WE CARE: PepsiCo and 21st Century Fox, in partnership with the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS), created the scholarship to target the next generation of female leaders in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Winners, announced last week, were selected for their innovative vision to improve the world through STEM. Shin and Buolamwini will each receive $50,000 in scholarships, a trip to the Kennedy Space Center in Orlando. Ten runners-up will receive $10,000 in scholarships and a hometown screening “Hidden Figures.” All will receive access to STEM training materials and programs from NYAS.

High school junior Shin wants to explore new ways to detect abnormal brain waves that could help prevent epileptic seizures. MIT PhD candidate Buolamwini wants to identify and mitigate algorithmic bias that can lead to discriminatory societal practices and behaviors.

PepsiCo founded the STEM Innovation Taskforce, a coalition of more than 35 industry, government, educator and NGO partners working to solve the STEM shortfall.

“Innovation is the engine of economic growth for PepsiCo, and STEM professionals are major drivers of that growth,” says Mehmood Khan, PepsiCo’s vice chairman and chief scientific officer for global research and development. “We hope this contest will empower those making strides in STEM, provide underrepresented cohorts with opportunities, and inspire the next generation of female visionaries.”

About the author

Susan Karlin is an award-winning journalist in Los Angeles, covering the nexus of science, technology, and arts, with a fondness for sci-fi and comics. She's a regular contributor to Fast Company, NPR, and IEEE Spectrum, and has written for Newsweek, Forbes, Wired, Scientific American, Discover, NY and London Times, and BBC Radio.