NCWIT Pioneer Award

The NCWIT Pioneer Award recognizes technical women whose lifetime contributions have significantly impacted the landscape of technological innovation, amplifying the importance of capitalizing on the diverse perspectives that girls and women can bring to the table. Pioneer Award recipients also serve as role models whose legacies continue to inspire generations of young women to pursue computing and make history in their own right.

The 2015 winners of the NCWIT Pioneer Award are Katherine Johnson and Dr. Christine Darden! They will both be honored at the 2015 NCWIT Summit on May 19, 2015.

As a NASA mathematician, Katherine Johnson’s calculations include the trajectory for the space flight of Alan Shepard, the first American in space; John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth; and Apollo 11, the first human mission to the moon. Born in 1918, Katherine displayed an early love for numbers: “They tell me I counted everything,” said Katherine. She began her studies at West Virginia State University at the age of 15, where distinguished Dr. William W. Schiefflin Claytor recognized her impressive aptitude and encouraged her to take the necessary courses that would lead to a career as a research mathematician. Katherine would go on to earn her graduate degree. In 1953, she began working as a research mathematician at the Langley Research Center with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the agency that became NASA. Katherine’s computations impacted the history of U.S. space exploration.

Christine Darden
Dr. Christine Darden is recognized for nearly 40 years of service at NASA as an international expert in the areas of sonic boom prediction, sonic boom minimization, and supersonic wing design. Born in 1952, Christine graduated from Allen High School as the class valedictorian with an interest in math "It just clicked," Christine said. She received a scholarship to attend Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute. She would go on to earn her doctorate in mechanical engineering with a specialty in fluid mechanics from George Washington University. Christine has been recognized with dozens of awards and honors including the Black Engineer of the Year Outstanding Achievement in Government Award, the Women in Science & Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award, and two NASA medals – one of which was for her active involvement in working with and encouraging students to pursue careers in math and science.

Want to help us recognize them? We’re calling for original creations (artwork, code, writing, letter, poetry, photographs, etc.) to be included in a scrapbook that will be presented to this year’s Pioneer Award winners at the 2015 NCWIT Summit on May 19 in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Send us your submissions by May 1, 2015 at www.ncwit.org/pioneerscrapbookproject.

The 2014 winner of the NCWIT Pioneer Award was IBM's Eleanor Kolchin who received a scrapbook of commemorative artwork at the 2014 NCWIT Summit, created by recipients of the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing.

Past Pioneer Award winners include computer scientist and programmer Jean E. Sammet who is best-known for her work on FORMAC, as well as mathematicians Patricia Palombo and Lucy Simon Rakov who worked on NASA's Project Mercury at a time when computing was in its infancy.