It all began with a photograph.
Last year, while doing research for a middle-school science project, 14-year-old Audrey Andrews – better known locally as one half of the culinary sister-act the Twin Chefs – stumbled upon a 1960s-era black-and-white photo of NASA computer programmer Margaret Hamilton.
“It was so powerful,” says Andrews. “It’s a simple enough photo, but there was something about that really made me stop and study it.”
The photo portrayed Hamilton, then only 33 years old, standing beside a stack of books as tall as she was. Printed inside those books, in endless columns of zeros and ones, was the entire computer code that allowed the Apollo 11 spacecraft to prioritize the thousands of necessary details required to land the Earth-made vessel on the face of the moon. The code was primarily conceived and written by Hamilton, who was eventually named director and supervisor of software programming for the Apollo missions and the Skylab science module.
“That photo really made an impression on me,” says Andrews, who remembered it several months later, after learning about the Star Seekers “Stem to Steam” Art Contest.
The brainchild of actor-director Lennie Dean, of Santa Rosa’s 6th Street Playhouse, the Star Seekers competition is a county-wide program in which middle school students are invited to create pieces of art inspired by any real-life female scientist. The inaugural contest was designed to coincide with 6th Street Playhouse’s March-April production of “Silent Sky,” a play about female astronomers at Harvard in the early 1900s.
“I was introduced to the Star Seekers by my science teacher,” Andrews says. “Our school took the idea and made it into a multi-classroom project. We were assigned an essay in English, assignments in science, and then the art project.”
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