Three black teens are finalists in a NASA competition. Then hackers spewing racism tried to ruin their odds.

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May 3, 2018 3:11 pm Published by

The three District of Columbia students couldn’t believe the news. They’d developed a method to purify lead-contaminated water in school drinking fountains, and NASA announced last month that they were finalists in the agency’s prestigious high school competition – the only all-black, female team to make it that far.

“Hidden figures in the making,” one of the teens wrote in a celebratory text message to her teammates and coaches, a reference to the 2016 movie about the true story of three African-American women who worked for NASA in the 1960s.

The next stage of the science competition included public voting, and the Banneker High School students – Mikayla Sharrieff, India Skinner and Bria Snell, all 17-year-old high school juniors – turned to social media to promote their project.

But while the teens were gaining traction on social media and racking up votes, users on 4chan – an anonymous internet forum where users are known to push hoaxes and spew racist and homophobic comments – were trying to ensure the students wouldn’t win.

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