Astronaut Cady Coleman Greets 2016 Datanauts

Designers, developers, students and storytellers kicked off a new year at NASA Headquarters in Washington D.C. as the 2016 class of Datanauts. Astronaut Cady Coleman welcomed the 49 Datanauts who participated in-person and virtually from across the globe.

“You know, you should take a look because the people that you think might be the next people, it might not be them. It might be others that you just don’t see,” Dr. Coleman said, pointing to words her father once shared.

Astronaut Cady Coleman greeting 2016 Datanauts

Listen to her stories! 

2016 Datanaut Crystal Franklin of Cleveland, Ohio looked around the room and was encouraged to see so many people who often are not in the data science space. “Most of us don’t look like who we are,” Franklin shared with the group. She pointed to the diversity of the 2016 class, a group defying the stereotypical picture of who engages with data. In their own words, the launch of this year’s initiative was characterized by excitement, understanding, partnerships, empowerment and imagination.

Datanaut Cindy Chin Datanaut 2016 tweet

Joining them were Chief Information Officer Renee Wynn, Chief Technology Officer of IT Deborah Diaz, and Open Innovation Program Manager Beth Beck, who was celebrating her one year anniversary at NASA.

NASA’s CIO reminded the class of what they had to gain from each other. “You will always have the folks you have this opportunity with, so think of it as a gift and go forward.” Wynn added, “I ran into walls and it was people that were a little bit further ahead or a little bit more adept that helped me out of that.”

The gathering included a conversation with founding Datanaut Jennifer Lopez, technology development lead at CASIS, the Center for Advancement of Science in Space. “What I love about the program is how inclusive it is,” Lopez told the 2016 class.

Dr. Brian Thomas, NASA Data Scientist also joined the group to share the data challenges Datanauts will be tackling over the next year.

During an interaction session in the afternoon, the Datanauts were shown founding Datanaut Dr. Kate Stone’s Starry Night project, a tool to compose musical visualizations with NASA data. Participants at NASA Headquarters also worked with blink blink COO Alex Tosti to explore a Creative Circuit material kit, marking their first opportunity to collaborate.

NASA Datanauts Creating Circuits

Watch the circuit-making magic.

As they navigated circuits, they connected with one another, and sensed the unique opportunity the Datanauts initiative provides. NASA’s Beth Beck underscored the importance of inviting these varied perspectives into the fold.

“It’s a labor of love to get more girls, women and newcomers of all kinds engaged in data,” Beck stated as the day came to a close, beginning a six-month session of monthly challenges, weekly watercooler chats and endless opportunities to connect. At the heart of it all is the mission to take on the data challenges of today and days to come.

While the second class of Datanauts is set to learn through the initiative, NASA is set to learn just as much from the Datanauts experiment, problem-solving with the powerful, empowering data at our fingertips.

Learn more about the 2016 Datanauts by exploring the site. Follow #NASADatanauts as we continue sharing stories of the Datanauts journey to come.

About Matt

Matt Scott is a Datanauts Storyteller