3 black D.C. students face racist backlash in NASA competition, get grant

WASHINGTON -- Three black Washington, D.C. students who faced racist comments when they used social media to encourage voting for them in a NASA competition have been awarded $4,000. CBS affiliate WUSA-TV reports Mayor Muriel E. Bowser's administration announced Thursday that it would award the money to the Banneker High School team.

The grant will help Mikayla Sharrieff, India Skinner and Bria Snell build on their project to design a system to remove lead from drinking water in schools. Their work landed them in the science competition's final stage.

"We had to have some of our water fountains closed because of the lead issue," Skinner told WUSA. "So we wanted to create a water filtration system that would purify unclean water found in public schools."

Users of the anonymous online forum, 4chan, subjected the team to racist comments. The 4chan posters recommended computer programs that would hack the voting system, prompting NASA to shut down voting early.

"We decided not to worry about that and remain positive and keep smiles on our faces because everything about this is a great experience," Snell told WUSA.

NASA expects to name the competition winners this month.