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The joy of seeing Hidden Figures as a recent engineering graduate

Outside the theater on opening weekend wearing my Space Shuttle team jacket. Credit A. Anthony

Hidden Figures was number one in the box office last weekend. I am ecstatic.

I have been following the progress of this movie for months and rooting for its success. As a mechanical engineering student, I had family members sharing the trailer on Facebook and friends organizing watch parties for the opening weekend. Seeing this movie has been on my calendar for months, so seeing it this past Saturday was an exciting event, but also made me a bit nervous.

I wanted this movie to be successful with all of my heart. I was worried I would walk into the theaters and be watching the stories of these inspirational women with only a handful of people. I wanted their stories to resonate beyond my group of friends that are all engineers and make the world aware of the amazing accomplishments these women made in the face of many obstacles.

As I drove up to the movie theater with my boyfriend for a 3:45pm matinee showing, there was a line around the corner of people waiting to buy tickets. It was such a long line that I had to buy my tickets online while standing in the parking lot to ensure we would get into the movie theater in time. Still, the line of people could buying tickets for anything, my worries were not out the window yet.

We walked into the building and there was a crowd of people waiting at the ticket taker’s stand. I overheard him say to the couple in front of me “You should go in and get seats now before popcorn because it is filling up fast.”

“Is that for Hidden Figures in auditorium 6?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said. “You should hurry in to get seats together.”

I couldn’t help but smile as my worry fell away. A huge movie theater was filled with other people wanting to hear these women’s journeys.

We had to sit in the section of seats at the front of the theater that are always the last to go, but I didn’t mind. Everyone seemed so happy to be in that theater. The entire crowd was buzzing with activity, like they were about the see the midnight showing of the next Star Wars movie.

Throughout the movie there was applause, shouts of “You go girl!”, and laughter. The whole theater was in love with these women and wanted to see them succeed.

I heard the older couple next to me quietly whisper “Wow” and “Geezus!” as Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) did her math on screen and discuss the difficulty of the Go-No-Go moment for John Glenn.

This movie is what the world needs to watch right now. The three women featured in the movie make me feel proud to be a woman who just graduated with an engineering degree last month. I wanted to give a high five to Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) when she became the first black female engineer at NASA and to Dorthy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) when she took charge of the new computer at NASA.

Credit: Hiddenfiguresmovie.com

It made me appreciative for how easy it was, in comparison, to get my engineering degree. I did not have to go to the courts to fight for my right to take classes. I was able to get any engineering book I needed from the library or bookstore. The release of this movie was timed so closely to my graduation with my B.S. in mechanical engineering that watching it served as a wonderful reminder to be grateful and to keep working to make the STEM fields accessible to everyone.

Hidden Figures should make us pause and look at how far women and other minority groups have come in engineering, but also how much further we have to go. These women paved the way for our field, race relations and women as a whole. I hope that this movie is able to push us another step forward in all of the areas as well.

Thank you Hidden Figures for helping change the public perception of what engineers, coders and mathematicians look like. This movie is showing the importance of telling stories that have been hidden for too long. You are giving a generation of young girls new heroes to look up to and make me proud to be a woman in STEM. Let’s keep this movie at number one.

Blog originally posted at http://www.erinwinick.com/blog.

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