APOPKA, Fla. — With a lack of diverse talent in STEM, a national non-profit descended upon one Orange County middle school Friday to see if they can inspire young minds.

  • Event sparks student interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math 
  • Program focuses on middle school because that's where test scores start to fall
  • UCF students helped with the teens

“Our test scores are pretty good up until about sixth grade, then you start to notice the gaps with the rest of advanced world,” said Peter Mellado, with Great Minds in STEM. “We come to middle schools. It’s great to see them connect as a team and start to see themselves as doing this stuff.”

Students at Piedmont Lakes Middle School built a space launcher Friday, “hired” for the day by sponsor Northrop Grumman.

“It’s interesting! You get younger people like us to do things for the future,” said eighth-grader Nilzaidalys Albaladejo.

As students worked, UCF STEM students in red shirts helped the middle schoolers with their projects.

According to Mellado, underrepresented minorities make up 30 percent of the population, but only contribute about 11 percent of all STEM majors.

The non-profit will be heading back to Orlando for their conference September 25-29, held at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. According to the organization, around 3,500 STEM students and professionals attend their annual conference.