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Abstract

Educators, politicians and industry professionals note that the number of opportunities for workers in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields grow exponentially over time. Accordingly, emphasis is placed on our schools to produce graduates capable of filling these positions. While these efforts are promising, there is a notable absence of females and minorities in the STEM professions. In an attempt to understand the reasons for this disparity, many educators believe a lack of interest in the STEM field begins at an early age, and disenfranchised students are not afforded the opportunities given to students in more affluent areas of a school district, city or state. This study investigated this issue by developing and delivering a series of STEM-focused after-school workshops at a Title 1 middle school in West Palm Beach, Florida. These workshops were presented by STEM professionals from the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium, local schools, industry and businesses. Sixth-grade students, primarily from an ethnic minority, low socio-economic background, were recruited for these workshops, with their STEM awareness and interest tracked over the entirety of a school year. Results showed a significant increase in the constructs measures. These results can contribute to a higher quality of life by opening educational and occupational opportunities previously unknown or misunderstood by the participants, their families and communities.

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