Students Demonstrate Research Skills at Fourth Annual Diversity Conference
Since 1981, Dade County, Florida, has operated
an Artificial Reef Program to increase marine habitats for fish and other
Maria Lacayo and five other 9th-graders at Miami Senior High School operated
their own artificial reef program for a month to learn which organisms initially
occupy an artificial (concrete) surface and learn how they attach themselves.
Lacayo, whose group won an award, was one of more than 400 student presenters
at the 1995 National Conference on Diversity in the Scientific and Technological
Workforce, sponsored by NSF's Directorate for Education and Human Resources
(EHR). Attendance topped 2,400 and included representatives from national
science and technology associations, science, mathematics and engineering
professionals from the public and private sectors, science educators,
and officials from industry and government.
The weekend of presentations showcased scientific talent among African American,
Hispanic, and Native American students ranging from seventh graders to graduate
students. Presenters were chosen from among students in EHR's programs to increase
participation of underrepresented minorities in science careers. More than 500,000
students are currently involved.
The NSF research directorates also sponsored student presenters from their funded
research projects. "These programs are designed to increase the nation's competitiveness
by ensuring that all its citizens are active participants in a science, engineering,
and mathematics workforce," says EHR Assistant Director Luther Williams. "Not
all students have an equal opportunity to compete for degrees in science, mathematics,
engineering, and technology; however, these programs have been remarkably successful
in increasing the number of underrepresented minorities."
Within each program, students exhibit a broad range of interests. Lacayo's group
was one of many focused on environmental science. Other groups studied molecular
biology ("Three-dimensional Liquid Crystalline Polymers of Polybenzobisoxazole
and Polybenzobisthiazole"); and agronomy ("Water Retention in Till and No-Till
The conference provides an opportunity to demonstrate what individuals and teams
of students can do with appropriate resources and support, says Conference Coordinator
Elmima Johnson. "Given the proper training and exposure, all children can learn
and appreciate science."