Who is TIME’s First Kid of the Year? Get to Know Gitanjali Rao

Who is TIME's First Kid of the Year? Find out in this inspiring interview! 

Who says you have to be an adult to be a scientist? Definitely not this 15-year-old who is taking the world by storm! Orlando Science Center got the chance to chat with Gitanjali Rao.

Gitanjali Rao is a 15-year-old Indian American inventor, author, scientist, S.T.E.M. promoter, and engineer. She is working to solve some of the world’s messiest problems by inventing solutions - like a device that detects lead in drinking water, an app to help prevent cyberbullying, and more!

You've probably heard of TIME's Person of the Year, but for the first time ever, a kid was also chosen. Who is TIME's first Kid of the year? You guessed it, Gitanjali Rao! She was TIME Magazine’s first Kid of the Year, as pictured on the cover of the magazine. She was interviewed by Angelina Jolie and was chosen from more than 5,000 US nominees for the prestigious title of TIME’s Kid of the Year. "If I can do it, you can do it, and anyone can do it," she said.

While she is working to shape and save the future of our world, she has also written a new book entitled A Young Innovators Guide to S.T.E.M. Grab a copy and share it with your favorite aspiring scientist to help unlock their innovator within.

The Orlando Science Center had the pleasure of discussing some topics with Gitanjali. During our conversation, she explains that no matter your age or where you live, anyone can be a S.T.E.M. professional if they are passionate enough. We also had Gitanjali help us celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, by telling us what heritage means to her.

...heritage is a unique and inherited sense of one's identity, passed down from generations. This is what makes us who we are.

Gitanjali Rao

Gitanjali also highlights “values, traditions, culture, art, and cooking styles” which help us stay in touch with our heritage. She ends by telling us that she is proud of who she is, and her heritage. She believes everyone should be, too, because that is what makes us... us

Thanks Gitanjali Rao for helping OSC inspire science learning for life, no matter who we are, where we come from, and no matter our age. And a huge thanks for helping us celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. How will you be celebrating this heritage month? Try taking some time to find out what you can do for the community.

High School Students’ COVID-19 Projects Take Top Prizes at Ying Science Competition!

Pandemic Inspires High School Students COVID-19 projects to Develop Better Face Coverings and Filtration Systems!

Since 1999, Dr. Nelson Ying — local scientist, entrepreneur and philanthropist — has partnered with Orlando Science Center to celebrate outstanding science students through his sponsorship of the Ying Student Science Competition. Among the four finalists this year, two projects inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic so impressed the judges that both students— Annika Vaidyanathan and Ishika Nag — were named Grand Prize Winners during a virtual ceremony this past weekend.

The awards were presented by Ying’s son, Nelson Ying, Jr. and Fred Curtis, co-founder of the competition and longtime Orlando Science Center volunteer and donor. Annika Vaidyanathan and Ishika Nag receive a $5,000 scholarship, a $1,000 award for their science teacher or mentor, and an additional $1,000 for their school. The remaining finalists also received cash prizes to help fund their continued research. To compete in the Dr. Ying Science Competition, each entrant must be a Central Florida high school student and pursue a research project that has the ultimate goal of benefiting humanity. Finalists presented their findings during video meetings with a judges’ panel of educators, engineers and scientists. This is the second year that the competition has been held virtually instead of in person due to the pandemic.


COVID-19 influenced both high school students Annika Vaidyanathan and Ishika Nag's winning projects.

Annika, a junior at Winter Springs High School, wanted to increase the effectiveness of face masks to help slow the spread of the virus. She developed and tested a coating that would cause COVID-19 virus-sized nanoparticles to bead and roll right off a face mask, creating greater protection for the wearer. She also looked at ways to manufacture this coating safely and cost-effectively. 

Annika Vaidyanathan - One of the Central Florida Teens Change the World


Meanwhile, Ishika, a sophomore at Oviedo High School, was focused on improving the efficiency and affordability of air filtration devices, like both masks and HVAC filters, by coating them with nanoparticles. Ishika’s research showed that this coating improved a mask’s air pollution and virus filtration efficiency while ensuring its safety for human use. She was originally inspired to pursue this multi-year project after visiting a friend who had moved to New Delhi.

She saw firsthand how much her friend’s life had been impacted due to the change in air quality. The global pandemic then convinced this Central Florida teen to create a low-cost, high-quality filtration device that could protect people from both pollution and airborne viruses, not only locally but around the world.

Ishika Nag


The competition also awarded the remaining two finalists cash prizes to further their research. Nikhil Iyer, a junior at Edgewood Junior/Senior High School in Merritt Island, won $1,000 for his research on improving machine learning by modeling artificial neural networks after the human brain using virtual neurotransmitters.

NIKHIL IYER - One of the Central Florida Teens Change the World


Gustavo Toledo, a senior at Edgewood, won $500 for his research to improve the hydrodynamic efficiency of autonomous underwater vehicles by testing torpedo models with various golf ball-sized surface textures. Nikhil’s project could increase the efficiency of artificial intelligence while Gustavo’s project could enable underwater research vehicles to go further and collect more data over a longer period of time.

Gustavo Toledo

Dr. Nelson Ying is a longtime supporter of Orlando Science Center. After sponsoring numerous exhibits and serving on the Science Center’s board of trustees, he decided to invest the long term impact of our mission to inspire science learning for life. He and Curtis launched the Dr. Ying Science Competition in 1999 to encourage exemplary science students to use their knowledge and skills to address real-world problems.

Dr. Ying’s son, Nelson Jr., now oversees the competition with Ying and Curtis in collaboration with Orlando Science Center. They hope to inspire young people to become good role models and successful world-changers by leveraging their passion for science. Past winners of the Dr. Ying Science Competition have gone onto prestigious universities, such as MIT and Johns Hopkins, and fascinating STEM careers, including NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.


Books About Exploring Space for Any Planet Pioneer

From the moons of Endor to the moons of Jupiter, astronaut enthusiasts will love these books about exploring space!

Scientists from Albert Einstein to Carl Sagan have emphasized the importance of imagination. For something to be achieved, it must first be imagined. It’s little wonder then that science fiction has time and time again become reality.

Jules Vern imagined landing on the moon as far back as 1865 with From the Earth to the Moon. In 1953, Ray Bradbury described listening devices that sounds suspiciously like Bluetooth headsets in Fahrenheit 451. In 1898, the internet was described in a short story called “From the ‘London Times’ of 1904” by none other than Mark Twain. These are but a few examples.

In this spirit, here are some books about exploring space that you can find on your library’s shelves that complement the Science Center’s exhibit Our Planet. They’ll have you imagining what could be next!

Books selected by the Acquisitions Services department of Orange County Library System.

Whether you're a Trekkie or a Wookie, these books about exploring space are phenomenal for all sci-fi fans! 

by Andy Weir

Taking place in 2080, this novel is set in Artemis, the first and thus far only city on the Moon. The main character finds herself caught up in a conspiracy to control the city.

Artemis by Andy Weir

The Martian
by Andy Weir

The story follows an American astronaut, Mark Watney, as he becomes stranded alone on Mars in 2035 and must improvise in order to survive.

The Martian by Andy Weir

by Kim Stanley Robinson

Jumping forward in time quite a bit, this novel is set in 2545 and concerns an interstellar ark starship launched to being a human colony. The story is narrated by the ship’s artificial intelligence.

books about exploring space - Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

The Terranauts
by T.C. Boyle

A similar ark theme but set in a biosphere in 1994 as climate change threatens Earth. Human nature is under the microscope as eight scientists live and work in a prototype of a possible off-earth colony.

Books about exploring space - The Terranauts by T.C. Boyle

by Ben Bova

Part of the author’s Grand Tour Series, each novel follows the colonization of the Solar System by humans in the late 21st century.

Saturn by Ben Bova

Check out the history, herstory, and future of space travel with this non-fiction selection!


Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto
by Alan Stern and David Grinspoon

The story of the men and women behind this amazing mission and their decades-long commitment and persistence. You’ll also get a look into the political fights within and outside of NASA.

non fiction books about exploring space - Chasing New Horizons_ Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto by Alan Stern and David Grinspoon

by Mike Massimino

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to look back on Earth from outer space and see the surprisingly precise line between day and night? This author has been there and he puts you inside the astronaut suit with his book.

Spaceman by Mike Massimino

Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars
by Nathalia Holt

Based on extensive research and interviews with all the living members of the team, this is the riveting true story of the women who launched America into space.

non fiction books about exploring space -Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt

The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity
by Elizabeth Rusch

For younger readers, this books tells of two Mars rovers that were intended to do research for three months and wound up exploring the red planet for six years.

The Mighty Mars Rovers_ The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity by Elizabeth Rusch

Packing for Mars
by Mary Roach

From the space shuttle training toilet to a crash test of NASA's new space capsule (cadaver filling in for astronaut), Roach takes you on a surreally entertaining trip into the science of life in space and space on Earth.

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach

The Mars challenge: The Past, Present, and Future of Human Spaceflight
by Alison Wilgus

This nonfiction graphic novel in which a teen who dreams of being the first woman on Mars is taken on a conceptual journey of what that might be like.

non fiction books about exploring space - The Mars challenge: The Past, Present, and Future of Human Spaceflight by Alison Wilgus


Try a Stellar Activity!

Have you ever looked up at night and thought "what does the moon feel like?"

Using our DIY Moon Sand recipe, you too can experiment and make your own moon craters and touch the surface of the moon!

New Food Heroes Exhibit Presented by Orlando Health Puts Down Roots at Orlando Science Center

See how local partners are creating a more equitable, sustainable, healthy, and community-based food system in the all-new Food Heroes Exhibit presented by Orlando Health!

Orlando Science Center in collaboration with a host of community partners has developed an all-new hands-on exhibit illuminating the fascinating and complex world of our food system. The Food Heroes exhibit is presented by Orlando Health and is located on the first level of Orlando Science Center in the all-new 4Roots Cafe. Inspired by John Rivers of 4Rivers BBQ/4Roots and his passion for food and farming education, we enlisted a group of advisors, including 4Roots, to help develop an experience featuring food heroes making a positive impact in our community and how each of us can join them to make a difference.

“Food might be the true universal language,” said JoAnn Newman, President and CEO of Orlando Science Center. “We need it to sustain ourselves. We use it to comfort ourselves. It is often a singular reason for us to engage with one another. This exhibit promotes the interconnectedness of the food system, and spotlights those people fighting to make it more equitable, sustainable, and healthier for everyone. We are so grateful to our exhibit partners and to our presenting sponsor, Orlando Health, for collaborating with us to make this exhibit a reality.”

Through this integrated exhibit/dining experience, visitors participate with interactive stations, see videos, get cooking tutorials, and learn how to get involved with local efforts. Interactions include a robotic arm that “picks strawberries” as an example of farming automation and an interactive where visitors learn about pollinators as butterflies interact with their shadows. Visitors can also control the decomposition of fruits and vegetables using time-lapse video to understand the importance of composting. And a living wall highlights the importance of vertical farming in growing food as our population increases and we need to grow more food in urban environments, closer to the people who need it most.

Guests controlling robotic arm to pick strawberries in Food Heroes exhibit

“One of the main pillars of 4Roots as an organization is education. We strive to educate our community about the connection between food choices and individual health while helping students and farmers to grow fresh produce sustainably.” said John Rivers, Founder and CEO of 4Roots. “We are delighted to partner with the Orlando Science Center on the Food Heroes Exhibit and to honor those that are working to provide a healthy and accessible food system for our community.”

A demonstration area with a giant LED screen provides an opportunity for expert speakers from Orlando Health, 4Roots, and others to present on topics ranging from nutrition to soil science. This space will also be the setting for cooking demonstrations, where cameras will provide an intimate view of the process on the LED Display. When not being used for demonstrations, the LED Display will present a 30-minute video, featuring local food heroes. Fifteen different local organizations share their stories, ranging from hydroponic gardens to culinary medicine. Spotlighted organizations include 4Roots, Black Bee Honey, HEBNI Nutrition, Fleet Farming, O-Town Compost and presenting sponsor Orlando Health, among others. Their stories share the impact our community is making on the issues of sustainable farming and food security.

Person doing demonstration in Orlando Science Center Food Heroes exhibit

“Orlando Health is thrilled to be the presenting sponsor for Orlando Science Center’s new Food Heroes Exhibit,” said Antwan Williams, administrator for Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. “We believe that this will be a fun and engaging way to educate families in our community about the importance of proper nutrition as part of an overall healthy lifestyle.”

The Food Heroes exhibit, presented by Orlando Health, is included with paid admission to Orlando Science Center and access is free for annual members. Visitors are encouraged to explore the new exhibit and then enjoy a delicious and healthy meal of locally sourced food, prepared by the 4Roots Cafe. Coming soon, visitors will enjoy a web-enabled app experience that is being developed for future use. They will also soon be able to create their own digital plant, which will then be shared on the LED Display with other visitor creations.

Learn More About our New Exhibits and Dining Options

Female Chief Project Engineer Interview • Angela Kruth, P.E. of FINFROCK Shares Her Story

What is it like to be a female Chief Project Engineer? Learn more in this interview with Angela Kruth, P.E. of FINFROCK!

Orlando Science Center is fortunate to have a strong network of strategic partners within the STEM industry that enables us to introduce people to the unlimited opportunities the industry has to offer. Today, we would like to introduce you to Angela Kruth, P.E., a local female Chief Project Engineer right here at FINFROCK.

Angela received her undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering and master's degree in Structural Engineering from the University of Central Florida.

While pursuing her education, Angela began working as an intern at FINFROCK. Since graduating, she has worked her way up through the company and is now a part of its leadership team.

Angela has also made major engineering contributions to FINFROCK’s latest luxury apartment project in Ivanhoe Village, Lake House.

She is actively involved in the industry through various professional associations including the Central Florida Chapter of The Society of Women Engineers and the Florida Prestressed Concrete Association, and Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute.

FINFROCK Chief Project Engineer Angela Kruth, P.E.

Can you tell us more about your role at FINFROCK? What does a typical day in your job look like?

My day is always a little different because as a design-builder, FINFROCK is so diversified. There is certainly a lot of running calculations and providing draft information for a set of drawings and typical engineer work, but a lot of my work as a project engineer involves coordinating with other departments to move a project along. Some days I may be working with architecture to make changes and communicate with our erection department, and some days I’ll go out for a field visit. As a Chief Project Engineer, I teach and lead our other engineers to do a lot of the same tasks.

What inspired you to become an engineer?

When I was younger, I used to watch a show on HGTV called Extreme Homes. It was always on at 2 in the morning, and because I’m somebody who could never sleep, I’d wake up in the middle of the night and start watching it. I thought the houses looked really cool, and I wanted to figure out how to create them. I thought I wanted to be an architect, but then realized I was good at math and engineering would be a great fit for me instead.

Why is it exciting to do what you do at FINFROCK?

The best part is getting to see your building get built. Driving by on the street, pointing to it, and knowing that all your hard work is right there. There’s definitely a lot of pride that comes with it.

What was the most challenging engineering project you have worked on, and how did you solve the problems it presented?

All our projects have challenging elements to them, but for an engineer the biggest challenge is to see an architectural rendering of something that is seemingly floating in space and figuring out how to support it and give it that hidden support appearance. When I first saw the Lake House renderings, I thought, that project looks hard, and I want to do it. Anything that looks like it is defying physics, that’s what I want to figure out and make work.

What challenges did or do you face in the field of engineering as a woman? What can be done to make it better?

Engineering is a male-dominated field, but the landscape is gradually changing as more companies are recognizing the value that women can bring to the industry. Before I had my Professional Engineer (PE) license and added the letters to my title, there were times where I would be corresponding with someone outside that did not recognize I was an engineer and would assume I was just an assistant. Actually... I'm a female Chief Project Engineer!

I think the biggest way to make changes is to encourage engineers and people in leadership positions to stand up against stereotypes and biases. That can include women standing up for themselves, and women in higher positions helping pull up the women below them by sharing their experiences. What’s equally important is for men to speak up if they see a woman treated unfairly.

What is the greatest transformation in engineering technology you have witnessed in your career or what are your thoughts on transformations in the field of engineering do you see on the horizon?

I think the way lasers and AR (Augmented Reality) are integrated is changing the game –it saves a lot of time and it makes measurements more accurate. At FINFROCK, we utilize virtual reality in the design process which allows us to easily make changes before we ever start construction. There is also a software method called LiDAR where one can scan a building and present a digital version of all the dimensions in the building through LiDAR.

What advice would you give to girls in school or pursuing higher education in engineering as a career choice or area of study?

My advice would be to find other girls with the same interest and don’t be afraid to make friends with them! When girls hang out with like-minded girls, there is so much they are capable of. It can be hard to find that confidence, but you don’t have to be the smartest person when it comes to math, or anything else really if you’re willing to work at a subject and learn. Do not be afraid to speak up in class or give the wrong answer. Just focus on learning the process.

Orlando Science Center relies on partnerships with industry experts to provide insight on how science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and the incredible innovators within the industry are pushing the boundaries of possibilities. As a longtime friend and corporate partner, FINFROCK helps us inspire the next generation of STEM professionals and industry leaders. With their commitment and generous support, we are able to bring pivotal technology and engineering learning to life.

FINFROCK is committed to revolutionizing the technological advancement of engineering design and manufacturing. FINFROCK handles the design, manufacturing, and building of hundreds of projects a year for clients throughout Florida and across the nation. Learn more about FINFROCK

Orlando Science Center Celebrates Museum Advocacy Day!

Orlando Science Center Advocates for STEM Learning in Museums! 

For more than ten years, the American Alliance of Museums has been providing the essential training and support museum advocates need to meet face-to-face in Washington, D.C. with members of Congress. This year, National Museum Advocacy Day is February 22 and 23.

Being an advocate of our work is vitally important to promoting lifelong STEM learning. Teaching our nation’s leaders about the impact of federal government funding on our local projects helps Orlando Science Center garner funds to do exciting work. Many of our offerings have been supported by the federal government through grants. For example, construction of the Flight Lab and its public programming was supported by a grant from the Office of Naval Research (ONR). With their support, we were able to generate a unique learning experience using virtual reality to teach visitors about the science of aviation and US Navy/Marine Corps careers.

“The Flight Lab increases student exposure to STEM...in a way that is engaging and interactive through the use of virtual reality to understand STEM principles.”

— Office of Naval Research Representative
Visitors use virtual reality technology in the Flight Lab experience.

The Science Center has also been actively engaged in promoting inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility (IDEA). Our IDEA efforts began with a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) in 2017.

What started with IDEA staff training branched into a new IDEA Council made up of employees from various areas of  Orlando Science Center charged with pursuing IDEA efforts and creating an institutional culture focused on IDEA. The council is also external-facing to better serve our diverse community.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has also contributed to our programming to reach underserved populations of children. The $1.2 million in funding for the program ensures chronically and critically ill, hospital-bound children ages 9 through 19 have access to high-quality STEM education resources.

 Orlando Science Center and our collaborators at the University of Central Florida, AdventHealth for Children, Nemours Children’s Hospital, Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital, and external evaluator from Illinois State University are working together to create mobile carts filled with educational STEM activities that educate and inspire learners to delve into the science and engineering behind NASA’s missions.

If you are curious to learn more about this project please visit  www.osc.org/learn/stem-satellites/.

A picture of a NASA-themed classroom

Did you know you can help advocate for OSC? Celebrate the day by writing letters to your local officials and state and federal representatives and senators to share our good news about OSC’s responsible use of taxpayer dollars to meet the needs of our community.

Black Innovators in STEM Who Changed the World

You’ve probably heard of Einstein- now meet some of the lesser-known Black innovators in STEM fields. 

The history of STEM fields is full of amazing accomplishments. Names like Newton, Darwin, Hawking, Curie, and Goodall bring to mind incredible discoveries and inventions. But there are many Black innovators in STEM who's names we don’t mention as often and are usually ignored, even though they are associated with accomplishments that are no less impressive and important. The work of Black scientists, engineers, and mathematicians has led to game-changing discoveries and inventions. 
From inspirational “firsts” that changed the STEM field forever to those making their mark on the world today, here are 11 Black scientists, engineers, and mathematicians that you should know about. This list is in alphabetical order by last name and is by no means exhaustive. There are far too many important people to list in one post, and Black innovators in STEM who continue to undertake significant scientific research every day.

Dr. Stephon Alexander is a theoretical physicist and professor at Brown University who specializes in string theory and particle physics.

He co-invented a model that helps to explain the early expansion of the universe, served as the scientific advisor on Ava DeVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time, and currently serves as the President of the National Society of Black Physicists.

As an accomplished saxophone player, Alexander also explores interconnections between music, physics, mathematics, and technology, topics he explores in his best-selling book, The Jazz of Physics.

Black innovators in STEM- Dr. Stephon Alexander

George Washington Carver, arguably the most famous Black scientist and inventor, was born into slavery.

He was accepted into Highland College in Kansas, but ultimately denied admission due to his race. He went on to be the first Black student at Iowa State Agricultural College, where he became known as a brilliant botanist (a scientist who studies plants). He is best known for coming up with over 100 uses for the peanut.

In addition, as the head of the Tuskegee Institute’s agricultural department, he also helped develop crops and agricultural methods that stabilized the livelihoods of many former slaves. He also contributed greatly to the education of Black Americans in universities and through mobile classrooms that brought lessons to farmers.

Black innovators in STEM- George Washington Carver

Dr. Marie M. Daly was a biochemist and the first Black woman to obtain a Ph.D. in chemistry in the United States.

She made several critical contributions to medicine, including the discovery of the relationship between high cholesterol and heart disease and conducting pioneering research into the effects of cigarette smoke on the lungs. Her work created a new understanding of how food, diet, and lifestyle can affect heart health.

In addition to her research, Daly taught biochemistry courses, advocated for getting Black students enrolled in medical schools and graduate science programs, and started a scholarship for minority students to study science at Queens College in New York.

Black innovators in STEM- M. Daly

Dr. Sylvester James Gates, Jr is a theoretical physicist known for his work on supersymmetry, supergravity, and superstring theory.

In 1984, he co-authored Superspace, the first comprehensive book on the topic of supersymmetry. Born the oldest of four children in Tampa, FL, Gates spent his teen years in Orlando, attending Jones High School—his first experience in a segregated African-American school. Comparing his own school's quality to neighboring white schools, "I understood pretty quickly that the cards were really stacked against us." Nevertheless, a course in physics established Gates' career interest in that field, especially its mathematical side. At his father's urging, he applied for admission to MIT and was accepted.

His doctoral thesis was the first at MIT on supersymmetry. Gates served on the U.S. President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and is a past president of the National Society of Black Physicists. In 2013, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, becoming the first African-American theoretical physicist so recognized in its 150-year history. President Obama awarded him the National Medal of Science, the highest award given to scientists in the U.S., in 2013. He is an honorary member of Orlando Science Center’s Board of Trustees.

Dr. Sylvester James Gates, Jr

Dr. Aprielle Ericcson-Jackson is an award-winning aerospace engineer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and one of the most famous women working at NASA today.

Throughout her career at NASA Goddard, she has made many notable contributions, including as the projector manager for the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter that has been orbiting the Moon since 2009.

She has been recognized as one of the Top 50 Minority Women in Science and Engineering by the National Technical Association and has received the NASA Goddard Honor Award for Excellence in Outreach, the Washington Award for engineering achievements that advance the welfare of mankind, and a Science Trailblazers award from the Black Engineers of the Year Award Conference.

Dr. Aprielle Ericcson-Jackson

Zora Neale Hurston – who grew up in Eatonville, Florida – was a renowned author and anthropologist.

She became a member of the Harlem Renaissance in New York. At Columbia University, she worked with Franz Boas, the Father of American Anthropology. As an anthropologist, she embedded herself in the communities she studied, focusing on and writing about the religious traditions, songs, and folklore of Black communities in Florida, Louisiana, Haiti, and Jamaica.

Her anthropological work influenced her fiction, most notably the classic and influential novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. Her anthropological work was published in academic journals and books.

Zora Neale Hurston

Katherine Johnson was one of the famous Hidden Figures who worked at NASA and made the 1969 moon landing possible.

After working as a teacher in public schools, she joined NASA (then NACA) as a research mathematician in the Langley laboratory’s all-Black West Area Computing section. There, she analyzed data from flight tests and went onto do trajectory analysis for the first human spaceflight. In 1962, she used geometry for space travel and figured out the paths for spacecraft to orbit around Earth and land on the Moon. This led to an astronaut successfully orbiting around the Earth for the first time.

She continued to work for NASA, with her calculations helping to send astronauts to the Moon and back. When asked to name her greatest contribution to space exploration, she chose her calculations that helped synch Project Apollo’s Lunar Module with the lunar-orbiting Command and Service Module.

Katherine Johnson
Dr. Percy Julian was a pioneering chemist who made several game-changing discoveries.
He completed the first total synthesis of a chemical called physostigmine, which was used to treat glaucoma. He also discovered how to extract steroids from soybean oil and synthesize the hormones progesterone and testosterone from them, and then synthesized cortisone, which became used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, he invented Aero-Foam, which was widely used during World War II to put out oil and gas fires.
In 1973, he became the first Black chemist elected to the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Chemical Society recognizes his synthesis of physostigmine as “one of the top 25 greatest achievements in the history of American chemistry.”
Dr. Percy Julian

Dr. Bruce Ovbiagele is a neurologist and professor at the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences.

His focus is on reducing the burden of stroke in the United States and Sub-Saharan Africa. He is particularly focused on improving outcomes for vulnerable populations – including ethnic minorities and military veterans – at risk for stroke, and oversees several National Institutes of Health-funded research programs to this effect. This includes the largest study of stroke in Sub-Saharan African to date.

As a professor, he has worked to train, mentor, and inspire people from groups who are under-represented in medicine. He has been appointed the Associate Dean of the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Healthcare System and acts as their Chief of Staff.

Dr. Bruce Ovbiagele

Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum is a celebrated clinical psychologist, notable educator, and a nationally recognized authority on racial issues in America.

As a clinical psychologist, she devoted her career to studying how race impacts self-understanding, particularly in relation to education. She has also been a prominent voice in research showing that young children notice race and has argued that it is something that should be openly and honestly discussed with them instead of ignored. As part of this work, she has called for discussions of race in the classroom, has published the book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? and has given lectures across the country.

In 2014, she received the American Psychological Association’s Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to Psychology.

Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum

Dr. Warren Washington is a distinguished climate scientist and former chair of the National Science Board.

After completing his Ph.D. in meteorology, he became a research scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). While there, he developed one of the first atmospheric computer models of Earth’s climate. He went on to become the head of NCAR’s Climate Change Research Section.

Washington has been recognized as an expert in atmospheric science, climate research, and the computer modeling of these, receiving multiple presidential appointments to serve on committees, being elected chair of the National Science Board in 2002 and 2004, and receiving numerous awards, including the National Medal of Science in 2009.

Dr. Warren Washington

Learn more! 

There are countless more Black innovators in STEM fields to meet: 

6 Important LGBTQ Scientists Who Left a Mark on STEM Fields

These important LGBTQ scientists changed the world through science! 

June is Pride Month in the United States, commemorating the Stonewall Riots in June 1969 which are largely regarded as a catalyst for the LGBTQ+ movement for civil rights. The riots inspired LGBTQ+ people and allies throughout the country to organize in support of gay rights. Pride Month is a time to recognize past and present struggles and successes in the ongoing fight for civil rights, as well as to celebrate the accomplishments of LGBTQ+ individuals.

Meet a few of the incredible scientists who self-identified as members of LGBTQ+ community and have left a lasting mark on the STEM fields with both their activism and scientific research. Learn more about these important LGBTQ+ scientists and their impact.   


Sara Josephine Baker, known for tracking down Typhoid Mary, was openly gay. She contributed greatly to public health in New York City and took particular interest in helping communities of immigrants. She fought to provide access to medical care for all areas of the city and helped train new healthcare professionals. 


important LBGTQ scientists included Sarah Josephine Baker


Ben Barres was a pioneering neurobiologist at Stanford University. His work on a type of brain cells called glia revolutionized our understanding of the brain. In 2013, Barres became the first openly transgender member elected to the US National Academy of Sciences, an organization that includes many of the United States’ leading scientists.

important LBGTQ scientists include Ben Barres


Colin Turnbull was one of the first anthropologists to study ethnomusicology (the study of the music of different cultures). He was an activist in many causes, including prison reform and the celebration of immigrant cultures. He and his partner, Joseph Towles, both died of AIDS. 

important LBGTQ scientists include Colin Turnbull


Lauren Esposito is an arachnologist (a scientist who studies spiders and related animals such as scorpions) and the only woman expert on scorpions in the world. She is the co-founder of 500 Queer Scientists, a visibility movement and professional network that boosts the recognition and awareness of LGBTQ+ people working in STEM fields.

important LBGTQ scientists include Lauren Esposito


Ruth Gates was a leading marine biologist and conservationist who studied coral reefs. Her work on creating “super corals” that are more resistant to climate change can be seen in the documentary Chasing Coral. She was an inspiration to LGBTQ+ scientists as an out lesbian at the top of her field. 


important LBGTQ scientists include Ruth Gates

Richard Summerbell is a prominent mycologist (a scientist who studies fungi) and a leading expert on how fungi affect the health of humans and the environment. He has been an LGBTQ+ activist and commentator on HIV/AIDS since the 1970s during the gay liberation movement.

important LBGTQ scientists include Richard Summerbell

Learn more about the LQBTQ+ science community!

Remembering our nation's history is important, and it is equally important to continue working toward our bright future.

The 500 Queer Scientists website is a visibility campaign for LGBTQ+ people and their allies working in STEM and STEM-supporting jobs — a group that collectively represents a powerful force of scientific progress and discovery. You can learn more about this project via their website at www.500queerscientists.com

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Pulse Nightclub Tribute ♥ How to Fold an Origami Heart

Celebrate Pride by Making These Pulse Nightclub Tribute Origami Hearts

This month, we celebrate Pride – a celebration of both the amazing people who fought for the rights of LGBTQ+ people and honoring the diverse self-expression and love of our LGBTQ+ community.


If you’ve been to the Science Center, you may have seen our Love Bridge – an installation of crystal hearts that hang above you as you walk across the bridge from the garage. This was originally made of origami hearts as a Pulse nightclub tribute in memoriam of the 49 people who lost their lives in June of 2016.


The Pulse tragedy deeply affected our community and the people of Orlando have continued to honor the souls we lost that night by working to make sure our city becomes a more welcoming place for all people. Inside each origami heart, our guests and staff wrote messages of what love means to them. We invite you to create your own reminder of love with this origami heart tutorial.


As we celebrate Pride, and remember the victims of the Pulse tragedy, we invite you to create your own reminder of love with this origami heart tutorial. 

Materials you will need:

  • Origami paper or a sheet of printer paper you can turn it into a square. 
    Learn how to use any paper for origami paper here.

Before you make any folds in your paper, write a message about love – what does it mean to you? 


The "Love Bridge" is a community art project created by guests of the Orlando Science Center to show support for the OneOrlando.org fund and those affected by the PULSE Nightclub tragedy.


The 7 colors of the rainbow span the length of the bridge in rows of 4. Each row holds a total of 49 origami hearts which represent the lives lost on that tragic night. The origami hearts were made by the community on One Orlando Night at the Museum and are filled with messages of love and hope.


The original origami heart installation has been replaced with a crystal version that will withstand the test of time. The original project was reimagined into a permanent tribute called Facets of Love, which hangs in our STEAM Gallery for all to enjoy. 

A girl fold paper into origami heart for Pulse nightclub tribute
Orlando Science Center One Orlando night, photo by Roberto Gonzalez


Expand on the activity!

June is Pride Month in the United States. Pride Month is a time to recognize past and present struggles and successes in the ongoing fight for civil rights, as well as to celebrate the accomplishments of LGBTQ+ individuals.


Meet some of the incredible scientists who self-identified as members of LGBTQ+ community and have left a lasting mark on the STEM fields with both their activism and scientific research.


Melrose Center 3D Printers Put to Work to Create PPE for Orlando Health

During quarantine, a team of makers from Orange County Library System has been using Melrose Center 3D printers and resources to create PPE.

In late March, Otronicon exhibitors Orange County Library System’s Melrose Center had their team investigating ways they could 3D print personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare professionals. Working from home with Melrose Center 3D printers from the Fab Lab (a makerspace in the facility that offers hands-on classes and equipment for DIY projects), the team has been hard at work making visors, ear extenders and tension release bands for medical face shields by 3D printing or molding with liquid acrylic. Budmen Industries, a company that designs and sells 3D printers, provided files to staff to help create these PPE.

Fab Lab Instructor Harold Singh, using supplies at his home makerspace, began the initial process of printing these needed parts. With the help of his daughter, who works in the ICU, he delivered them to Orlando Health. At the same time, Fab Lab Instructor Yesenia Arroyo connected with the Central and South Florida chapters of the nonprofit Open Source COVID-19 Medical Supplies, a group working to connect makerspaces with medical professionals in need around the world. Soon after, the group received information from Orlando Health with details on what equipment could be accepted and work began. 


“The Melrose Center’s Fab Lab team is really happy to be able to join the maker community’s efforts to help our health care workers,” said Jim Myers, Department Head of The Dorothy Lumley Melrose Center for Technology, Innovation and Creativity. “They are a focused and energized bunch, and glad to be in a position to make a small difference. I’m really proud of them.”


Orange County Library System man wearing 3D printed PPE equipment

In early April, Arroyo and fellow Fab Lab Instructors Jennifer Michalicek and Frank Mackey each took home a Melrose Center 3D printer, filament and other supplies from the Fab Lab. Melrose staff now have four printers creating face shield parts, which take around two hours each to complete. Singh has also created a rubber mold of the visor frame and can produce an additional four per hour using liquid acrylic.


After creating and preparing the final products, staff were directed to Orlando Health’s drop off center.  As of April, the team had made and delivered 426 face shield visors, 102 ear extenders and 40 tension release bands. Production is expected to continue, Orange County Library System is privileged to help community medical professionals in this small way.  

Orange County Library System woman works makes PPE equipment for Orlando Health