St. Petersburg, Fl – We’ve all heard a lot lately about the importance of STEM education and getting kids excited about science and technology careers. But that’s a mission that the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) and the local Hispanic Community have been working on for 16 years. That’s how long they’ve been giving out an award to the National Hispanic Scientist of the Year.

Tampa businesswoman and native of Cuba Maruchi Azorin helped start the awards, after national census data in the year 2,000 showed that Hispanic middle school students had a very high dropout rate. Besides being honored at a gala, the Hispanic scientist invited to Tampa each year is introduced to about 1,500 Hispanic students. “That will be inspired to stay in school, further their careers, go to college, and just live the American dream,” explains Azorin.

This year Adriana Ocampo, a planetary geologist for NASA, is being honored at the October 22nd gala. “She’s like the coolest person you’ve never heard of,” says Grayson Kamm from MOSI, ticking off a long list of scientific accomplishments. “She’s a really incredible person.”

Ocampo discovered the impact crater from the asteroid that likely caused the extinction of dinosaurs, she’s the leader of NASA’s New Frontiers effort, which includes the New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Juno mission to Jupiter. She is also NASA’s lead scientist for the exploration of the planet Venus.

10News is helping sponsor the gala honoring Ocampo, which raises money to support MOSI’s outreach to Hispanic and disadvantaged students. 10News Anchor Mark Rivera will host the evening.

On Friday, October 21 Ocampo will meet with area students at MOSI and on Sunday, October 23 there’s also a chance for the public to hear from this scientific rock star. “She’s giving a talk about Cosmic Collisions and Dinosaurs…about what wound up as the worst day for the dinosaurs,” says Kamm. Ocampo’s talk begins at 12:30 p.m.