Alia Cummings huddled over a tangle of metal and wires, carefully unscrewing a tiny computer chip from a half-finished robot in a high school classroom.

“It’s like surgery,” said the 16-year-old, flashing a quick smile before transferring the machine’s “brain” to an adjacent project on the table. Several other girls stood ready with tools of their own.

Cummings is a sophomore at Detroit Edison Public School Academy, where a team of 20 students in recent weeks built a sophisticated robot and programmed an app geared toward environmental conservation. Six team members this month took their projects to Houston for the National C-STEM Challenge, which attracted nearly 1,000 students with projects reflecting the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.

Their presence at the event is part of growing efforts in Detroit and across the country to introduce students to creative STEM lessons, with an emphasis on young women and minorities who are historically underrepresented in those fields.

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