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Arizona SciTech Blog

This blog is courtesy of the Arizona SciTech Festival.







  • Our Youth Leaders of Today (Metropolitan Education Commission) 

CASA GRANDE — Merlin D’Souza has always liked science. And at age 15, the Casa Grande Union High School sophomore will be among the youngest presenters at the eighth annual Arizona SciTech Festival conference Oct. 3 in Mesa.

During the conference, she’ll talk about the ever-growing STEM field and the new careers it has created.

“There are so many careers that exist today that didn’t exist 20 years ago and the list is always growing,” she said. “My session is designed to help students prepare for these jobs or to help teachers and parents prepare their students for all the possibilities.”


D’Souza will moderate a panel discussion with professionals of various backgrounds who are in the forefront of science, technology, engineering and math innovation.

“Some of the jobs students can prepare for are in bio-ethics, drone technology, analytics, bio-tech and organ development, where organs are grown in labs (rather than harvested from donors),” she said. “It’s exciting that science and technology can provide the solutions to many of the issues faced by humanity.”

D’Souza said she has always been an outside-of-the-box thinker. She hopes to become a medical researcher someday or a doctor working to solve various medical issues.

CGUHS and its robotics club and science program are helping her prepare for that future, she said.

The school’s robotics team, the Mecha Knights, regularly takes part in competitive events in which they design a machine and use it to complete various competition tasks.

“Robotics is a sport,” D’Souza said. “It requires teamwork, setting goals, problem solving, and we score points at competitions.”

D’Souza is also working with a student-led team that is applying for a Lemelson-MIT innovation grant that provides up to $10,000 to invent a technological solution for the real world.

The team worked throughout the Labor Day holiday weekend to submit the grant application online.

“They were here for 10 hours on Saturday and again on Sunday, but they got the application submitted on time,” said John Morris, math and engineering teacher at CGUHS and coach of the robotics team. “They are a dedicated group of students.”


He said it’s an honor to have a student from CGUHS presenting at the conference.

“Based on what I have seen, she is the only student presenting. All others are adults,” Morris said.

The Arizona SciTech Festival conference brings together the state’s key stakeholders for the largest collaborative STEM conference in Arizona. An estimated 1,200 business, industry, education, government and community leaders are expected to attend the event, set for Oct. 3 at the Mesa Arts Center.

The event includes interactive panels, workshops, tables and three floors featuring 50 hands-on STEM exhibitions.

D’Souza said the conference is for all ages, especially young people who like various STEM topics.

“It’s a great way to learn more about STEM topics and see what others are doing,” she said.

D’Souza, of Casa Grande, is the daughter of Moses and Teodolina D’Souza.

Retrieved from AUDE, MELISSA ST. “CGUHS Student among Youngest Presenters at This Year’s SciTech Conference.” PinalCentral.com, 6 Sept. 2018,  shorturl.at/bfyR2

Track: Bridging the Barriers in STEM 

This session will explore ways to promote equity in STEM programs, ensure each child learns in a fair and equitable way, and identify and address inequity in educational settings. We will also look at recruiting from an inclusive perspective to promote program accessibility for diverse populations.



Brittney Martin, Coordinator, Sr. Fulton Schools of Engineering K12 Outreach, Arizona State University 

Richard Ramos, Principal – Supervisor, Estrella Vista STEM Academy 



Register for the 8th Annual Arizona SciTech Festival Kickoff Conference: “Community Stakeholder Summit” today!  

Track: The Latest & Greatest in AZ STEM 

In this session, attendees will learn how cord blood stem cells can be used like bone marrow stem cells to treat and cure over 80 life threatening diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma and sickle cell disease.

The AZPublic Cord Blood Program has had 48 life saving transplants come out of it’s free public donation program.  Several thousand units of ethnically, diverse lifesaving cord blood have been added to our nations cord blood inventory.  Cord blood cellular technology is good business and economics for our state. Cord blood is also showing great promise in the field of regenerative medicine, with clinical trials focused on cerebral palsy, stroke, autism, traumatic brain injury, HIV and diabetes.


Presenter: Charis Ober, Executive Director / Founder, Save The Cord Foundation 



Register for the 8th Annual Arizona SciTech Festival Kickoff Conference: “Community Stakeholder Summit” today!  

Track: STEM in Education 

This session will give strategies on how to have a successful STEM program. It will explain how to engage, inspire and empower the students to own their learning.

Future Stars, is starting it fourth year of the Hands On STEM program. We will discuss how we have been able to keep the program moving forward and growing it to a second site. We will provide strategies on how our program has been able to sustain the youth and market to attract more students. We will also provide tips on how we recruited volunteers and support for the Hands On STEM Fair which had over 300 attendees and 90 volunteers this past April. As IT professionals and Engineers, we bring a different energy into the classroom and lesson and will show how that plays a roll in having a successful program.


Presenter: Shereka Jackson, CEO, Future Stars, Inc


Register for the 8th Annual Arizona SciTech Festival Kickoff Conference: “Community Stakeholder Summit” today!  

Track: STEM in Education 


Preparing students for the future workplace is about cultivating their entrepreneurial mindset – an approach that values “initiative, intelligent risk-taking, collaboration, and opportunity recognition”.

This session will show educators why building a movement of impact-driven entrepreneurship in their school is crucial to student success. In addition, this session will cover practical tips on how to bring entrepreneurship into the classroom to best equip their students with 21st century skills. By the end, participants will be better prepared to graduate the entrepreneurial doers, makers, and thinkers the world needs to solve social problems.

This session will:

Illustrate the future workplace that demands innovation-ready workers equipped with resiliency, design-thinking skills, and tech fluency

Educate attendees on how Generation Z differs from Millennials (motivated by security, more competitive, want independence, etc.)

Explore education trends propelling students towards deeper critical thinking and problem solving (entrepreneurship, project-based learning, social/emotional learning, etc.)

Demonstrate social entrepreneurship as a powerful method of teaching students social responsibility

Exemplify tactical strategies to instill entrepreneurship skills in students in the classroom

Inspire educators to engage students in a more interactive way.



Presenter: Courtney Klein, Co-Founder & CEO, SEED SPOT


Register for the 8th Annual Arizona SciTech Festival Kickoff Conference: “Community Stakeholder Summit” today!  

Track: STEM in Education 

The workshop presents the concept and reaction of acids and bases using household material that goes along with a story 

This workshop presents to participants the concepts of acid and base reaction following the AZ science standards. We present the neutralization reaction between acid and base incorporated with an activity for the participants.Participants receive handout describing steps to investigate an experiment. The workshop proceeds in three steps: pre knowledge test, powerpoint, and team activity along with follow up.

Intended Audience: K-8 teachers, students, and parents

The house hold chemicals used are ammonia and vinegar with an indicator.



Overseer: Meena Rustagi, Teacher, Payson High School 

Barbara (Lizzy) MacFarlane, 11th Grade Student, Payson High School 

My name is Darby MacFarlane, and I am a ninth grader at Payson High School. I am have been interested in science for a while, ever since I entered my first science fair project in fifth grade. Since then I have taken a science fair project to state each year and I even took second place at state in seventh grade. I enjoy science and am in advanced classes for science, math, and English. Other activities I enjoy include playing basketball and shooting archery.

Darby Macfarlane, 9th Grade Student, Payson High School 

My name is Lizzie MacFarlane, I am an eleventh grader at Payson High School this year and I am currently taking chemistry as my science class. Every year I participate in a science fair project and have been doing so since the 6th grade. My last project went to Nationals through FFA science. I am highly interested in science and plan to go into a science based career when I graduate from college. I have been able to attend a science summer camp every year that gives me the opportunity to interact with college professors in specific fields such as Chemistry, CSI, Nursing and Ecology. This year I am participating in a study with NAU and am very excited to get some practice talking and doing this demonstration in front of all of you. My other hobbies that take up most of my time after school include Deca (Marketing & Distributing Education), archery and FFA (Agriculture Education).



Register for the 8th Annual Arizona SciTech Festival Kickoff Conference: “Community Stakeholder Summit” today!  

Track: STEM in Education 

Snakes on a Plane is an engaging review game that engages all students who are required to play and move every turn. It is easy to set up and can be adapted to any subject area, topic, and grade level. Come test your general science skills, play and see how it’s done.



Mina Bhagdev, President, STEMteachersPHX 


Mina Bhagdev has taught science for more than 25 years. She currently teaches chemistry and science research at the high school level and is also an instructional coach. Mina has a passion for teaching and is always looking for ways to engage and motivate her students and to improve the leaning that occurs in her classroom. As an instructional coach and President of STEMteachersPHX, she can engage in her other passion – collaborating and sharing great pedagogy with her colleagues.

Amanda Roberts, Vice President, Social Media, STEMteachersPHX 


Nichole Spencer, STEM Outreach Coordinator, Phoenix College 


Register for the 8th Annual Arizona SciTech Festival Kickoff Conference: “Community Stakeholder Summit” today!  

Track: Arts & Sneaky Science 

Every human culture includes cooking – this is how it began. Cooking makes food more digestible and kills off bacteria, and every human society in the world does it. 

Cooking is ubiquitous in humans. All cultures, from the Inuit of the frozen Arctic to the hunter-gatherers of sub-Saharan Africa, are sustained by food that has been chemically and physically transformed by heat. It was an incredible invention. Cooking makes food more digestible and kills off the bacteria that cause food poisoning. But where and when it started is hotly debated. You might call it a food fight.


Presenter: Chef Larry P. Canepa, Certified Culinary Educator 


Register for the 8th Annual Arizona SciTech Festival Kickoff Conference: “Community Stakeholder Summit” today!