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Arizona SciTech Blog

This blog is courtesy of the Arizona SciTech Festival.

By Carmen Cornejo, Hispanic Community Outreach

We know we have good stories to tell.  We know of unsung heroes, common people doing extraordinary things that set them apart to become role models for others.  We are Arizonans and we know sometimes things are difficult but we manage to successfully do the job.

One of our Arizona stories is now set for the silver screen.  Spare Parts, the fictionalized account of the Carl Hayden High School Robotics team win against top universities in an underwater robotics competition will be showing at movie theaters all over the country, starting January the 16th, after an exciting worldwide premiere, on January the 6th at Tempe Harkins Theaters 16.

The movie, starred and produced by George Lopez, tells the story of 4 immigrant kids from a High School in west Phoenix who, guided by an inspiring mentor Fredi Cameron, manage to compete against top college students in a sophisticated tech competition.  We know “Fredi Cameron” is the composite character for Fredi Lajvardi and Dr. Allan Cameron, decades long STEM teachers and mentors (wink-wink).

Also starring on Spare Parts are Marisa Tomei, Jamie Lee Curtis and young actors playing the parts of Lorenzo Santillan, Luis Aranda, Cristian Arcega  and Oscar Vazquez.

The movie comes after a very successful documentary called Underwater Dreams by director Mary Mazzio, who brings the Carl Hayden 4 saga in great detail plus what happened to the lives of the persons involved, the transformative ripple effects of their actions. Also a book called Spare Parts by Josh Davies is being sold, achieving good reviews.

The best part of the all is that is one of our stories. We all STEM supporters encounter kids like the Carl Hayden four, talented, young people full of potential all the time. We work, volunteer and serve on non-profit boards so kids that may look underprivileged raise to the top and achieve great things even in difficult fields as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

So this is the opportunity to celebrate big, to recommend the movie, the documentary, the book, roll up our sleeves and keep working.


Guest Author:  Lisa Herrmann, science writer, Arizona SciTech

If one looks across intellectual history, it seems that times of great collaboration throughout the scientific community correlate with some of the greatest periods of innovation. In the seventeenth century, inventors such as Galileo would share ideas within their scientific community, building upon each other’s notions and gadgets. This is the spirit that underlies today’s ‘Maker’ culture; networking, sharing, peer-to-peer interactions inspiring creativity and continual development.

Communications Manager, Rachel Sutherland, similarly describes the culture of Intel Corporation: “Intel is all about being open to new ideas, and creative problem solving. It’s not a competition, it’s about great ideas and bringing the best ideas forward.” It’s this spirit of collaboration that has spurned Intel’s involvement with today’s ‘maker community’. In fact, Sutherland explains that Intel considers themselves to be a company that was founded by makers. “Our employees are making the brains of computers and computing devices for their day job; then they take those skills to apply to their hobby as makers. That’s why the maker community is such a perfect fit for Intel and Intel employees. It’s just this wide open forum where anything goes. You can apply your creativity and ingenuity and make things happen. Making is very near and dear to Intel because we have so many makers within our ranks.”

Intel is also contributing unique technology for use within the maker community, such as their aptly named ‘Galileo Board’.  This development and prototyping board was specifically designed by Intel for makers, students, educators, and DIY electronics enthusiasts.  “The Galileo Board is a development that allows you to computerize your invention,” Sutherland describes. “You can apply computing power to something that would otherwise just be a static device, making it even more interesting and powerful and creative. All that computing power can turn a simple mechanical device into some kind of automated device, almost becoming intelligent itself.”

Intel will feature the Galileo Board at its booth at the Chandler Epic Fest, part of the Arizona SciTech Festival, on February 7 in downtown Chandler, “right in our backyard,” Sutherland proudly declares. “We’re really focused on getting makers around the world connected to Intel technology because it’s powerful and it can enable so much. Additionally, we’ll be inviting our employees to showcase their creations at individual booths at the event.”

“The atmosphere of a maker fair is very inspiring,” Sutherland tells. “It’s really such a tight knit community of people who identify themselves as makers. It’s not about competition – it’s about creativity and celebrating everyone’s success and just marveling at the cool ideas that people can come up with. It’s not about who has ‘the best’ – it’s about recognizing your peers and their brilliance, their creativity, and their dedication.”

As a Bronze level sponsor, Intel is a proud supporter of SciTech Fest in Arizona, “because it’s a celebration of STEM, of creativity, of community and it brings together everything that goes into making Intel technology great. It’s sharing ideas, its showcasing ideas, and it’s about including everyone – all ages, all backgrounds, everyone’s welcome. There’s no exclusive club here – it’s for everyone.”

And you never know where that next great idea is going to come from.


Guest Author: Ann Marie Cunningham.
Interviewee: Rick Heuman, vice mayor, Chandler, Arizona, which hosts the Chandler Science Spectacular.

How did you get involved in AZSciTechFest?

I went to Brooklyn Tech, long before Brooklyn became gentrified and hip.  The high school’s neighborhood was severely economically deprived.  I came out to Arizona in the 1970s to attend ASU.   I liked the West, and I liked the fresh air.

Chandler is in the East Valley, along with Tempe and Mesa.  There are now 1.7 million people in the East Valley.   When I took office, Chandler didn’t have a fiduciary school district.   I thought an education coalition between business and the schools would make sense, especially since we have two universities and community colleges in the East Valley.

The education coalition launched four years ago, right before AZSciTechFest.  Jeremy came to see us, and talked about how the Fest could be a tool for economic development as well.   Cities could showcase what they do best, and we want to teach kids to be problem-solvers.

Southwestern Arizona is known as “Silicon Desert,” and education is strongly tied to economic development here.   Our large high-tech industry can’t stay in our state if the labor force isn’t here.

So Chandler’s mission is two-fold.  First of all, we want people to understand STEM.  Secondly, we want them to understand that STEM is involved in every aspect of their lives, especially careers — even if they just work in an office on a computer.

What does the Chandler Science Spectacular involve?

We are a two-day event.  The last couple of years, Intel has been a sponsor.  We keep all events in a concentrated geographic area, so people don’t have to drive.  There is as much for kids as possible.  It’s all free.

The first year, on opening night, four or five local high-technology and microchip companies opened their doors to any and all visitors for the first time.  They had something like 11,000 employees, but on that night, what they did was open to all.  Everyone could see what they did, and how they did it.

On Friday, we hold an Art Walk, focusing on the science of art.   That’s the largest event we have right now.  There are sculptural welding and glass blowing demos – lots of technology involved.  In Chandler, we do have the Center for the Arts, which schools use during the day.

Tempe held a terrific event on the art and science of baseball.  I played for ASU’s baseball team and never had a free weekend, so that was very important to me.

Saturday is devoted to schools and business.  There’s a six-hour fair that involves 60 companies and all the local schools and colleges.  Everything is hands-on, from rockets to forensics.  Everyone loves hands-on.   We had the U.S. Army last year, and we want the Air Force this year, with all their resources.

Last year, we tied the Science Spectacular to the car show, which was held downtown. It’s important to utilize what you have; don’t reinvent the wheel.  On Saturday, we got 10,000 people. Usually the car show draws 1,000 to 5,000 people per day.

What’s the best way for a start-up science festival to emphasize STEM’s importance to economic development?

You’re a convenor, an aggregator of STEM content.  You need buy-in on the electoral side.  You need the school districts.  Find out what each city does best.  Then you go to the companies, and recruit them.

Meet with people who are already running festivals and farmers’ markets in the community.  Find out what STEM ingredients you can bring to what they’re doing.  They may be able to help you with marketing and budget.

Have one keystone event where everyone, all your partners, are doing something together – a fair, an expo, a science pavilion, something sparkly.

2STEM Matters

STEM Matters Manager: Marisa Ostos

Stem cell research has been a highly-debated topic of conversation among politicians, scientists, and the everyday citizen. You may have heard about the many contributions stem cell research has made in the health field, such as its success in helping bone marrow transplant patients. On another note, you may also have heard of people’s disapproval of stem cell research due to the way it can be conducted.  But rather than listening to others state that stem cell research is “good” or “bad,” let’s delve into the basics of what stem cells are and how stem cell research works.

From the moment of conception, each one of us starts out as a single, fertilized cell known as a zygote. This single-celled zygote contains the basic genetic material (DNA) from both our father and our mother, which ultimately helps us develop into the person we are today. In less than two days, the single zygote cell divides into two cells, which only 15 hours later divides yet again. After just one week, what was once a single cell has now become a blastocyst, a “berry-like” structure the size of a pin that is composed of hundreds of cells! It is the blastocyst that eventually makes its way down to the woman’s uterus where from there, a baby will continue to grow until its birth.

We humans are made of billions upon billions of cells, each serving a specific function for the continued growth and development of our body. One of these types of cells within are body are stem cells, “immature cells that have the potential to become specialized into different types of cells throughout the body” (American Medical Association). Groups of cells together form the different tissues that make up our body, and the reason these stem cells are so special is because they, as immature cells, can either literally become any type of cell in the body (which is what embryonic stem cells do), or can serve to repair specific tissues within our body because of their dividing and specializing capabilities (which is what adult stem cells do).

Of course, scientists do obtain stem cells from different resources, which is where the controversy often comes into play. Of the two types of stem cells (adult vs embryonic), adult stem cells can easily be removed from our own tissue with very little, if any effect on us (*Note: the sample size of the tissue can be quite small). Embryonic stem cells, on the other hand, are “derived from multicellular embryos that have been cultured in the laboratory.” No, a researcher does not take cells from an embryo that is already growing inside of a mother. Rather, these stem cells may come from a variety of sources: Spare embryos created via in vitro fertilization that were not needed for infertility treatment; Adult tissue such as bone marrow; An empty egg cell into which DNA from an adult cell is placed; Mature adult cells that were pre-programmed to behave like stem cells (cool, huh?); Blood cells from an umbilical cord; etc.  Yes, there are a variety of places that these stem cells come from, but do know, too, that any scientist who does research follows guidelines to do their research in the most ethical, humane, and respectful manner possible.

Now that you know where stem cells come from and that they can become or help repair almost any type of cell in the body (such as cell that replaces disfunctional bone marrow or a cell that helps repair the lining of the heart), what are they used for? Well, the possibilities for their use are endless! Right now, stem cells “provide life-saving treatments for patients with leukemia, lymphoma, other blood disorders, and some solid tumors.” They help in bone marrow transplants…. With their potential to become any type of cell in the body, it is also possible that these cells can ultimately help to prevent or cure diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, hearing loss, arthritis, and so much more. Maybe one day these single cells can be used to replace a leg someone may have lost years ago, or even more, maybe they can be used to create a brand new human heart! Scientists are already doing the research to solve these problems using stem cells!

So yes, while various sources of stem cells can be debatable, it is important to remember again that scientists who do stem cell research do so in the most ethical and human way possible, and even more, they are uncovering each day more and more information that may eventually help prevent or cure hundreds upon hundreds of the world’s problems today, all because of a single cell. What a wonder science is!

*Source: “Basics of Stem Cell Research,” American Medical Association.


Por: Carmen Cornejo. Coordinadora de Relaciones con la Comunidad Hispana, AZSciTech

Arnold’s Pickle House es un edificio que trae muchos recuerdos, que está en la esquina de Van Buren y la calle 14th. Es un almacén viejo y abandonado decorado con una imagen antigua de un pepino con ojos, boca, brazos y piernas, corriendo con una gorra de béisbol. Adentro, pepinos solían ser procesados y transformados en “pickles”-pepinillos, años atrás.

El edificio ha sido abandonado hace tiempo, pero gracias a Chicanos por la Causa (CPLC), una de las más importantes organizaciones de desarrollo comunitario de Arizona, pronto volverá a la vida como un centro de creación, de STEM, de desarrollo de productos e ideas.

Chicanos por la Causa cerró el trato de adquirir el edificio el pasado mes de Noviembre gracias a un estímulo monetario del gobierno federal de 3 millones del Departamento de Comercio y Desarrollo Económico, con el propósito de crear un espacio como los llamados “maker” para la creación de productos e incubar negocios.

“La idea es crear nuevos negocios aquí. Las maquinarias y equipo que estarán disponibles en este edificio darán la oportunidad a emprendedores para construir prototipos, desarrollar productos que podrán ser vendidos”, dijo David Adame, Jefe de Desarrollo de Chicanos por la Causa.

“Si vienes con una nueva idea y diseñas un prototipo, te ayudaremos a hacer una impresión en 3 dimensiones. Entonces tú podrás ir a promover tu idea. Nosotros te podremos ayudar con órdenes de manufactura”, explico David.

CPLC está planeando a mantener elementos del edificio antiguo, incluyendo el nombre y el pepinillo para conectar el pasado con el presente y el futuro.

Este centro representa una gran oportunidad para la comunidad central de Phoenix al ofrecer un espacio creador o “maker space”, hacer crecer el movimiento emprendedor en Arizona y atraer creadores de las escuelas high schools, colegios comunitarios, universidades y expertos del público en general.

CPLC planea que los trabajos de construcción comenzarán después de las fiestas decembrinas y espera tener el espacio listo para usarse para Junio del 2015.

arnold pickle


Guest Author:  Carmen Cornejo, AZSciTechFest Hispanic Outreach, Principal, Critical Mass Communications, LLC

Arnold’s Pickle House is an iconic building right on Van Buren  and 14th Street, an old warehouse decorated with a vintage looking drawing of a pickle dude with eyes, mouth, arms and legs running in a cap.  Inside cucumbers were processed and transformed in pickles, years ago.

The building has been abandoned for years but thanks to Chicanos por la Causa (CPLC), one of Arizona’s top community development organizations, soon it will come back to life as a center for STEM and entrepreneurship.

Chicanos por la Causa just closed on the building mid-November thanks to a 3 million federal grant from the US Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, with the purpose of creating a maker space and business incubator.


“The idea is to create new businesses here.  It will give entrepreneurs the opportunity to build a prototype, create a product and try to sell it,” said David Adame, CPLC’s Chief Economic Development Officer.

“If you come in with a new idea and bring the prototype in, we can make a 3D printing of it. Then you go out and pitch it.  We can later help with manufacturing orders,” David explained.

CPLC is planning to keep elements of the old building, including the name and the pickle dude to connect the past with the present and the future.

This space represents a great opportunity for Phoenix by offering a maker space, nurture the maker movement in the central area of the valley and attract young creators from high-schools, colleges and universities in addition with experts.

CPLC is planning work on the building will begin after the holidays and expects to have the maker space up and running by June 2015.

arnold pickle

2Ted Kraver

Guest Author:  Theodore “Ted” C. Kraver, Ph.D.

The recent election pitches on school testing had Common Core against Arizona homebrew assessment.  The arguments, being political, were political smack downs not dreary rationalizations.  Let’s use dreary to size up the real situation.  Standardized student tests are used to determine how well students, teachers, administrators and schools have done in the past. In education parlance they are called summative tests because they sum-up what happened in the past. Higher-ups use them to support statistical judgments on policy, curriculum, educators, schools, and student learning. These adults from parents to politicians make broad comparisons and decisions that have little effect on improving the individual learning of students. If summative assessments don’t work then what assessments do?

There is a complementary type of assessment that focuses just on supporting student learning call formative and is used only by the student and teacher  during the learning process. Formative assessments are real time and provide direction of what to do in the future learning minutes.  Is supports forming the learning process. Unfortunately legacy book based education does not have the means to deliver effective formative assessment in a 30 student classroom. In fact research studies show one-on-one student teacher classroom interaction averages one minute per day. But the most effective 21st century digital curriculum based education does. Development by the military and university researchers uses a “scaffolding” type of formative assessment. The real time student problem solving actions are assessed by superficial intelligence systems. The digital curriculum then provides the next learning step. It could be a repeat part of the lesson, hints, acceleration to a high level, move on to that next subject or other type of individualized support.

This use of educational technology can be very effective in most STEM (simulations) areas as well as history (dynamic maps), reading (automated dictionaries) and writing (computer assessed  essays).

But transformation to digital curriculum requires a systemic change in the classroom. There must be significant investment in broadband computer interfaces for each student, educator  education and training, and digital curriculum. Exemplar schools like Wilson District, Vail Empire High, Carpe Diem charter school in Yuma and others have shown this system can produce outstanding results with challenged populations. But our disjointed statewide education system does not provide a pathway for these exemplar schools to influence the transformation of the rest of  Arizona’s 2100 schools.

Other industries thrive on technology innovation.  What if we had just stuck to summative data systems of yesteryear that counted the planes that took off and landed on time, the passengers flown and miles covered?  Instead aviation engineers  focused on innovation of the then primitive navigation and flight monitoring formative assessment technology (city names painted on roofs and “steam” gages in the cockpit).   Radar systems provided real formative information on weather and positions of other aircraft.  GPS assures precise navigation. Warning sensors monitor every aspect of vital aircraft systems

What if our leaders could switch their fussing with ineffective summative data and implement a system transformation based on formative assessment for each teacher-student nexus? As real time decision support rippled through our education system their summative numbers would go through the roof. They could then refocus on other nagging issues like climate change,  prisons  and immigration.

2STEM Matters

STEM Matters Manager: Marisa Ostos

Here’s a fun experiment: How long can you last without yawning (and why do we yawn in the first place)? Did you yawn upon reading the title?

Yawning is a fascinating thing that one may often do when they need to catch some shut-eye, but what about those times when a yawn is caused by seeing someone else yawn? It is known that yawning can be contagious, but did you know that a variety of factors play into its “contagiousness”?

Our bodies work to maintain homeostasis (stability), and this includes maintaining a stable body temperature. Our brains likewise work best at a certain temperature, and yawning is thought to cool your brain via processes such as the increase in heart rate and blood flow. With this, whether or not we yawn  when someone else does may also be associated our own amount of empathy, the ability to feel or understand what another is feeling. On the neuroscience side, within our brains are cells called mirror neurons. These mirror neurons activate when we observe an action performed by someone else, and may also cause us to yawn when we see someone else yawn.

If you’re interested watching a quick video to see how long you can go without yawning, CLICK HERE. Follow the ensuing video to learn more about the science behind yawning.

*Source: ASAP Science- Why Do We Yawn?

Guest Author:  Ester Skiera, science writer, Arizona SciTech

As a modern university and the biggest university in North America, Arizona State University is a home for so many great programs. One of them is Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, which is part of Arizona State University’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. The Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives harness the knowledge within the University to deliver solutions for the complex challenges of sustainability.

In 2014, the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives hosted the first annual Sustainability Solutions Festival.  The Sustainability Solutions Festival seeks to engage and inform the public to build awareness around sustainability issues, celebrate innovative solutions to our challenges and encourage behavior change.  After all, the term “sustainability” can simply be described as “to maintain,” and building awareness is one way to influence people to care more about sustainability.

Sustainability issues work together with STEM, as it can provide answers to the issues. “We believe that sustainability solutions can come from the sciences, humanities and business.  Year round we encourage all ages to come up with sustainability solutions by sponsoring prizes for sustainability solutions,” says Kelly Saunders, project coordinator, Sustainability Festival. For this purpose, the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives works with Bear Essential News for Kids, Future City Arizona, Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, Social Venture Partners of Arizona and SEED Spot.

Partnership is important, that’s why the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives is a sponsor (partner) of Arizona SciTech to help promote the value of STE(A)M education in developing sustainability solutions. “The Sustainability Solutions Festival has gained valuable connections with the STEAM community by participating in the Arizona SciTech Festival.  Spring time is an excellent time in Arizona and even more rich with exciting activities,” Saunders explains.

The Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives has a lot to offer in its upcoming festival that takes place February 16-21st  as part of the Arizona SciTech. “The Sustainability Solutions Festival invites participants to (re)imagine how one person, one community, or one organization can have an impact on our planet’s future,” says Saunders. And don’t worry; they’re not all serious. There will be fun and engaging activities as well. “This year’s Sustainability Solutions Festival will kick-off at the Arizona Science Center with hands on activities and engagements for families, there will be film screenings in Mesa, Phoenix and Tempe, business conferences, and the week will end with a grand public festival we call, “The Sustival,” February 21st, 4PM-8PM in downtown Phoenix’s Civic Space Park,” Saunders adds.

Want to be enlightened about sustainability and what can be done to solve our planet’s issues? Come to the festival, enjoy, and learn!

Guest Author: Theodore “Ted” C. Kraver, Ph.D.

With the rapidly changing institutions and culture measured in months to decades, not centuries to millennium, personal STEM success will depend on flexibility and ability to as fast-movers , seize both failure and opportunity.

The first great human technological innovation was putting the handle on a stone hand axe. It greatly increased usefulness for both domestic needs and warfare.  The axe remained unchanged for over 200,000 years. The life span of the first hoe was several thousand years before enchantment.   By the Middle Ages STEM was starting to emerge in agriculture, buildings and warfare. The innovation cycle from invention to failure do to obsolescence decreased to about a century. During the 20th century it dropped to decades. Today technology products become obsolete and fail in the market in a few years, and many have yearly cycles.

Going back to early times, failure of a farmer’s crop experiment could go either way both bad. If successful,  his landlord or ruler would confiscate the surplus. If not successful then his family starved.  In more recent centuries our civilization became more complex and invention-driven innovation began to thrive. The limited areas of betting your life on food, shelter or battles was greatly expanded into many less hazardous areas. Innovation by skilled artisans picked up the pace. By the Industrial Revolution innovation began to flourish. Risks were spread to the developing financial institutions and companies and reduced by increasing access to markets.  But by the 1960’s innovation had shifted to corporations and was throttled by bureaucracy. Inventions like the transistor, computer languages, the mouse, laser printers, and Ethernet languished because successful corporate management had no incentive to be disruptive of their profitable product lines. Workers and families planned a stable job over their lifespan. The innovation cycle time continued to plummet and new forms of innovative enterprises were emerging.

By the 1980’s computers, networks and entrepreneurs were challenging the corporate status quo. Health care, finance, government and education have become the major part of the U.S. economic powerhouse. Accounting has changed from tracking expenditures to risk management. Cloud manufacturing and 3-D printing has vastly reduced the risk of manufacturing of new products in small companies. Information sourcing of heritage seeds delivers as many new apples in grocery stores as Apple devices in computer retailers.

For STEM students and workers, the challenges and opportunities will continue to change. Future social institutions will be as hard to predict as were the changes in the Progressive era (resisted by the Robber Barons) and 1930’s reforms (resisted by Wall Street.) In the past, your reputation could be based on your institution. Now it’s your personal reputation, which must be self-made and self-marketed.

In the distance past it was all risk and no reward. The corporate era had stable rewards and low risk. The current transformation embraces risk and failure as the foundation for innovation.  Our STEM-driven strategy is embracing an emerging paradigm: use failure as the pathway to personal and financial success.

Ref: Adam Davidson, “Welcome to the Failure Age,” NY Times, 11/16/2014