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Arizona SciTech Blog

This blog is courtesy of the Arizona SciTech Festival.


Guest Author: Ester Skiera

Arizona State University’s Emerge is here. That means it’s time to meet artists and scientists in an event that redesigns the future! Who’s in for the fun?

Arizona State University is one of the biggest Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM) supporters in Arizona. Nature Magazine writes the University is becoming a player in the confluence of science and art. The University is so big at STEAM they have this spectacular event: ASU’s Emerge. “Emerge is an opportunity to think in radically creative ways about the future and our place in it,” says Ed Finn, co-director of Emerge and director of ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination. “The future is going to be a strange place, so a carnival is the perfect environment to explore the possibilities in a playful, improvisational way that’s still grounded in real science, real technology and real ethical questions,” Finn adds.

The event is for all ages. And, school-age kids are always encouraged to attend. “There are science, scientists, robots, art, artists, engineers, Lego project on site, theatre, Improv, actors, and radio (and NPR Radio lab). The host of NPR’s Radio Lab is there with a multi-media production. We expect the visitors to play and have fun,” says Cyndi Coon, Laboratory5,  Inc. and co-director,  Emerge.

The Emerge 2015, is a showcase of radically new visions of the future. The event is located at the University’s SkySong Innovation Center in Scottsdale. Everything about ASU’s Emerge is special, and always filled with stars. One of them is featured visionary Radio Lab Host, Creator and MacArthur ‘genius,’ Jad Abumrad. He joins spellbinding “visitations from the future” including theatrical performances, improvisation, games, dance and hands-on opportunities to design and build the future.

The theme of this year’s Emerge is The Future of Choices and Values. In this sense, according to Founding Co-Director of Emerge Joel Garreau, humans have unprecedented power to harness and reshape matter, energy and even life itself.

The Emerge is a big STEAM event, a much-anticipated occasion for STEAM enthusiasts in Arizona. It’s probably because the Emerge itself is packed with interesting figures, from artists to scientists, to designers, and many more. In short, it’s a full pack of brilliant minds. After all, the Emerge dares brilliant creative and technical minds to bring questions to life through performance, technology, and storytelling.

This year, ASU’s Emerge brings Jad Abumrad as the headliner. He hosts the popular public radio show that is broadcast on over 500 stations across the nation and downloaded more than 9 million times a month as a podcast.

ASU’s Emerge is a must-see event. Besides, who doesn’t love to see Ars Robotica, that’s presented with a curiosity: What if we could teach robots to dance? The answer is to be found there, and can be found through  ASU roboticists and performance artists’ as they take on the challenge using the Baxter industrial robot.

So come to the event with tons of fun and creativity. And don’t let it slide because you forget to reserve your FREE ticket. Make sure you claim your free ticket on http://emerge.asu.edu

ASU’s Emerge takes place on Friday, March 6, 2015, from 3:00pm to midnight. Free ticket with RSVP. 


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Guest Authors: Jennifer Alvarez & Adria Surovy, Town of Gilbert 

More than 20 Gilbert Public Schools and Higley Unified School District elementary schools are committing to “Bench the Bag” between February 9th and  March 6th; working together to keep one million plastic bags out of the landfill.

The “Bench the Bag” program, spearheaded by the East Valley Recycling Alliance, is not limited to plastic bags. The program also includes various types of plastic films that can be recycled, including grocery, department store, dry cleaning, bread, produce, and Ziploc bags. Any type of overwrap (paper towel, toilet paper, etc.) or shrink wrap will also be accepted. All bags must be clean; with no paper, receipts, or leftover food inside. Soft plastics from bulk or retail stores that are already being recycled or materials that have not been used should not be donated.

Bench the Bag 2 “Bench the Bag” is part of the Arizona SciTech Festival. As the students work towards their goal of collecting one million bags they will also be learning why recycling is important and how one person can truly make a difference. Once again, Bashas’ Family of Stores is helping our community by providing logistical support and prizes.

One school from both Gilbert Public Schools and Higley Unified School District will receive a bench for their school from Trex Company, Inc., a company that produces wood-composite decking out of the recycled bags. In addition, each participating school will receive planter boxes.

For a list of participating schools accepting public donations, visit gilbertrecycles.org. For additional information, please contact Gilbert’s Environmental Outreach Specialists at (480) 503-6459 or via email atrecycle@gilbertaz.gov

Environmental Services Transparent

2Ted Kraver

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

Job creation in STEM fields is expected to outpace non-STEM jobs by approximately a factor of two … 17 percent to 10 percent.  That’s great news since STEM jobs pay more than many other jobs and most have flexible career paths. That has been a lot more fun and profitable for me, a tall, white, male with northern European ancestry.  For the earlier part of the past two centuries folks like me have been dominant in the United States of America. Fortunately huge strides have since been made to bring equality of opportunity to all Americans with significant success in many areas. But this effort stagnated during the early 1980’s.

From the mid-1800s to the early 1900s the STEM era was mechanical, led by the steam engine. Next STEM driven era lasted until the 1950’s driven by electricity. We are now in the STEM era launched by the transistor. Computers, software, telecommunications and information have dropped many barriers to STEM opportunities. The dominant personal economic factor of upper body strength in the 1800s has long ago been replaced by mental capability which is equally distributed across national origin, race and gender.  STEM provides a powerful pathway to revitalize the equity struggle but we are also a part of the problem.

Currently White males have 51 percent of the science and engineering jobs and white woman have only 20 percent.  Asians are at 17 percent, Hispanics are 6 percent and Blacks are 5 percent with gender ratios about the same as Whites. This is a huge improvement since I stared my career in the 1950s.

Blacks earn on average have half the STEM college degrees as Whites and that ratio is falling. Hispanics and Blacks make up 26 percent of the work force but hold only 13 percent of the STEM jobs. The ratio is the same for Women. Black and Hispanic students are achieving college degrees at twice the rate that companies are hiring them. Leading technology companies are currently employing at a rate that is 30% of equity.

Equity in STEM employment is a very difficult and complex challenge. Many sociological, human behavior and economic factors are in play with both students and adults that educate and hire them. For many it is misperceptions of what science, technology, engineering and math is about. Students are faced with non-STEM traditions in the home, stereotypes, self-doubt and financial stress. Many adults that provide education and manage companies are stuck in outdated hierarchies, policy that has proven ineffective and prejudice that is hard wired in youth.

It seems that our STEM world has its own Star Wars’ish dark side. But STEM advocates believe we have a role in this equity battle with our strong suite of innovation, rationality and individual dream fulfillment.  Each February and March our Arizona SciTech Festival takes a major step along this equity path by promoting and coordinating thousands of inclusive STEM events throughout out our state. Get involved and enjoy.

Ref:  “A Future Segregated by Science,” Charles M. Blow, NY Times Feb 2, 2015

Ref: “The Three S’s of Sustainability,” Michael Moe, GSV Media, Feb 1. 2015.

Ref: “Madam C.E.O., Get Me a Coffee,” Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg, NY Times Feb 6, 2015

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Guest Author: Lisa Herrmann, science writer, Arizona SciTech

“As the world gets more connected, it also gets more complex. We now operate on a global scale, and our job in education is to help learners develop knowledge, skills, and abilities to thrive in this new environment,” says Jaime Casap, Global Education Evangelist at Google, Inc. “We are preparing them to solve global problems we haven’t defined yet, using technology that hasn’t been invented, in roles that do not exist. We need to continually iterate education in pursuit of making it a powerful, effective, and engaging learning experience.” Casap “evangelizes” the power and potential of the web, technology, and Google tools as enabling and supporting capabilities in pursuit of creating powerful learning models. This makes him the perfect featured speaker for the STEM In Action Partnership (SIAP) for the Sierra Vista Area’s upcoming free community event, “Iterating Education.”

This event is produced through the STEM In Action Partnership, centralized in the City of Sierra Vista. SIAP collaborates with businesses, educators, and organizations to create business engagement opportunities, strengthen teacher effectiveness, and integrate STEM into the local schools throughout Cochise County. Their work with businesses is designed to increase their contributions to STEM education in sustainable and meaningful ways, ultimately improving workforce development. It’s a natural partnership, then, to feature Casap, as he works with the Google for Education Team and educational organizations around the world, helping them find ways to continuously improve the quality of education by utilizing and enabling technology capabilities. Casap also works across other Google teams, including, Google Fiber, the Google Policy Team, the YouTube Team, and the Google Capital Team. In addition to his role at Google, Casap serves on the Board of Directors for the Arizona Science Foundation, New Global Citizens, Arizona Chamber of Commerce, Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, and serves as an advisor to dozens of organizations focused on education and access, including South by Southwest EDU (SXSWedu,) the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and is a council member of the GSV Advisors.

‘Iterating Education’ is a free community event, 5:45 – 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 4. The event will take place at Cochise College Sierra Vista Campus in the Student Union Community Room.

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Guest Author: Ester Skiera, science writer, Arizona SciTech

A night well spent with your family could also be a good time to learn more about science. For that purpose, you can come to Family Science Night, a community event for all ages. The idea is to provide professionals a forum where they can teach students how STEM is as part of the community. “We showcase careers of interest to the students of which many of their parents are a part of the working community. This event shares how STEM is in every field whether it be medicine, hygiene, sports, law enforcement, space, computer, salons, etc.,” says Tamara Santilli, Villago Middle School, science department chair.

The event is good for school-age kids who might only know some cool careers from TV show or movies. The professionals who come to this event can give students the “behind-the-scenes” of many cool careers such as Border Patrol, Crime Scene investigations, Astronomers, Exotic animal handlers, Sky divers, dentist, hair stylist and more.

The most interesting part of the event is the hands-on interaction between professionals of the community and the student body. “Often the public has a tainted or negative view of SWAT, Border Patrol, Sheriff and other law enforcement. This forum allows the students to get into the vehicles (helicopters, DUI van, Border patrol cars, police vehicles, and more) and learn about the science and technology involved in getting a job done right,” Santilli explains.

As simple as it sounds, but the interaction can actually break down barriers that society has created with our youth and opens doors to our youth about their potential career opportunities. At this event, students meet and interact with professionals (who often are parents of our student body) in a way that is not “typical” to their profession.

“This is a fantastic forum for all that attend. One featured lab is the “Volume Lab” where our student band performs right alongside former band members that have now started their own band as a profession. Their sound is not only seen and heard but also transferred into computer images via audacity computer programs,” Santilli states.

As much as the learning process, the fun part is, of course, as important. Visitors can expect to engage in hands on activities from well over a dozen different venues. “We make fresh butter from fresh cow’s milk, we program robots to complete a task, we investigate a crime scene and take fingerprints, we play computer games against our children, we look at the stars through telescopes and so much more,” Santilli says.

The Family Science Night is at its 5th year. Last year, the event hosted between 300-400 members of the community. Of course, Family Science Night can always use more people. “Our goal is to double that with 600 people in attendance.  We want to broaden the outreach to our community with the help of the SciTech advertising community,” she adds.

Now let’s make their goal reach, would we?

Family Science Night takes place on March 12, 2015 at Villago Middle School. 

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Guest Author: Ester Skiera, science writer, Arizona SciTech

Long before the Internet existed, the world might not have been as sophisticated as it is now, but it had its own charms. It even had its own technologies. But how our kids are supposed to know that? Ancient Technology Day Prehistoric & Historic is the answer!

“It is a family friendly event that provides visitors with an opportunity to have an interactive learning experience, where they get to try their hands at multiple kinds of prehistoric and historic technologies and skills that were every day tasks for pioneer settlers and Native American peoples such as the Hohokam,” says Renee Aguilar, Pueblo Grande Museum’s Visitor Services.

Rene also states that one of the biggest demographics of visitors at the Museum is elementary school children. “As a prehistoric archaeological site and museum, Pueblo Grande offers a unique insight and interpretation of Arizona history and the important contributions the Ancient Sonoran Desert People made to the growth and settlement of this area, and how we still benefit from their knowledge today,” she adds.

The event is now celebrating its 15th year as a Pueblo Grande Museum Signature annual Event. And every year, the Museum provides visitors unique activities and showcases.  “The most unique part of Ancient Technology Day is that it offers visitors an opportunity to try multiple kinds of technologies and skills that were an everyday practice from 100 years ago to over 1000 years ago,” she explains.

What’s not to love? The visitors will be able to make their own pottery. Not so much into artistry? How about making an arrowhead? Or trying roasted agave cooked in an underground oven called a “Horno?” Or maybe you’d like to test your hunting skills? Visitors can test their hunting skills by throwing a spear with an Atlatl. Best thing yet? Visitors can try all of these things for free!!

“We expect visitors to have a fun and educational cultural experience while participating in all the different activities we have to offer at this event. We love to see everyone, adults, children, grandparents, and teenagers, get involved, learn new skills, and come away with a better understanding of just how innovative and creative people are throughout history when it comes to using or creating tools to get a job done,” Aguilar says.

It’s important for the children to know that the word ‘technology’ is not limited to computer-related matters. “When people think about technology, instead of just computers, microchips, and robots. We hope that by participating in the Arizona SciTech Festival, we broaden peoples definition and idea of what the term technology encompasses,” she states.

In addition to all of the various demonstrations and interactive activities, there will also be fun, free, craft stations set up throughout the event and fry bread for sale. “We will also have free tours of the archaeological site, artifact interpretation inside the museum, and a special tour of the Park of Four Waters historic canals area with City Archaeologist Laurene Montero.”

15th Annual Ancient Technology Day Prehistoric & Historic takes place on March 14, 2015. Pueblo Grande Museum. Free admission.

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Baseball City presented by the City of Scottsdale and Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau is your one-stop shop for all things Spring Training – a fan fest and trade show all rolled into one big event extravaganza! Fans of all ages will not only have the opportunity to play ball in various activations like batting cages and base running challenges, but also experience a showcase of some of the finest memorabilia that the baseball world has to offer. They’ll also have the opportunity to meet Major League baseball stars both past and present, and learn some tips on playing baseball from the game’s greats.

The Valley of the Sun has long been the place to be for baseball fans to soak up the sights, sounds and smells of the game while their team warms up and figures things out.

In addition to the action on the diamond, Cactus League fans have an incredible opportunity to learn about the science of baseball at Baseball City 2015!

Baseball City 2015 offers insights into the science of baseball through hands-on exhibits, demonstrations and appearances from baseball greats past and present.

The event will take place March 7 and 8 from 11:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Scottsdale Civic Center Mall.

Come see how Baseball City 2015 offers a scientific look at how the game really works while showcasing the game’s natural beauty.

Cactus League visitors and fans of all MLB teams and all ages are invited to celebrate (and investigate) the science and spectacle of America’s pastime at this outdoor venue.

Come enjoy an event full of learning and fun that a baseball fan will never forget. You’ll never hear the words “Let’s play ball!” the same way again!

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Guest Author: Rita Standerfer, science writer, Arizona SciTech

Avondale is at it again preparing to kick-off their 2nd annual STEAM Fest Family Event!   STEAM based programming has been offered at both libraries once a week since their last year.  On March 18, from 3 p.m – 6 p.m., festivities will begin at the Avondale Civic Center Library, at 11350 W. Civic Center Dr., to showcase the creativity, ingenuity, and enthusiasm going on in their community.

This STEAM Fest is a three hour long, open fair with rows of booths featuring displays and exciting hands-on activities which highlight science, technology, engineering, art, and math.  It is the perfect opportunity to help kids see how STEAM surrounds them in everyday life.

Last year, students created paper electronics; marshmallow catapults; birdhouses made from recycled materials; and had an Occulus Rift.  This year there will be new and even better surprises, including Spheros and Cubelets. These cool new STEAM related kits became possible through grant money, courtesy of the Arizona State Library and the Institutes of Museum and Library Services.

Booths for the event will be run by library and city staff members, but there will also be representation from local STEAM businesses and other large organizations, including the Phoenix Zoo and SRP.

A large part of the youth programming at the city libraries has been dedicated to expanding knowledge about science, technology, engineering, art, and math, to help provide skills and a strong foundation for the future of Avondale.

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Guest Author:  Debbie Gubernick, science writer, Arizona SciTech;  DebbieDoesSTEAM.com

Research suggests that the most successful way to encourage later study in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects is to first foster young children’s curiosity about the world around them. Family SCIFest, an annual celebration of STEM presented by Children’s Museum Tucson, provides children with opportunities galore to explore science and engineering, and to discover nature and outer space.

Now in its fourth year, Family SCIFest is one of Children’s Museum Tucson’s most popular offerings, in addition to being an Arizona SciTech Festival Signature Event. Exhibits and demonstrations will be arrayed outside the museum, and thanks to free museum admission that day, everything inside the museum will also be readily available for exploration.

Thousands of people from across Southern Arizona will flock to the museum to engage in hands-on activities and demonstrations with scientists and STEM professionals from twenty different organizations. Tucson is a city built on science, and Children’s Museum Tucson will make ample use of the bountiful STEM resources available across the region.

Three exceptional STEM resources that the museum is bringing to this year’s Family SCIFest are SARSEF (Southern Arizona Regional Science and Engineering Fair), the University of Arizona Department of Planetary Sciences/Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, and NOAO (National Optical Astronomy Observatory).

SARSEF will offer two diverse learning activities for children. One will explore different animal habitats, while the other will give children a chance to experiment with Hoberman spheres.

The University of Arizona Department of Planetary Sciences/Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL), a world-class research facility and home to next year’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid mission, will provide an impact crater activity—children will learn about craters by creating their own impacts and then discussing their results with LPL staff.

NOAO will present demonstrations and an activity that teach children about the components of comets. The demonstration will be presented by NOAO staff, using dry ice to create comets. In the Comet on a Stick activity, children will create their own models of comets to take home.

So bring your family to Children’s Museum Tucson’s Family SCIFest for a voyage of scientific discovery led by talented STEM professionals. Not only will your child have fun while learning, he or she just might discover a passion for science and math that lasts a lifetime.

Family SCIFest
Saturday, February 21, 2015
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Children’s Museum Tucson
200 South Sixth Avenue
Tucson, AZ 85701


Guest Author:  Debbie Gubernick, science writer, AZ SciTech; DebbieDoesSTEAM.com

Water—flowing across the desert through canals. Art—transforming and often transcending human experience. Light—essential, yet at times brutal and unforgiving.

These defining aspects of life in Scottsdale inspired the creation of Canal Convergence|Water + Art + Light. From February 26 through March 1, this free four-day extravaganza and Arizona SciTech Festival Signature Event invites visitors to explore the confluence of water, art, and light through installations, interactive play, dance, and music.

Kirstin Van Cleef, Outreach and Temporary Projects Manager for Scottsdale Public Art, explained how this year’s nine artists combine art and science to yield fascinating results. “Each Canal Convergence artist explores the themes of water, art and light in their own way, through the lenses of several disciplines. On the face of it, their work is just really fun and playful. But it all employs some complex conceptual components often rooted in the sciences.”

Imagine a future where art is produced by robots. That is the world Toby Fraley asks you to envision with his installation, The Artwork Forge. Said Van Cleef, “Fraley has taken a futurist approach to his work – exploring intersections between art and technology in a speculative scenario where everything, even art masterpieces, can be customized.”

After sunset, visitors interact not just with luminous orbs in the canal, but also with people on the opposite bank at Urban Matter’s Play Array. The artwork’s own Wi-Fi network enables smart phone users to play a glowing game of Pong.

More nighttime exploration awaits at Jen Lewin’s The Pool.  Inspired by Australian tide pools, this architect-turned-artist has constructed 106 circular pods that work like cellular automation—reacting to their neighbors, or fractals—repeating the same pattern at increasing scales. Using all of the components of STEAM, this dynamic artwork responds to human interaction with changing color and luminosity.

The Los Angeles-based Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre will perform on Saturday and Sunday. Their performance will be “very cool because they animate everyday spaces in inventive ways,” said Van Cleef. “We can’t wait to see them on Soleri Bridge and Plaza – in LED illuminated costumes!”

Throughout the event, musical groups will be playing live music ranging from Americana, Afro-beat, and Country and Western, to 80’s covers, Bluegrass, and Indie.

But wait, there’s more! Bike riding enthusiasts can join a Community Canal Path Bike Ride for a guided ride along the Arizona Canal on Saturday, February 28 from 10:00 a.m.—1:00 p.m. Riders will visit with Canal Convergence artists along the route.

And don’t forget the drop-in Make-N-Take workshops with artists Karrie Hovey and Saskia Jorda, where visitors of all ages can create artwork inspired by Canal Convergence installations.

Canal Convergence|Water + Art + Light offers a fantastic opportunity to experience the magic that happens when art and science collide. And to stroll along the Scottsdale Waterfront on spring evening while savoring that magic? Perfection.

Complete details about the event, including schedules and artist information, are available on the Canal Convergence web pages. Event Details include: Canal Convergence Water + Art + Light, Thursday, February 26—Sunday, March 1, 2015, The Scottsdale Waterfront, 4420 North Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, AZ 85251 All ages, free admission.