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Arizona SciTech Blog

This blog is courtesy of the Arizona SciTech Festival.

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Science Writer: Rita Standerfer, science writer, Arizona SciTech

Arizona teachers are constantly rising to the top when it comes to STEM! On February 21,their 3rd Annual STEM Arizona Education Collaborative Un-Conference.  The event will be held in Phoenix at the Alhambra School District Office.

Teachers from all disciplines and grade levels will gather to share insights, resources and new ideas revolving around the fascinating world of STEM.  It is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of the abundant talent and creativity teachers have right here in the great state of Arizona.  The ultimate goal of these dynamic educators is find and develop new concepts and presentations to make science, technology, engineering, and math come to life in classrooms across the state, by introducing them in new, fun, and innovative ways.

The keynote speaker this year will be Dr. Jo Ann Vasquez, Co-Author of STEM Lesson Essentials – Integrating Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic

An Un-Conference does not determine the break- out sessions until the day of the event.  The attendees determine the topics they prefer for the three break- out sessions for each hour.  The event is focused on the needs of the attendees – not the organizers of the event.

While the event provides an abundance of current information about the world of STEM to be incorporated into the classroom, it is also a great opportunity for teachers around the state to develop new relationships.  These connections allow new interaction among teachers, thus broadening the resource pool and STEM supplementation ideas.

You can pre-register at https://www.azsta.org/node/947  or register on-site. Registration is $10.


Guest Author:  Rita Standerfer, Science Writer: Arizona SciTech

Coronado Elementary STEAM Night is ready to launch again!  It is a fantastic opportunity to find Arizona families busy communicating, creating and problem solving while honing their science, technology, engineering, and art and math skills.

The action begins on February 12th at 5:30 p.m. at Coronado School in Gilbert.  The event will run until 7 p.m.  This is the 2nd year that Art has been incorporated into the event, adding an even greater flare than last year.  Each grade level will be focusing on a specific aspect of STEAM.  .

The work of these young artists will be on display in the cafeteria.  Local businesses and programs will also join in with exciting hands-on activities for this year’s theme, “Water.”  Students will complete a passport as they move through the activities during the event.

The event involves the community and it helps to increase public understanding and new insights surrounding STEAM and how it is part of our everyday lives.

The company that designed the original Transformers will be visiting the campus with one of their cars, so that students and families can check them out in person. A spokesperson will also be on site to explain how STEM skills are crucial in almost all work environments today.

The mission will be accomplished when attendees leave with a thirst for more STEAM. So climb aboard for take-off!

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Guest Author: Rita Standerfer, science writer

It’s said that “good things come in small packages.” However, ASU’s  Annual Night of the Open Door is no small event. And, just as its title states, it is “OPEN” to everyone! ASU, host to this an amazing night featuring the best STEAM has to offer, plans on going live with its event on February 28th, from 4-9 p.m. at the Tempe Campus on Mill & University (https:opendoor.asu.edu).

The Open Door Events started at the Tempe Campus four years ago, along with its founding partner, Arizona SciTech Festival. It quickly expanded to four campuses with each campus now having its own characteristics and specialties, which include fantastic activities and experiences for all attendees. More than 1,000 top-notch faculty and students will be on hand with more than 100 hands-on activities, talks, tours, and performances that will kick-off a festival to remember in 2015.

This is a university-wide opportunity to go behind the scenes and discover everything that ASU has to offer in cutting-edge science, math, art, humanities, physics, space exploration, green energy, pottery-making, language, culture, engineering, biomedicine, computer science and more.

Some popular favorites include:

  • Tours of the Biodesign Institute and ASU Supercomputer  (usually closed to the public)
  • Hands-on activities, video games and demos, hosted by the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering; Biodesign Institute’s Fun Zone, and School of Life Sciences, School of Math and Statistical Sciences, and School of Earth and Space Exploration.
  • Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies activities (poster and event information for ACMRS)
  • 20+ Mini-language lessons, henna tattoos, crossword and performances in the School of International Letters and Cultures and School of English.

Some of the new events include: 

  • The KAKEHASHI Project – The Bridge for Tomorrow – which debuts a digital storytelling video created by 23 students who studied in Japan for 10 days.
  • Two exciting hands-on workshops: Ancient Uses of Clay and a Rumba and Bolero Spanish Guitar Workshop (bring your own guitar!)
  • The very popular ASU insect collection and its 1.8 million bugs

(moved off campus to an amazing new facility at: 734 W. Alameda Drive in Tempe)

  • Air Devils: Student group in engineering shows how to design and make an unmanned, radio-controlled aircraft. Also hosting flight simulator and quadcopter demos.
  • Zombie hoard at 4:30 p.m. 

The event allows for creative enterprise stretching across all types of fields and disciplines. This STEAM mindset fuels discovery and makes our nation, and our community stronger, and more able to address the challenges of the future. There’s nothing like bringing together so many innovative people and children, from all walks of life, interested in the arts, sciences, math, technology and engineering, to excite and inspire, as well as, create positive change.

The focus of this amazing event is to prove that learning STEAM is fun, challenging, and exciting and that it is the basis for so many things around us that we take for granted. It is a time to see imaginations ignited and faces light up, whether the subject is the tiniest virus, a language, medieval art, dance or space travel.  The emphasis is on getting participants to dream big and to know that their public universities are there to help pursue those dreams.

Each year the event leaves and even bigger footprint on the community.  Following a previous event, Dr. Jeremy Babendure, founder of AZ SciTech Festival stated, “The feedback from Night of the Open Door was overwhelmingly positive, from both the volunteers and the attendees.  A number of those attending wrote to President Crow, with high praise about the event.”

If Feb. 28th doesn’t work for people, there are other ASU Open Door activities to join in:

  • Night of the OpenDoor @ Downtown Phoenix - Jan. 31, 4-8 p.m.
  • Night of the OpenDoor @ Polytechnic – Feb. 20, 5-8:30 p.m.
  • OpenDoor @ West – March 28, 11a.m.-2 p.m.

Map: https://opendoor.asu.edu/tempe/mapsparking






https://asuevents.asu.edu/sites/default/files/NOD_2015.pdf, https://asuevents.asu.edu/experience-magic-middle-ages-and-renaissance



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

How do you make Super Bowl Weekend even more exciting? With a STEM kick-off, of course! The 2015 Arizona SciTech Festival has its own kick-off on Super Bowl Weekend when Connect2STEM sets up downtown at the University of Arizona College of Medicine Phoenix campus at 5th Street and Van Buren, just blocks from Super Bowl Central.

Sixty tables in five zones will immerse children in the amazing innovations and discoveries happening in Arizona. From gaming stations to outer space, from exploring nature to delving into human bodies and the brain, Connect2STEM brings the wonder of learning and discovery to Arizona’s families.

The UA College of Medicine in Phoenix joined forces with Cox Communications to create this year’s event. Allison Otu, the College’s director of Outreach and Communications, discussed working with the Arizona SciTech Festival. “We wanted to make sure that we could collaborate because the SciTech Festival brings so much to an event. But it wasn’t until later that we realized it would be the official kick-off Signature Event. We’ve been talking to Arizona SciTech Festival Executive Director, Jeremy Babendure, Ph.D., for years about doing something big and exciting, so it’s neat to have kind of a dream come true.”

In addition to providing free wi-fi to everyone at Connect2STEM, Cox is also setting up the Cox Gig Zone, where kids will play video games and talk with Software Engineers to find out what they can do right now to prepare themselves for that career. Cox is also bringing their Flogos machine, using helium and a compressed air bubble generator to send bubbles forming the Cox logo aloft every 10 seconds throughout the event.

A team from the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Lab will bring outer space to Phoenix by way of the OSIRIS-REx mission in the Outer Space/Technology Zone. OSIRIS-REx launches in 2016, on a 14-year roundtrip mission to the asteroid Bennu, and its principal investigator, Dante Lauretta, will talk about the mission and the questions the team hopes to answer.

Master gardeners will be on hand in the Nature Zone’s Wildcat Water Lab, giving kids a chance to learn about the natural world while getting wet and dirty.

Children will explore human bodies up close in the Bioscience Zone, where a synthetic cadaver, the same type used by medical students, will be available to touch and feel.

The Concussion Discussion: Take the Brain Challenge will offer kids six interactive booths to explore how concussions affect brain function. In one booth, children will don vision-distorting glasses that simulate vision changes after a concussion, and then try to throw a football. While children visit the stations, parents will learn the good, bad, and ugly about concussions, including strategies for keeping children safe from head injuries while playing sports.

Speaking of sports, Wilbur the Wildcat will be in the Wildcat Spirit Zone: Bear Down! Get pictures taken in a photo booth and bounce in the UA inflatable.

So what can people expect at Connect2STEM? Answered Otu, “When people walk up, they’ll get to see everything from a DJ to a popcorn machine to a synthetic cadaver. So everywhere you turn, it’s going to look a little bit different!”

The Connect2STEM event takes place on Saturday, January 31, from 10:00am to 4:00pm. For more information, LINK here: http://azscitech.com/scitech_event/connect2stem/

UA, COX Communications Team Up for Family-Friendly Event Guaranteed to Inspire

Contact: April Fischer, (602) 827-2585

PHOENIX – The University of Arizona and COX Communications have partnered to bring science and hands-on learning to downtown Phoenix just in time for the Super Bowl. Connect2STEM is the official kickoff for the 2015 Arizona SciTech Festival, a statewide celebration of science, technology, engineering and math held annually in February and March.

“Connect2STEM” will take place on the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix campus at 5th Street and Van Buren, just blocks from Super Bowl Central, on Saturday, Jan. 31, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

STEM enthusiasts will learn about the science of creating a video game, see real space equipment and touch synthetic cadavers. Food Trucks will be available on-site.

The Jan. 31 event is open to the public and will feature five hands-on activity zones designed for all ages.

  • Bioscience Zone: Touch, feel and discover the human body like never before. See the biomechanics of a life sized synthetic cadaver that can talk, breathe, bleed and sweat.  Free giveaways at the Banner Children’s Go Kids program booth focused on health, fitness and nutrition.
  • Concussion Discussion: Tackle the Brain Challenge Expo – featuring a vision distorter, eye-hand coordination drills and the Banner Concussion Center.
  • Nature Zone: Get down and dirty with master gardeners and splash around in the Wildcat Water Lab.
  • Outer Space/Technology Zone: Calling all amateur astronomers! Learn about OSRIS-Rex, a mission to bring pieces of the asteroid “Bennu” back to earth.
  • COX Gig Zone: Cox Communications is providing a free WIFI hotspot for all guests.  Come enjoy gaming stations, coloring contests and giveaways.  Learn about the science of GIGABLAST services getting to your home. Be on the lookout for a special appearance by Digeez!
  • Wildcat Spirit Zone: Bear Down! Take a picture in the photo booth, meet Wilbur the Wildcat, mingle with alumni and bounce around on the UA inflatable.

Judy Bernas, associate vice president of university relations at UA in Phoenix, said Connect2STEM will inspire young people to learn more about science careers.

“We hope to bring excitement from across the country to downtown Phoenix,” she said. “Connect2STEM will encouragement enthusiasm in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.”

Susan Anable, Vice President of Public Affairs for Cox Communications, couldn’t agree more.

“With downtown Phoenix as center stage for the Super Bowl, Connect2STEM is a tremendous opportunity to shine a spot light on all of the great things happening to advance STEM visibility. Connect2STEM will add a fun and learning opportunity for valley residents and visitors alike,” Anable explained.

“We think this is a great time to bring people to downtown Phoenix and teach them all there is to learn about science, technology, engineering and math,” Bernas said.

Just 2 Blocks Away From Football Activities

The Connect2STEM event is just two blocks away from the Verizon Super Bowl Central (VSBC) that will take over and transform Downtown Phoenix into the epicenter of Super Bowl activities with 1 million visitors expected to attend. The free, family-friendly, football-themed outdoor fan campus will be the hub of fan, sponsor, media and NFL activities for the week leading up to Super Bowl XLIX. See the complete list of Fan Activities & Attractions.

Visit www.Connect2STEM.comfor detailed event information.

The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix admitted its inaugural class of first-year medical students in August 2007 and currently has 301 students training to be physicians. The UA College of Medicine – Phoenix inspires and trains individuals to become exemplary physicians, scientists and leaders who are life-long learners and inquisitive scholars and who will embrace professionalism, innovation and collaboration to optimize health and healthcare for all. 

Guest Interviewer: Ann Marie Cunningham, for AZ SciTech

Interviewee: Jesus “Rudy” Rodriguez, administrative services general manager, Cottonwood, AZ

How did your job get you involved in AZSciTechFest?

I have a financial background, mainly in accounting.  I moved to Cottonwood from Texas to become the City’s Finance Director, overseeing the budget, purchasing, and transit.  When necessary, I sit in for the City Manager.   Our Mayor wanted to get three northern Arizona communities involved in AZSciTechFest: Jerome, Sedona, and Cottonwood.  The Festival fell in my lap!

How did that work out?

Last year, Jerome, which only has 350 residents, wasn’t involved.  Neither was Sedona, which has red rocks and hiking trails and attracts many visitors. But Cottonwood saw what we could do! Our first year was really successful in bringing people together!

From Saturday to Monday of the AZSciTechFest, we had more than 1,000 Passports turned in. You had to go to at least six events and get your Passport stamped. At our high school auditorium, we had the most visitors: 600 kids.

There were two sets of prizes.  The Passports went into a lottery, one for those under 21, and a second one for those over 21.  The under-21 prizes were six tablets.  The over-21 prizes were two baskets of local wine – we pride ourselves on our wine here – and a stay at a boutique hotel.   This year, we’ll have more tablets, iPods, and other electronics as prizes.

My sons are 15 and 16, and they were at almost every event.  (My daughter is 30 and works for a NASA contractor.) My 15-year old is a tinkerer; he wanted to be in front, asking questions.  Some parents went to every event, too.

What kind of events did you have?

We emphasized the STEM involved in all aspects of running the City.  For instance, we devoted Monday to a free public-safety event.  The police and the fire department brought Hummers, robotics, infrared cameras – all their high-tech equipment.

Other partners were our airport and utilities.  There was a Rover from Prescott College.

Our gas and electricity companies showed how they sort and monitor recyclables and land fill, and how they ship waste out.   They demonstrated how e-waste can be reused.

At the high school, there was a big emphasis on STEM careers, in engineering, medical rehabilitation.  There was 3-D printing.  Students were demonstrating a wave machine!

What are your plans for 2015?

Cottonwood is known as “the commercial hub of the Verde Valley.”  Certainly we have all the big chain stores, like Walmart and Home Depot.  But I’ve lived here 15 years, and I didn’t know that several world-class companies are located here:  Embry-Riddle, Guardian Air, laser light, molding graphics and plastics, several engineering companies.   Since the festival, now I’m aware of these companies, and I see them all over the place.  We tend to drive the same streets every day, and take things for granted.

The schools have been very responsive.  This year, we’ll have a Science Week, where kids can show off their STEM projects to a bigger audience.  We didn’t involve the arts last year.  We’re at the planning stage now to do that.  The schools will take the lead, since they have arts programs, both manual and digital.  Cottonwood is a literary place.  We have 15 or 20 local authors and the public libraries hold authors’ forums.  It would be easy to involve them.

And of course, we want to encourage Jerome and Sedona to hold events in their own communities.

What will you do differently?

Last year, I had a hard time delegating because I wanted to get things done.  I took on too much—the Passport, flyers, posters, everything!–,and at one point, I had to take some time off so I wouldn’t collapse with exhaustion.   Don’t work your fingers to the bone.  Set up a committee, make sure the members have specific assignments, and let them get things done.

Guest Author:  Science Writer: Rita Standerfer

1ChandlerChandler is at it again with another Chandler’s Science Spectacular: Science Saturday!  The event will be held on February 21, from 10 a.m.to 4 p.m. in Downtown Chandler.  It is the fourth year for this amazing STEM event!  Science Saturday is geared for kids, but the interactive hands-on experience intrigues adults of all ages as well.

The goal of the event is to spark interest in STEM education presenting new ideas and concepts in a fun and challenging way. Technology companies in Chandler have become more creative every year as have the student projects.

This year Science Saturday will be joined by E.P.I.C. (Explore, Play, Imagine, Create), a mini-maker fair.  Chandler has a burgeoning maker culture, and EPIC will not only showcase what is happening here, but it will also introduce the community to opportunities right in their own back yard.

This Maker Culture is full of hobbyists, tinkerers, engineers, and programmers linking new and unique technology with traditional forms of DIY, to create something original.  New prototypes and ad projects will be developed using practical skills in a creative fashion..

1Chandler Science SaturdayThe Chandler Police Department will be on hand doing a CSI crime scene. Air Products will show how racquetballs dipped into nitrogen break apart. They will also dip flowers into nitrogen and talk about how that creates spices.  The fun will also include a ‘dinner and a movie’ event from ASU showing a science fiction movie, and explaining its real-life applications.

Vice Mayor Rick Heumann works closely with the Chandler Education Coalition to help bring STEM education to life.  Not only are participants engaged in how science functions in the workplace, but the connection is also made with businesses with the city’s future workforce.

The festival complements Chandler’s strategy of recruiting high-tech, high-wage jobs by ensuring the city is known as an innovation and technology hub.  Getting students excited about STEM connects them with careers of the future, and helps ensure businesses can rely on Chandler’s educated workforce. Additionally, the schools from elementary to advanced education can showcase their successes.

Guest Author: Ester Skiera, science writer, AZ SciTech

How do you distinguish good schools from great schools? The great ones care a lot about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), and make a real effort to get the students and public involved by creating a STEM project, and, in some cases, this might come in the form of a STEM Night.  Apparently, Canyon Springs Schools recognizes this!

“Our event is highlighting all the neat STEM things we do here at Canyon Springs,” says Karen Beeman, M.Ed, Fifth Grade Teacher at Canyon Springs STEM Academy. For this purpose, the school brings in so many outside groups that cover STEM fields, such as Jungle Jills Animal Adventure, the Sheriff’s Department brings cars, tanks, helicopters; the AZ Science Center has STEM activities to do, and Home Depot has supplied the people and kits to help build.

“People will be able to build, create, and explore many various areas. Canyon Springs is dedicated to increasing interest in STEM Fields to all in our community,” Beeman explains.

Canyon Springs School’s commitment in STEM areas is to be applauded. The school has also been consistent to keep its STEM event annually on its calendar. “This is our 3rd year of having STEM Night. Before, we had a Science Night. The best part is when our parents and community get to see all the neat things that Canyon Springs is doing in STEM,” Beeman says.

Visitors, of course, are an important part of the event. “We expect visitors to come and enjoy themselves and learn about STEM, and hopefully take away an increased awareness of STEM. We also want them to see that our students are learning valuable STEM related skills and taking pride in the results,” she adds.

Beeman also expresses how the collaboration between Canyon Springs School and Arizona SciTech Festival add to what the school is doing. “When we pool resources, we are stronger and are able to get the word out about the cool things going on in our area and around the Valley,” she says.

The STEM Night’s number of visitors is quite strong. Each year, the event has grown larger. “Last year we had over 600 people come through our doors at the event. We are proud of what we are doing here at Canyon Springs and really want to share it with others,” Beeman shares.


STEM Night at Canyon Springs School takes place on Feb 18, 2015. 

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Guest Author:  Rita Standerfer, science writer, AZ SciTech

Each year in the month of March, a program intensifies as passionate and talented teens work to ignite a fire about STEaM for younger girls!

On Friday, March 27, 2015, from 1pm – 3 pm, a team of dynamic Xavier high school girls will welcome middle school girls from all over the state of Arizona, to present their 7th Annual Girls Have IT Day Event!

Girls Have IT Day employs a “near peer” mentoring model that really works!   It is truly inspiring to watch the magic happen as they present STEAM in a creative, hands-on manner.  This year many of the activities are new. The goal is to help the middle school girls recognize how STEAM actually relates to their everyday lives, but to also present science, technology, engineering, art, and math, in a manner that is fun.

Extensive preparation goes into making the event a success.  The high school girls develop and design the activities to help the younger girls become engaged, encouraged, and excited about STEAM.  It is a magical moment for all, as the “near peers” give back to the community, and the middle school girls, mostly from Title 1 Schools, light up when they work with the hands-on activities.

This year’s guest speaker will be Tech Entrepreneur, Stacey Ferreira, winner of Seventeen Magazine’s “Pretty Amazing” award. This is definitely a great example of bringing STEAM to life while reaching out to the community to help build a stronger Arizona for tomorrow.

1Celebrate My Drive

In for its second year in a row, “Celebrate My Drive” is back!

Sponsored by the AZ SciTech Festival, the Celebrate My Drive PSA video contest is a state-wise contest for students ages 15-21 to help promote safe driving.  Videos 30-60 seconds in length that show positive driving behavior amongst teens will be entered into the contest.  Generous college scholarships will be awarded and the last day for video submission is May 31, 2015 at 12:00 am MST.  The PSA video contest is made possible through a grant from State Farm.