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Arizona SciTech Blog

This blog is courtesy of the Arizona SciTech Festival.


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

Guest Author: Lisa Herrmann, science writer, Arizona SciTech

Nextiva now ranks as Arizona’s third largest telecommunications company, but it’s our largest home grown version. “Arizona is our home – it’s where Nextiva started and where we’ll continue to grow,” explains Yaniv Masjedi, Nextiva’s vp of marketing. Launched in 2008, this company has grown now to over 300 employees, most from our local talent pool. Masjedi has been very pleased by the quality of employees that Arizona’s schools are generating, despite assumptions that regions better known for high tech might have the upper hand in this respect.  “Many people look to other regions for technology workforce talent, but in our case, Nextiva is finding that Arizona is an amazing place to start and grow a technology business. The schools seem very strong, and the local government supports innovative companies,” Masjedi adds.

Beyond the regional talent, it also seems that part of Nextiva’s success with its workforce is its heavy emphasis on its organizational culture. ”We focus on fostering and nurturing the team,” Masjedi says. “‘Before you can provide amazing customer service, you have to start with your own team. You can have the best technology, but at the end of the day, what’s running the business is the people.” Nextiva has its own ‘culture’ group, focused on creating team spirit, keeping the work environment positive and vibrant, where employees say their co-workers are ‘like family’.  A recent concept created by the company was a Saturday ‘Build-a-thon,’ where the goal was to achieve a challenging customer solution in one 12-hour Saturday work session. “We had lots of employees commit to the event  because they sincerely wanted to do it,” Masjedi proudly describes. Phoenix Business Journal named Nextiva one of the Best Places to Work in Phoenix.

Nextiva’s focus on culture-building extends beyond the organization itself and out into the community. As a Silver Sponsor of Arizona SciTech, Nextiva is contributing to support its Arizona home. “The Festival is educating the public, and bringing greater awareness to STEM as a whole – that’s a good thing,” explains Masjedi . “When we first heard about the Festival, we got in touch that same day to find out how we could participate.”

2STEM Matters

STEM Matters Manager: Marisa Ostos

Are you the type of person who typically pays close attention to detail? Before we get started on a fun psychology lesson, let us watch a video before you continue reading. Watch this video now before reading anything else!!

Were you paying close attention? How many times did you see the players with the white shirts pass the ball? If you’re like most people, you counted 15 passes among the participants with the white shirts. However, if you are like most people, you may have also missed the gorilla walk across the screen. This is what we call “selective attention.”

Selective attention is the mind’s tendency to hone in on certain dynamics, processes, or under-goings of the environment around you. In this case, you may have been so focused on counting the passes, that you missed the gorilla that walked right in front of you, which most people do. Does this mean that you are in any way deficient when it comes to your attention-span? Not at all! In fact, it is a simple, yet fascinating demonstration of the way the mind works. People pay attention to different things for a number of reasons. Three attendees at a football game may be sitting in the same row and watching the same game, but while one focuses on the next move of the quarterback, one may be watching #24 get ready to tackle a player, while the other attendee may have just caught the quick move of the linebacker heading toward the player he was guarding. As when watching a game of football, a number of things happen in the environment all around you each and every day. If we were to remember and take in every process and instance that happened around us in each minute, our mind would most likely be a mess due to the overwhelming amount of stimuli it received each second.

So if  you missed that gorilla the first time, don’t worry one bit. Just take in the wonder of the mind’s consciousness and its fascinating ability to be able to focus and comprehend the things we do. Our human-brain is a wonderful organ.

*Source: http://www.csun.edu/~vcpsy00h/students/arousal.htm 

2ASML ed

Guest Author: Lisa Herrmann

Sand and water are basic elements that have drawn the human imagination to create a multitude of beachside sculptures, but in Chandler these substances are the basis of some of the smallest microchips ever developed. Arizona SciTech Festival’s Bronze level sponsor, ASML, is the world’s leading provider of lithography systems for the semiconductor industry, manufacturing complex machines that are critical to the production of microchips.  ASML designs, develops, integrates, and services these advanced systems, which continue to help chipmakers reduce the size and increase the functionality of microchips and consumer electronic equipment.

The manufacturing process begins by converting sand into a silicon crystal that is sliced into wafers. The wafers are polished flat, cleaned and sent to a wafer processing fabrication facility – ‘the Fab’. The Fab is a multi-billion dollar chipmaking plant built around a cleanroom; ASML notes, ‘the cleanest and one of the most controlled environments on earth.’ Lithography is the process responsible for projecting small electronic features onto the silicon wafers. R&D efforts at ASML have included the process of ‘immersion lithography’, described as ‘an excellent trick to make chips smaller and more powerful.’ The process involves adding water between the lens and the wafer. The water bends the light in such a way as to get more light onto the wafer and improve the image it creates, allowing sharper lines and smaller features. ASML’s most advanced immersion systems can image lines just 38 nanometers wide! Thanks to ASML’s lithographic systems, ever-shrinking microchips have brought better, more affordable and more energy-efficient electronics and services to everyone, improving mobility, connectivity, safety, and digital entertainment.

ASML’s senior communications specialist Michael Pullen is proud of these efforts, and eager to support the next generation of scientists in our community. “We are looking forward to being involved with a great program like the AZ SciTech Festival and all the activities around it. STEM education is something that ASML cares deeply about and is evident in our ASML4Kids program where we teach STEM principles to students of all ages through fun, interactive lessons.”

2Ted Kraver

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

Silly proposition since the education and economy drive each other. But it sees to dominate a lot of thinking and decision making in the political and business arena. The public good has always been and always will be funded mainly by public taxes, including K-12 education. Political players rarely apply deep knowledge of how science, technology, engineering and mathematics education drives economics.  Unfortunately there is also a false premise floating in the politisphere that cutting taxes will stimulate the economy and pull us out of recession.

Economic research points to the exact opposite. And yet Arizona carved $billion’s from education funding for 1.2 million Arizona students over the past four years. Fortunately our economy has started to recover. Not by the tax cuts that seriously hurt education but because of the rising national economy.

There is a human trait of believing that if someone is successful in one arena: entrepreneur, business tycoon, or wealthy financial manager, then they will somehow have economic wisdom. The economics of business are totally different than economics of states or countries. A typical difference is that companies sell very little of their product to employees. States and countries have their citizens as their customers.

I am troubled by our Arizona election results.  Our governor elect professes that his business experience will be used to reform Arizona but a state is not an international ice cream business. Our new superintendent of education wants to focus on a single aspect: common core standard based summative assessments. But Arizona’s education is a complex system of human resources, facilities, technology and curriculum. Evidence has yet to emerge that either has insight into how the science of economics should be applied to education.

In our depressed economy recovery needs a massive increase in investment for educator education, training and salaries…up to the level of comparable professions in other industries. Twenty-first century professional tools must also be provided to the teacher-student nexus. These include high-bandwidth and high capacity learning interfaces with formative assessment based digital curriculum enhanced by emerging technologies. Only then can education effectively serve the individual needs of our students.  If education effectiveness succeeds, then once again Arizona will have an economic foundation.

With serious weakness at the top there is an opening for educators to take control of Arizona’s political and institutional destiny.  Innovation leadership would drive from the middle. It is up to our Arizona’s education associations and county and district superintendents to become a powerful and integrated political force.

Then this election could be a benestrophe: as a potential catastrophe turned to the good.

2Carmen Cornejo

Colaboradora: Carmen Cornejo, AZSciTechFest Relaciones con la Comunidad Hispana, Propietaria, Critical Mass Communications, LLC

Muchas personas esperan el retiro y llegar a la “edad dorada” para donar su tiempo como voluntarios, pero esto no sucede con un par de dinámicas graduadas recientes de la Universidad Estatal de Arizona (ASU). Esas jóvenes, no sólo están regalando a la comunidad su tiempo, pero creando y administrando una organización sin fines de lucro que promueve la ciencia, tecnología, ingeniería y las matemáticas (STEM por sus siglas en Inglés) en chicos de escuela elemental. Mabel Muñoz e Ingrid Tay son profesionistas destacadas, que formaron parte del famoso club de robótica de Carl Hayden, quienes han superado muchos obstáculos y que se han graduado, no sólo de su High School con honores, sino de ASU.

Este dúo dinámico, quien desea compartir su amor y entusiasmo por la ciencia y la tecnología, creó “Building Dreams/ Construyendo Sueños“ el cual entrena equipos de estudiantes de escuela elemental a participar en competencias de robótica con Legos llamada FIRST Lego League (FLL).

“El propósito de Construyendo Sueños es promover la ciencia y la tecnología en comunidades no frecuentemente servidas con este conocimiento y actividades. A través de robótica, los niños aprenden y se exponen a disciplinas como programación, pensamiento creativo, trabajo en equipo, organización y comunicación en público. Nosotros nos esforzamos de crear un ambiente de trabajo donde los jóvenes son motivados de estudiar carreras de ingeniería, ciencia o matemáticas”, dijo Mabel Muñoz.

“Construyendo Sueños expone a los niños y niñas a varias actividades como Lego Mindstorm y clases de robótica, campamentos de computadora, visitas a ferias de carreras y participación a la competencia anual FLL (FIRST Lego League) que se lleva a cabo cada año en diciembre”, dijo Ingrid Tay.

Por su liderazgo compartiendo su conocimiento y entusiasmo, Mabel e Ingrid son verdaderas líderes comunitarias y todo un ejemplo a seguir.