Facebook icon YouTube icon Pinterest icon RSS icon Flickr icon

Arizona SciTech Blog

This blog is courtesy of the Arizona SciTech Festival.

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. 


xavier2 (3)

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.

Guest Interviewer: Ann Marie Cunningham, for Arizona SciTech 

Interview with Judy Paris.

LISoundFest: Long Island Sound Science Festival is a new science festival that takes place in an area still economically devastated by 2012’s Hurricane Sandy.    LISoundFest talked to some of AZSciTechFest’s partners to find out how a science festival can help a local economy.

Judy Paris, founder, The Spot Museum, Prescott, Arizona

 Like the Sound shore, Prescott suffered a disaster in June 2013, when 19 city firefighters were killed.

Tell me about Prescott.   Why did it need AZSciTechFest?

Prescott is very well aware of its history and the art of the past and present.  STEM is well recognized at Prescott College and  Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.  But as far as the community has been concerned, STEM has been an appendage.  Most charitable contributions go to art, history, and well-established charities here like the YMCA.  In 2013 – 2014, most charity went to the families of City of Prescott firefighters killed in the Yarnell Hill fire.

I wanted to bring the AZSciTechFest to Prescott because we do have STEM organizations and people here, at the Highlands Center for Natural History, wildlife rehabilitors at the Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary, the Spot Museum, and the Children’s Museum Alliance.  Many residents are interested in hiking and star-gazing.  I wanted to bring all these groups and constituencies together.

Prescott also is a very popular tourist destination, but I was making no headway with the city tourism or economic development departments.

What did you do?

In May 2014, Prescott was celebrating its 150th anniversary, which was going to be a huge, two-day event in a downtown square adjacent to a football field.   The site was near various local arts and history museums and galleries.

Jeremy and I wanted to build AZSciTechFest into this anniversary celebration.  We met with city representatives, and explained what a science festival was.  (Jeremy also met with our state representatives.)  The anniversary celebration wanted to feature three aspects of Prescott: the Wild West, the Old West, and the New West.   They had no idea what the New West should be, so we said, “Leave it to us.”

From that first meeting, we reached out to 12 groups who became part of the Prescott science festival board.   They included a local Indian tribe and the Smoki Museum, a Prescott museum which focuses on the prehistory and history of Indians in the Southwest.   We had representatives of the arts as well as STEM, because we wanted a festival of science and the arts, too.  One of the board members of Embry-Riddle agreed to be co-chair with me.

Board members were required to give back to the festival in some way–contribute a presence at the event, contribute to marketing or other costs—and designate a community relations or marketing staffer as our liaison.  All the groups represented had to decide how they wanted to be involved, and on what level.

What about your budget?

We had no budget.  The firefighters’ tragedy affected everything and everyone in Prescott.  Very few nonprofits got any money.   The city had to ask for in-kind donations and services. We got some donated services, like trash collection, electric cables and generators.  The city provided insurance, toilets, ads, electricity, and logistics.

Jeremy helped with marketing costs.   Our tribal partner paid for marketing costs on their reservation.  We were on Facebook as the Prescott SciTech Festival.

What did the New West look like?

To open the entire event, a helicopter from Aeronautical University landed on the football field on the first day to announce Prescott’s 150th anniversary.  You can see it on YouTube:  ADD LINK.  It was super windy that day!

The New West was like a little town: you could follow a walkway into it. All 12 groups on our board set up 22 booths in the New West part of the anniversary area.  We were on the football field: we had one side and one end zone.  Each booth was 10 by 10 feet.  A banner, 18 inches by 24 inches, hung on every booth, with the AZSciTech logo.

Five groups featured aeronautics, robotics, meteorology, and security, with lots of hands-on and interactive events like Up Up and Away, where kids built and flew paper airplanes.  Our local gas company let visitors light gas and see it blow up.  A resident with his own airplane parked it on the field, and we had a 60-foot solar balloon.

We gave visitors Passports to the New West.  If they participated in 10 experiments at the booths, they were eligible for donated prizes like iPads and trips, tickets, balsa-wood airplanes.

What will you do this year?

It will be easier this year because our board now comprises 20 organizations, and we have a mission and name recognition.   The festival certainly helped the Spot Museum, in that we have more visitors, especially to our robotics section.   It’s set up to interest everyone, regardless of age or ability.   The robotic arm is especially popular.  Older kids can design and build their own robot from recycled parts.  A 3-D wall features contemporary robots used by the military, medicine, prosthetics.   You’ll see more of that at Prescott SciTechFest 2014!

Any advice for a start-up science festival?

Start small!   Start with a board made up of 10 groups, a small core coalition of science-related groups committed to the idea.  Then add 10 more groups the following year.  And build on what’s already in place.  Is there an established music or anniversary or arts festival in the area to which you can add science?

Guest Interviewer: Ann Marie Cunningham, for Arizona SciTech 

Interview with Judy Paris.

LISoundFest: Long Island Sound Science Festival is a new science festival that takes place in an area still economically devastated by 2012’s Hurricane Sandy.    LISoundFest talked to some of AZSciTechFest’s partners to find out how a science festival can help a local economy.

Judy Paris, founder, The Spot Museum, Prescott, Arizona

 Like the Sound shore, Prescott suffered a disaster in June 2013, when 19 city firefighters were killed.

Tell me about Prescott.   Why did it need AZSciTechFest?

Prescott is very well aware of its history and the art of the past and present.  STEM is well recognized at Prescott College and  Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.  But as far as the community has been concerned, STEM has been an appendage.  Most charitable contributions go to art, history, and well-established charities here like the YMCA.  In 2013 – 2014, most charity went to the families of City of Prescott firefighters killed in the Yarnell Hill fire.

I wanted to bring the AZSciTechFest to Prescott because we do have STEM organizations and people here, at the Highlands Center for Natural History, wildlife rehabilitors at the Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary, the Spot Museum, and the Children’s Museum Alliance.  Many residents are interested in hiking and star-gazing.  I wanted to bring all these groups and constituencies together.

Prescott also is a very popular tourist destination, but I was making no headway with the city tourism or economic development departments.

What did you do?

In May 2014, Prescott was celebrating its 150th anniversary, which was going to be a huge, two-day event in a downtown square adjacent to a football field.   The site was near various local arts and history museums and galleries.

Jeremy and I wanted to build AZSciTechFest into this anniversary celebration.  We met with city representatives, and explained what a science festival was.  (Jeremy also met with our state representatives.)  The anniversary celebration wanted to feature three aspects of Prescott: the Wild West, the Old West, and the New West.   They had no idea what the New West should be, so we said, “Leave it to us.”

From that first meeting, we reached out to 12 groups who became part of the Prescott science festival board.   They included a local Indian tribe and the Smoki Museum, a Prescott museum which focuses on the prehistory and history of Indians in the Southwest.   We had representatives of the arts as well as STEM, because we wanted a festival of science and the arts, too.  One of the board members of Embry-Riddle agreed to be co-chair with me.

Board members were required to give back to the festival in some way–contribute a presence at the event, contribute to marketing or other costs—and designate a community relations or marketing staffer as our liaison.  All the groups represented had to decide how they wanted to be involved, and on what level.

What about your budget?

We had no budget.  The firefighters’ tragedy affected everything and everyone in Prescott.  Very few nonprofits got any money.   The city had to ask for in-kind donations and services. We got some donated services, like trash collection, electric cables and generators.  The city provided insurance, toilets, ads, electricity, and logistics.

Jeremy helped with marketing costs.   Our tribal partner paid for marketing costs on their reservation.  We were on Facebook as the Prescott SciTech Festival.

What did the New West look like?

To open the entire event, a helicopter from Aeronautical University landed on the football field on the first day to announce Prescott’s 150th anniversary.  You can see it on YouTube:  ADD LINK.  It was super windy that day!

The New West was like a little town: you could follow a walkway into it. All 12 groups on our board set up 22 booths in the New West part of the anniversary area.  We were on the football field: we had one side and one end zone.  Each booth was 10 by 10 feet.  A banner, 18 inches by 24 inches, hung on every booth, with the AZSciTech logo.

Five groups featured aeronautics, robotics, meteorology, and security, with lots of hands-on and interactive events like Up Up and Away, where kids built and flew paper airplanes.  Our local gas company let visitors light gas and see it blow up.  A resident with his own airplane parked it on the field, and we had a 60-foot solar balloon.

We gave visitors Passports to the New West.  If they participated in 10 experiments at the booths, they were eligible for donated prizes like iPads and trips, tickets, balsa-wood airplanes.

What will you do this year?

It will be easier this year because our board now comprises 20 organizations, and we have a mission and name recognition.   The festival certainly helped the Spot Museum, in that we have more visitors, especially to our robotics section.   It’s set up to interest everyone, regardless of age or ability.   The robotic arm is especially popular.  Older kids can design and build their own robot from recycled parts.  A 3-D wall features contemporary robots used by the military, medicine, prosthetics.   You’ll see more of that at Prescott SciTechFest 2014!

Any advice for a start-up science festival?

Start small!   Start with a board made up of 10 groups, a small core coalition of science-related groups committed to the idea.  Then add 10 more groups the following year.  And build on what’s already in place.  Is there an established music or anniversary or arts festival in the area to which you can add science?

2Ted Kraver

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

Educators need to embrace the long range transformation of the entire education system,  a 20th century school system.

Yesterday I watched an hour and a half web cast from the Hoover Institute that was over in 60 minutes. The main speaker was Joel Klein, reforming Superintendent of NYC Schools from 2003 to 2011.  I met Mr. Klein  when he visited Arizona to speak at a GVS  education conference at Skysong.  Mr. Klein is a lawyer and is currently executive vice president of News Corporation. Chester Finn, Jr. Sr. Fellow and President Emeritus of the Fordham Institute, Sr. Fellow of Hudson Institute was in a supporting role. Chester was a big help to us when we founded our Success Charter School in 1995 on 7th Street and Monte Vista.

http://edexcellence.net/events/joel-klein-on-lessons-of-hope-how-to-fix-our-schools will take you to the on video of Joel Klein’s presentation. Klein talked about his new memoir in book format, Lessons of Hope: How to Fix Our Schools, Harper 2014.

New York City Schools have the same student population count as Arizona’s 2100 public schools.  Joel Klein was tasked by Mayor Michael Blumberg to initiate reforms at the school level including creating 100 charter schools (AZ has over 500).  Another 500 new schools opened, many small and distinctive. Mr. Klein battled the status quo and political favoritism while installing an accountability system and giving principals greater authority. Student choice went up along with salaries for high performing teachers. The decline of NYC schools was halted and higher graduation rates, and improved test scores resulted.

I was disappointed. All the talk was qualitative. I had heard it all before from some reports on improving education that focus on a narrow set of aspects. I am a STEM’er and Joe Friday fan …” Just the facts maam.” What was the annual percentage decline before the reforms were made? What are the data and statistics on lower dropout rates and improved test scores? What were the salary increases and for what percentage of the teachers? How many of the 2000+ students had at least one grade level of sustained improvement?

National studies on academic performance data on small vs. large schools shows no significant difference. The data on charter vs traditional schools shows the same. The data does show that outstanding principals and teachers produce enhanced results. But there are a very limited number of high performers, and it takes them ten years on the job to reach this level.  I heard little on how the human resource system, external of New York City Schools, was going to deliver all-stars to the rest of the schools and classrooms.  Mr. Klein confirmed that only half of new teachers were in teaching careers by year five equivalent to the national average.

I am glad for NY City Schools that some progress was made. But until national thought leaders like Joel Klein and Chester Finn need to move out of their narrow areas of school reform. They and their colleagues need to embrace the long range transformation of the entire education system a 20th century school system. A non-improving system where 30 percent dropout, 40 percent graduate when not ready and grade inflation makes everyone look good in astronaut terms is not A-OK.

To cheer you up a bit after my STEM columnist bit,  try….  http://tinyurl.com/nv8juhq

2Ted Kraver

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

Educators need to embrace the long range transformation of the entire education system,  a 20th century school system.

Yesterday I watched an hour and a half web cast from the Hoover Institute that was over in 60 minutes. The main speaker was Joel Klein, reforming Superintendent of NYC Schools from 2003 to 2011.  I met Mr. Klein  when he visited Arizona to speak at a GVS  education conference at Skysong.  Mr. Klein is a lawyer and is currently executive vice president of News Corporation. Chester Finn, Jr. Sr. Fellow and President Emeritus of the Fordham Institute, Sr. Fellow of Hudson Institute was in a supporting role. Chester was a big help to us when we founded our Success Charter School in 1995 on 7th Street and Monte Vista.

http://edexcellence.net/events/joel-klein-on-lessons-of-hope-how-to-fix-our-schools will take you to the on video of Joel Klein’s presentation. Klein talked about his new memoir in book format, Lessons of Hope: How to Fix Our Schools, Harper 2014.

New York City Schools have the same student population count as Arizona’s 2100 public schools.  Joel Klein was tasked by Mayor Michael Blumberg to initiate reforms at the school level including creating 100 charter schools (AZ has over 500).  Another 500 new schools opened, many small and distinctive. Mr. Klein battled the status quo and political favoritism while installing an accountability system and giving principals greater authority. Student choice went up along with salaries for high performing teachers. The decline of NYC schools was halted and higher graduation rates, and improved test scores resulted.

I was disappointed. All the talk was qualitative. I had heard it all before from some reports on improving education that focus on a narrow set of aspects. I am a STEM’er and Joe Friday fan …” Just the facts maam.” What was the annual percentage decline before the reforms were made? What are the data and statistics on lower dropout rates and improved test scores? What were the salary increases and for what percentage of the teachers? How many of the 2000+ students had at least one grade level of sustained improvement?

National studies on academic performance data on small vs. large schools shows no significant difference. The data on charter vs traditional schools shows the same. The data does show that outstanding principals and teachers produce enhanced results. But there are a very limited number of high performers, and it takes them ten years on the job to reach this level.  I heard little on how the human resource system, external of New York City Schools, was going to deliver all-stars to the rest of the schools and classrooms.  Mr. Klein confirmed that only half of new teachers were in teaching careers by year five equivalent to the national average.

I am glad for NY City Schools that some progress was made. But until national thought leaders like Joel Klein and Chester Finn need to move out of their narrow areas of school reform. They and their colleagues need to embrace the long range transformation of the entire education system a 20th century school system. A non-improving system where 30 percent dropout, 40 percent graduate when not ready and grade inflation makes everyone look good in astronaut terms is not A-OK.

To cheer you up a bit after my STEM columnist bit,  try….  http://tinyurl.com/nv8juhq

 

2Chandler Science Spectacular

Science Writer:  Rita Standerfer               

On Friday, February 20, 2015, STEM will hit the streets of downtown Chandler as they launch their 4th Annual, Science Spectacular: A Night of Art & Science.  Each year the Downtown Art Walk grows to include even more vendors who come to share their skills and their wares to the city.  These artisans adeptly connect art to the sciences through their work. Local technology companies will be on hand to showcase their creativity and innovation through a STEM mindset.

These science crafters will provide exciting presentations with everything from glassblowing and craft brewing, to drawing and painting.  Stimulating, interactive hands-on activities will help attendees to better understand the world of science, which surrounds them in their everyday lives.  This is a great opportunity to see how STEM meets scientific facts and concepts through the arts.

These events are spearheaded by Vice Mayor Rick Heumann, who works with the Chandler Education Coalition to create interest in STEM and education.  The event continues to grow each year, as does the ingenuity and enthusiasm of participants.  The evening promises to be more than just an art exhibit, it is an enlightening adventure into the world of STEM.

The community will come to life starting at 6 p.m. and festivities will end at 10 p.m.

Pages