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Arizona SciTech Blog

This blog is courtesy of the Arizona SciTech Festival.

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.

2STEM Matters

STEM Matters Manager: Marisa Ostos 

Although some may find it less perturbing than others, certain sounds such as the squeak of styrofoam or the scrape of nails of a chalkboard can make someone squirm to the edge of their seat. Perhaps you are one of those people, but have you ever stopped to wonder why that may be?

Amazingly enough, research has been done studying this exact thing (and yes, research participants have had to listen to these sounds in the name of science). When you hear the sound of nails on a chalkboard, you might imagine that the high pitch of this sound is what causes us to cringe in our seats. However, a study done in 1986 found that it was the medium-pitched frequencies in this sound, rather than the higher pitches, that brings about our reaction.

More recently, research has found that the frequencies of these unpleasant sounds that lie between 2,000 and 4,000 Hertz may be the cause, rather than the actual “scrape” of the sound. This frequency is also the frequency at which we speak, oddly enough. Our own ear canals are shaped in a certain way which help to amplify sounds within the 2,000 to 4,000 Hertz range, so it is possible that unpleasant sounds are also amplified in our ear because of this.

What’s interesting to note that in doing research, these sounds were found less difficult to listen to when they were associated with a different source. For example, if some participants listened to the nails-on-a-chalkboard sound and were told the source, while others were told that this same sound was from a musical composition, people tended to react less. It is also interesting to note that the body does physically react to these sounds: Skin conductivity, which is a way to help measure your body’s stress-levels, does change significantly when you listen to these sounds.

Now, if all you can do is try your best not to think about these horrendous sounds as you read the article, here’s a bit of a positive note. Because scientists are actually doing research on this subject matter, steps are being taken to eventually reduce the frequencies of these sounds in everyday life, including “factory machinery, vacuum cleaners, and construction equipment,” to name a few. Let’s give a high-five to science!

*Source: Geere, Duncan, “Why Fingernails on Blackboards Sound So Horrible,” Wired UK.

Guest Author: Roy W. Smolens Jr., science writer, Arizona SciTech

Smolens picture1Be sure to pack up the kids, car enthusiast friends, family and dogs and head to downtown Phoenix for this head-turner of a free event – on February 7th from 10:00am-4:00pm, the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department will hoSmolens picture2st the 8th annual classic car show. “Motoring Thru Time: Where the Transportation Past Meets the Future”.
It is held annually at the Heritage Square, Phoenix’ own “past meets the present” block of downtown space.

Smolens picture3Have you thought of transportation as art, design, technology and or innovation? Well, here is where STEM innovation meets nostalgia, art, design and history! Early automobile technology and science will be out in force with more than 100 vehicles [cars, motorcycles, bicycles, fire engines, travel trailers] on display with a lovely backdrop of early Phoenix architecture providing a wonderful location to appreciate innovation throughout transportation history.

In addition, Heritage Square includes some of Phoenix’s oldest homes. The Phoenix Parks and Smolens picture4Recreation Department do a wonderful job of transporting you back to 1895 “downtown Phoenix”. The Rosson House Museum is a 10-room, 1895 Victorian home on what used to be known as Block 14 during the days when Arizona was a territory. Heritage Square includes other historic homes and buildings but the juxtaposition of the world-class restaurants and the modern architecture of the Arizona Science Center and Phoenix Museum of History and Science truly make this location a STEM wonder.

Smolens picture5Heritage Square & Science Park, a facility of the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department, is located at 6th St. & Monroe in downtown Phoenix. It’s within walking distance of light rail stations at 3rd St. & Washington/Jefferson and Central/1st Ave. and Van Buren.

Event info / details: goo.gl/j5z0zO

2Glendale Chocolate Affaire

Guest Author: Lisa Herrmann, science writer, Arizona SciTech

Nationally the confectionary industry spends over 2.3 billion dollars a year transporting and processing 1.9 billion pounds of cocoa beans from Central and South America to make the billions of chocolate treats exchanged throughout our US economy. We love our chocolate.  But scientists debate the root of that love.

The physics and chemistry of cocoa beans and cocoa products (also known as cacao, but not to be confused with coca!) are very complex. Thus, chocolate varies significantly based on the growth environment of its cocoa and the processing received. But all chocolate contains the alkaloids theobromine, phenethylamine and caffeine. These have physiological effects on the body, such as alertness. Theobromine is also a vasodilator and is linked to serotonin levels in the brain, which is associated with feelings of love.

Chocolatiers however, believe the love of chocolate comes from the care with which they transform basic cocoa products into candy. This process starts with blending, in varying amounts, the sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor and any additional flavorings or milk products that result in variations such as dark chocolate, milk chocolate, or white chocolate.  The texture is also heavily influenced by the conching process which produces cocoa and sugar particles smaller than the tongue can detect, hence the smooth feel in the mouth. Tempering chocolate is a heat treatment method performed on chocolate involving heating and cooling the chocolate to result in shininess and the ‘snap’, or way it breaks. A chocolatier must know how to take chocolate through all of these processes to produce the characteristics that will induce our desire for the product.

So is it the the obromine’s effect on our brain, or it just the fact that it tastes to good? Conduct your own research at the 20th Annual Glendale Chocolate Affair, Friday, Jan. 30 and Saturday, Jan. 31. The Arizona SciTech Festival will be hosting its own area focused on the ‘Science of Chocolate,’ investigating all the complexities of our love affair with this marvelous substance. Event hours are Friday noon – 10 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m.- 10 p.m. The event is located in the heart of Historic Downtown Glendale, in Murphy Park, located at 58th and Glendale avenues.

Chandler Science Spectacular Logo Science (2)

Guest Interviewer: Ann Marie Cunningham, for Arizona SciTech

Interviewee: Rick Heuman, vice mayor, Chandler, Arizona, which hosts Chandler Science Spectacular

How did you get involved in AZSciTechFest?

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

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

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

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

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

What does the Chandler Science Spectacular involve?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Guest Author: Lisa Herrmann, science writer, Arizona SciTech

Formed originally in 1903, SRP was one of Arizona’s earliest STEM industry leaders, and since that time, it has continued to support citizen understandings of the water/power nexus so unique to our state. SRP has demonstrated a deep commitment to STEM education in Arizona through a breadth of corporate contributions over the years, such as with its Silver Level sponsorship of the Arizona SciTech Festival and multiple avenues of investment in the state’s teachers and classrooms. SRP utilizes its expertise and human resources through in-kind services and volunteer assistance and also funds scholarships, teacher grants, and a variety of educational support programs.

Kevin Rolfe, SRP’s Community Outreach Education Representative, recognizes the challenges of today’s classroom teacher, and explains that their program offerings are a way of supporting teachers and their critical work. SRP funds some aspects of teaching programs at the three state universities, but Rolfe’s main emphasis is providing trainings and resources for in-service K-12 teachers. ‘We offer 24-26 free workshops each year, generally for 4 hours on a Saturday. These teachers receive the training and hands-on materials they can take back and directly apply in the classrooms.’ With some workshop programs, SRP also includes mini-grants for purchasing additional materials. Not surprisingly, workshop topics include electricity and water education, but many also have a sustainability focus. ‘Our workshop on solar energy discusses the challenges with this energy source, but also the advancements’, Rolfe describes. Four day workshops for teachers offered during the summer have included topics of energy, land use impacts, and climate change.

Free teacher training, free teacher resources, including full classroom sets, and grants for classroom needs are all available by connecting with SRP online: www.srpnet.com/education.

Guest Author: Roy W. Smolens, Jr., science writer, Arizona SciTech

Are you ready to jump into the game? In case you missed it, the 2015 Super Bowl will be played at the Roy picture1University of Phoenix stadium. The Arizona Science Center is hosting the most extensive exhibition ever built about America’s most popular sport, “Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.” This exhibit tells a remarkable story of the game – how it has evolved and how it has found a place in the conscience of the nation. This groundbreaking exhibition will be held daily, 10:00am-5:00pm, from January through May, 2015.

Roy picture2The Pro Football Hall of Fame, as part of its 50th Anniversary celebration, is currently touring the largest traveling football exhibition. Featuring NFL Films video footage and a series of interactive displays, Gridiron Glory tackles the science behind the game. With over 200 of the rarest artifacts from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including legendary gear, photos, and documents chronicling the cultural phenomenon that is football today.  The exhibit captures the essence of the Hall of Fame experience.
Many of the artifacts are being exhibited for the first time. This interactive multimedia experience also includes new material from NFL Films, immersive fan experiences and a specially-designed “Hometown Tribute” section to spotlight the local teamRoy picture3. “We’re always looking for new and innovative ways to extend the experience of the Hall of Fame beyond our walls in Canton,” said Joe Horrigan, vice president-communications/exhibits at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

This window into time, charts the history of the game, artifacts including a 100-year-old leather Roy picture4helmet, early versions of the football, a Tiffany’s-crafted Vince Lombardi Trophy, game balls and jerseys. One exhibit focuses on technological breakthroughs, including ones that failed, while another examines the broader cultural implications of the game, such as efforts to integrate African-Americans into the previously all-white league.

Whether you’re a child or an adult, male or female, there’s a lot here to learn about the history and science of football.

*Daily from 10:00am-5:00pm from January through May, 2015 Info: azscience.org  Tel.: (602) 716-2000


Roy picture5  Roy picture6  Roy picture7

Por Carmen Cornejo, Coordinadora STEM con la comunidad Hispana

Sabemos que tenemos buenas historias que contar.  Nosotros sabemos de héroes anónimos, gente común y corriente realizando trabajos extraordinarios que los distingue y los convierte en ejemplos a seguir por otros.  Nosotros en Arizona, también sabemos que frecuentemente las cosas son difíciles, pero a pesar de esto, nos las ingeniamos para realizar trabajos con éxito y cumplir con nuestra misión.

Una de nuestras historias está programada para debutar en la pantalla de plata. Spare Parts es la historia de ficción basada en los hechos reales del club de robótica de la escuela High School Carl Hayden y de cómo ese equipo le ganó a estudiantes de las mejores universidades del país en una competencia de robots bajo el agua.  La película comenzará a exhibirse en Enero  16 a través de la nación, después de una emocionante premier en Enero 6en los cines Tempe Harkins Theaters 16.

La película, estelarizada y producida por el comediante George López cuenta la historia de 4 jóvenes inmigrantes de la escuela High School al oeste de Phoenix quienes, guiados por un maestro llamado Fredi Cameron, logran competir en contra de los estudiantes de las más importantes universidades del país en una competencia de robos bajo el agua.  Nosotros en Arizona sabemos que  “Fredi Cameron” es un personaje de película, compuesto por los maestros de la vida real  Fredi Lajvardi y Dr. Allan Cameron, quienes por décadas se han dedicado a enseñar promover la ciencia y tecnología.

También estelarizando en Spare Parts están los actores  Marisa Tomei, Jamie Lee Curtis, y jóvenes actores que dan vida en la pantalla a Lorenzo Santillán, Luis Aranda, Cristian Arcega  and Oscar Vázquez.

La película viene después de múltiples exhibiciones exitosas del documental  Underwater Dreams dirigido por  Mary Mazzio, quien lleva la saga de los 4 de Carl Hayden en gran detalle además de lo que pasa en la vida de los protagonistas después de la competencia y los efectos transformadores de sus acciones una década atrás. También existe un libro a la venta llamado Spare Parts por el escritor Josh Davies el cual está adquiriendo buenas críticas.

La mejor parte de todo es que son nuestras historias.  Todos nosotros que apoyamos la educación en las áreas de ciencia y tecnología nos encontramos con chicos como los de Carl Hayden en las escuelas de nuestras comunidades: llenos de talento y de potencial. Nosotros trabajamos, damos nuestro tiempo como voluntarios y/o pertenecemos a consejos de organizaciones para ayudar a aquellos que podrían verse como “de bajos recursos” y los ayudamos a sacar su mayor potencial,  aun en campos tan difíciles como los de ciencia, tecnología ingeniería y matemáticas (STEM).

Así que ésta es nuestra oportunidad de celebrar en grande, ir al cine, recomendar el documental, el libro y seguir trabajando.

By Carmen Cornejo, Hispanic Community Outreach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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