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Arizona SciTech Blog

This blog is courtesy of the Arizona SciTech Festival.

Guest Author: Ted Kraver, Ph.D.

We all espouse the goodness of effective science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Our country, state and the lives of many of our citizens have profited by the force of STEM on agriculture, transportation, communication and medicine. But we must also heed the warning of Yoda in George Lucas‘ Star Wars, “There is a dark side of the force.”

The United States market income gap is the largest of all developed companies according the International Monetary Fund (IMF). One percent (1%) percent of our citizens receive 19% of the US market income while the top 10% receive 48% of market income. The richest one tenth of percent (0.1 %) quadrupled in the size over past 10 years. Our poverty level was flat over the past ten (10) years at 11% but just counting children it is 22%.

The IMF addressed the folly of depending on economic growth to narrow the rich-poor gap. On the contrary, the IMF mathematical studies showed that income inequity drags down high growth and makes it unsustainable. The 2010 US Census shows there are about two dozen tiny high income regions with personal income medians sixty percent (60%) higher than the U.S. median ($51,900). Another study showed that almost all of the1%’ers live in these Islands and high quality education, great work opportunities and intermarriages that perpetuate their existence. This income gap also produces a longevity gap.

The highest average county income in the US is ($107,000) In Fairfax County Virginia. The average life expectancy is 84 years with little difference between genders. But 350 miles away in low income coal mining McDowell County in West Virginia the life expectancy is 69 with a 9 year spread between the gals outliving the guys. This study showed that it’s not money in the bank but money at work supporting jobs, exercise, medical decisions, food and housing that is making the difference.

The bright forces of STEM have taken our civilization from serfdom to where our poorest citizens have a life span and economic well-being that far surpasses the wealthy of by-gone days. But for several decades STEM has continued to benefit the fortunate while the unfortunate are remain mired in the past. Maybe turning once again to the vision source for STEM, science fiction, we can find a pathway out of this dilemma.

How about asking Captain James Tiberius Kirk of Star Trek fame? When Kirk was in training there was a problem solving a challenge called “Kobayashi Maru” that could not be solved. The reason the cadets were given an unsolvable problem was to check their character when facing impossible stress. Cadet James Kirk hacked into the training system and reprogramed the problem so it was solvable. The solution to the Fairfax/McDowell problem is to hack into the status-quo and do a radical redesign of our seven level education system. There two huge levers to pull. The first is to individualize the system so that every student is self-motivated to learn by his or her ever changing calling. The second is to open way for 21st century learning innovations by clearing away the restrictive systems laid down in the 19th and 20th centuries. The plethora of “James Kirk’s” in the system will do the rest.

Guest Author:  Uly Siregar (Ester Skiera), writer, AZ SciTech Festival

As the largest public university by enrollment in the country, Arizona State University has a very significant role in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. ASU, in fact, is a major research university that has a mission to create a model of the “New American University”—which means ASU is committed to excellence, access, and impact, and is measured by, “not who we exclude, but rather by who we include and how they succeed.”

But why is ASU best in Arizona for STEM education? The answer is, “Breadth of majors and out of classroom experiences available to students, not to mention partnership with cutting-edge research institutions allow for students to gain real-world experiences,” says Amelia Huggins, director, strategic marketing and communications, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development, Advancing Research, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Development, Arizona State University.

ASU can help the State of Arizona in advancing STEM and innovation. According to OKED’s 2014 Annual Research Report, ASU takes a highly entrepreneurial approach to university research; focusing on solving society’s biggest challenges. The power of ASU’s innovation ecosystem is its strategically built pipeline—in which use-inspired research base on fundamental discovery is steered to produce solutions that benefit society as well as produce a positive economic impact in Arizona and beyond.

Every element within ASU works hard to meet the institution’s mission and to pursue its defined goals. At ASU, there are always STEM-related achievements every day. The most recent one: educators and engineers team up to graduate more STEM-trained teachers. The collaboration was triggered by a request from Teachers College’s 23 school district partners statewide. It is important, of course, to provide more teachers who are trained in STEM subjects, especially for grades 7-12.

ASU supports clean technology. The university has just begun on the development of a hybrid concentrated solar system, following a contract signing with ASU and AORA. The collaboration is committed to provide research expertise to enhance the efficiency of green technology. In bringing new findings in energy, ASU Engineering Professor, Nate Newman, also aims to help create a more energy-efficient supercomputer.

Each of ASU’s personnel is remarkable in his field. ASU professor Ying-Cheng Lai and research partners are combining expertise in computer science, engineering, mathematics, statistics and physics in analyzing big data to explore human interest. As ASU news states, the brilliant researcher wants to see if it’s possible to identify patterns in what motivates people to become interested in particular things, what makes them maintain certain interests and what causes them to lose interest.

Creating innovators and entrepreneurs is one of ASU’s highest priorities. And this has to be built when the future innovators and entrepreneurs are still at school. For those, ASU has the MAKE Initiative. The MAKE Initiative transforms education to create a pipeline of makers and innovators from middle school years through students of diverse interests and career aspirations through MAKE Clubs—piloted in high school classrooms.

When it comes to STEM and the way to advance it, ASU will go further. ASU is also committed to other parties who share similar interests. For the Arizona SciTech Festival, that means partnership. “ASU is a Foundational Partner, involved since the beginning with the AZ SciTech Festival,” says Huggins. The decision about the partnership comes from the obvious reason. “To help advance the SciTech Festival’s mission to advance and promote STEM research and fields across Arizona for students and the public,” she adds. In return, the Festival helps to promote and share the wealth of research happening across the university. As you might say, the partnership is the perfect formula for a winning collaboration in advancing STEM! 

Guest Author: Roy Smolens, writer, AZ SciTech Festival

It’s time to unleash your creative STEM passions! Come on out to the ASU West campus and join the celebration of sciences, engineering, humanities and the arts with the ASU volunteers and Arizona families on Saturday, April 5, 2014 from 11:00am – 2:00pm. Open Door @ ASU West is yet another part of the engaging participation by ASU and another Signature Event of the AZ SciTech Festival.

Open Door @ ASU West offers yet another peek inside the creative windows of ASU. See for yourself and experience the infectious energy that powers a world-class university. This event offers teachers, kids, parents and life-long learners a multitude of events and activities, from math and the natural sciences, to arts, humanities and from computing, cultural studies to behavioral sciences and even the statewide Rubik's cube competition.

Open Door @ ASU West is a collaboration of ASU's New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences and supported by partners Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and the W.P. Carey School of Business. If you missed this event last year, do not miss this opportunity to go behind the scenes and discover everything that ASU West has to offer.

Come and unleash your creative STEM passions!  Events range from the Sonia Kovalevsky High School Mathematics Day (a surefire opportunity to engage young girls in a day of networking, mentoring, and fun science), the Cyber Security Challenge (test your cyber security skills by detecting and analyzing cyber-attacks, patching network vulnerabilities from virus/worm packets) or you could create your own comic book or graphic novel. If you missed this event last year, do not miss it this year. This “best of the West” event has it all – and more!

Guest Author: Ted Kraver, Ph.D.

We can find a common core for any entity or process.  Steel making requires a common core of iron ore and carbon and specific furnace heat temperatures over time. Aircraft require propulsion, stability and control, lifting wings, load carrying structure, and places to land and takeoff. Clocks must deliver time information in as readable data.  K-12 education Common Core standards are driving changes in curriculum, assessment and practice changes of one AZ SciTech Festival STEM aspect: mathematics. Vital to STEM education, English language arts will also be changed by Common Core.  

I attended meetings in our nation’s capital several years ago where educators and policy wonks from many states presented their work on the Common Core project for math and English. The Next Generation of Science Standards draft was released in 2013 by a consortium of 26 states including Arizona supported the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and National Research Council. This work furthers the AZSciTech mission on a broad basis by also integrating engineering design with scientific inquiry. The Science standards are aligned with Common Core math and English implementation.

There has been a political hullabaloo in Arizona about Common Core being pushed on the states from the federal level. Not so! Common Core was created by state educators and national associations and adopted state by state, as it should be.

Common Core addresses only part of the common core of our K-12 education system. This interlocked and transforming system has seven major entities: federal/national, state, county/regional, district/charter operator, school, classroom, and nexus of student/parent/teacher. Our K-12 education system has a very complex common core plays out over three infrastructures: physical, intellectual and governance. Physical includes facilities and equipment, broadband telecom, data storage, and computer based interfaces. Intellectual includes digital curriculum, decision support real time assessment, and education and training for highly skilled and knowledgeable teachers and leaders. Governance addresses statutes, rules, research, standards and champions of innovative transformation.

Common Core standards have an approximately ten year cycle from birth to maturity, and 2014 is the midpoint year. Broadband connectivity and data has been championed for two decades by a number of governance entities including non-profits. Arizona is now recognized as a leading state. Plans are in place for a final push from the Arizona Strategic Enterprise Technology Office.  We could have broadband to every student learning interface by 2019. Arizona’s Department of Education has a US leading data system that is being extended to schools to support teacher-student learning nexus with real-time decision support. Districts and schools are building on their long time experience with sparsely populated desktop and laptops to embrace emerging technology of touch-pads. Low weight, cost and power will eventually provide every student school and home with an effective learning interface. Like railroads and highways, the physical infrastructure of education must be in place to enjoy the fruits of the intellectual infrastructure. Arizona leads the nation adopting K-12 physical infrastructure.

But to seize this opportunity Governance infrastructure must enact and fund supporting statues, rules and standards that support K-12 innovation across all of the common core areas. Teachers and leaders need tech-industry level of investment for their education, professional development and training including by tech-industry compensation levels. Pathetic federal research funding for digital curriculum must be increased by a factor of 20 if the national education industry is to produce effective individualized digital curriculum with integrated decision support for all 150 of the current courses taught within the K-12 spectrum. System champions must arise and collaborate if a century old system education is to transform for the next century.

Common Core is leading the charge to initiate the transformation of K-12 educations common core. Is the tipping point upon us? We will find out during the next 5 years. 

Guest Author:  Uly Siregar (Ester Skiera)

What is avionics all about? Not everyone is familiar with the term and some might guess that it’s something to do with airplanes. There’s no question that science is a definite behind avionics.  In fact, avionics is the electronic systems used on aircrafts. For example, how do you land a plane in the dark or in bad weather? Avionics is the answer.

The City of Cottonwood Airport and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University held a Festival event to learn more about avionics. Visitors learned about and heard the explanation of why a plane can fly, or what does an Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS) really do. We’ve all met people who are scared to fly or, perhaps you are one of them.  This event featured avionics so that it outlined what makes flying one of the safest transportations. Yes, this, plus robotics were featured as part of The Science of Avionics at the Cottonwood Airport & Embry-Riddle University on March 25th.

The event was part of the week-long Verde Valley SciTech Festival involving several area cities, towns, schools, colleges and universities and local businesses. “Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and North-Aire Aviation in collaboration with the City of Cottonwood Airport displayed some of their training planes,” states Jesus “Rudy” Rodriguez, administrative services general manager, City of Cottonwood.

There was a lot to see. The Science of Avionics answered the public’s curiosity. “The pilots of the planes were available to show the public how the avionics assist in keeping them safe and secure in the air. Local pilots were also available to explain the technology that goes into the airport’s new Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS) that was recently installed at the location,” Rodriguez states. This system can also be accessed by going to http://www.digiwx-cottonwood.com/

The Science of Avionics was an event for young adults (16-21) involving a workshop and discussions. But all ages were invited.

The Science of Avionics was part of Verde Valley SciTech Festival. The free event took place on March 25, 2014, at Cottonwood Municipal Airport. 

Guest Author: John Drury [*Image: LSA-V45 (Land Sea Air Vehicle) Simulator based] 

The origin of this concept came in 2007, after reading an article about the jet streams and ocean currents that can be affected by climate change, man made or otherwise. These effects could be brought about by deforestation, burning fossil fuels for 100 plus years, the urban heat island effects of cities, pollution etc. That article motivated me to create a “ride” around that air and water flow to both educate kids and adults and thrill them simultaneously. Whether that experience would be a real “iron” ride or one simulated would be determined by size, design, narrative and cost. The sketch of the Globe Roamer shows riders in small airplanes attached to a track that would replicate the jet stream and ocean currents. This arrangement would limit the storyline to what you would see and feel traveling along the guide rail. For that reason the simulator version would be preferable and much more flexible. Different storylines could be interchanged through software integrated into the AV systems in the simulator cabin. Riding with a group in the land-sea-air vehicle LSA-V45 you would take a trip within the jet stream, dive into the depths of the oceans and emerge again on land. I believe one can see the potential for such an attraction as both a themed entertainment and a themed education mechanism. See link for latest article on El Nino and El Nina that prompted me to revive this concept for this article!




Guest Author:  Roy Smolens 

Each year schools throughout the state select their most notable scholars to present their research at AzSEF and be recognized for their efforts. Winners are represented at the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair (ISEF), the world's largest international pre-college science competition. The Arizona Science Center is proud to organize this year’s Arizona Science and Engineering Fair (AzSEF), established in 2007 as a state-wide science competition for grades 5-12. The 2014 Arizona Science and Engineering Fair (AzSEF) will take place Monday, March 31, 2014 through Wednesday, April 2, 2014, from from 9:00am-5:00pm each day.

“With the emphasis of the AzSEF on inspiring, educating and entertaining people of all ages about science, the Arizona Science Center is in perfect alignment with Arizona Science and Engineering Fair's mission and goals," says Steven G. Zylstra, president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council. "The Arizona Technology Council Foundation is proud of the role it has played in helping AzSEF reach its current level of success and will continue to enthusiastically support its outreach and expansion."

The Arizona Science and Engineering Fair encourages a sustained vitality of the state-wide celebration of STEM. There will be plenty of opportunities to hear from the some of the State’s best young scientists and share in their passions in biochemistry, medicine, health and so much more!  While AzSEF hosts hearly 1500 students from every corner of the state, more than 10,000 students will have competed in AzSEF pre-qualifying county fairs for the opportunity to present their research in Phoenix!

So bring out your young scientists, your fledging researchers or your inquisitive family members to one of the preminent science and engineering fairs in the State – you will not regret that you did! Make a day out of it and hop on the Light Rail (save on gasoline and parking fees) and enjoy what downtown Phoenix has to offer. . .

Guest Author: Roy Smolens, writer, Arizona SciTech Festival

STEM is clearly an important part of every community and Flagstaff Unified School District is proud to announce an inaugural event and celebrate Flagstaff’s becoming America’s 1st STEM Community!

The Flagstaff Unified School District (FUSD) has orchestrated a celebration that has brought together Flagstaff’s public, charter and private schools for an incredible celebration and hands-on demonstrations of STEM. Please come out and join the fun at the Flagstaff Community STEM Celebration on Wednesday April 2nd from 5:30 – 7:30 pm at the J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome at NAU. STEM is clearly an important part of every community and FUSD is proud to announce this inaugural event and celebrate Flagstaff’s becoming America’s 1st STEM Community!

Participants in this event include all the K-12 schools in Flagstaff, Coconino Community College, NAU, STEM-related businesses and government entities.  Each school will have two tables, one with a static display and one with an interactive activity.  There will be LEGO robotics demonstrations by elementary and middle schools, as well as the world famous CocoNuts. Hundreds of booths will have displays, activities, and the opportunity to talk to the community members in attendance.

The idea for a large STEM Celebration occurred to FUSD District Relations Coordinator Karin Eberhard envisioned a more inclusive STEM community - gathering all the FUSD, charter and private schools in Flagstaff in a single location where they could see all the STEM opportunities that were available in the area. Eberhard said, “The students get to showcase what they do, which is always a good thing. And for our older students, they’ll get to see what’s available in Flagstaff to stay for, or if they go away to college, to come back for.”

The Flagstaff community has embraced a future of the United States that depends heavily on science, technology, engineering, and math. Mobilizing the STEM workforce requires considerable collaboration between the private and public sectors, careful communication about the importance of STEM, and changing the culture related to the fields. That’s exactly what the Community of Flagstaff, as America’s first STEM City has come together to achieve.

Flagstaff recognizes its role as a leader in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) in its Education, Business and Governance. Flagstaff-area sponsors of this event number more than 60 and include APS, Suddenlink, Northern Arizona University (NAU) and Flagstaff STEM City. This inaugural event has garnered support from all corners of the Flagstaff community. This collaboration from government agencies to schools and businesses will blow you away. Eberhard reports, “…We’re up to over 60 participating organizations and people are still contacting us, asking, ‘How do we get in this?’”

Find a way to get this event in your schedule and participate in one the State’s more innovative and collaborative STEM events! Expose your children, family and friends to a community that values a celebration of STEM. This is truly a demonstration of STEM education and opportunities for students and Flagstaff and FUSD have facilitated this for the community. 

Guest Author: Rita Marko, Phoenix Public Library/Community Relations

Phoenix Public Library, in partnership with the Arizona Science Center, will host a celebration to launch Sasha and Rodney Glassman’s newest book in their Jeremy Jackrabbit series, “Jeremy Jackrabbit Captures the Sun,” 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 12, 2014 at the Arizona Science Center, located at 600 E. Washington.
Illustrated by children from throughout the metropolitan area, including Scottsdale, Laveen, Chandler and Phoenix, more than 52,000 copies of the book will be distributed free of charge to every kindergarten student in Maricopa County. Councilwoman Laura Pastor and Councilwoman Kate Gallego will read the book at the event after which the young artists will be available to sign the pages in the book which they illustrated.

Sasha Glassman is an attorney and member of the Madison Elementary School District Governing Board. Rodney Glassman, PhD in arid land resource sciences and former Tucson city councilman, is an attorney with Ryley Carlock & Applewhite.

The Glassmans’ first book, “Jeremy Jackrabbit Harvests the Rain,” was illustrated by children in Tucson and distributed to kindergarten students in Tucson Unified School District. Their second book, “Jeremy Jackrabbit Recycles the Can,” was the subject of a 2012 illustration contest in partnership with the library. More than 46,000 copies of the book were distributed to Phoenix area kindergarten students in April 2013.

The project is supported by UFCW, First Solar, Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 469, The Arizona Republic, Phoenix Firefighters Union, AEA, MCESA, City of Tempe, ASU-GIOS, Chandler Education Foundation, Lifelock, Freeport McMoRan, ASU Foundation and the Madison Education Foundation. For more information about the Jeremy Jackrabbit book series, visit http://www.jeremyjackrabbit.com/.

For more information about the event, call 602-262-4636 or visit http://www.phoenixpubliclibrary.org/. Phoenix Public Library is a system of 16 branch libraries and the Burton Barr Central Library. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/phxlibrary and “like” us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/phoenixpubliclibrary.