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Arizona SciTech Blog

This blog is courtesy of the Arizona SciTech Festival.

Food for thought for fledgling STEM Enthusiasts 

Editor: Macrina Cooper-White


“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space 


Guest Art Contributor: John R. Drury, Drury Design Arts 

2STEM Matters

You’ve probably heard that you weigh less on the moon, but do you understand why this is? It all has to do with something you may have seen before: F=ma is one of the most common equations found in a Physics classroom. F stands for “force,” for “mass,” and a for “acceleration.”

Every object and person has a certain Mass (m), and this mass does not change regardless of where you are in the universe (Would your body shape and size suddenly change if you traveled to the moon? Of course not!). Acceleration (a) in this equation represents “gravity,” while Force (F) represents your own “weight” (Yes, your weight is a force). The equation F=ma shows that there is a direct relationship between your weight (F), your body-mass (m) and gravity (a). Because we’re exploring why you may weigh differently on a place like the moon, we can assume that your body-mass (m) remains constant and doesn’t change. What’s left to look at in the “F=ma” equation? Your weight (F) and gravity (a)!

With this, we can see that your weight (F) depends on the gravity (a) of an astronomical body such as the moon. If a celestial body’s gravity increases, so will your own weight! Since Jupiter is our solar system’s planet with the strongest gravity, you will weigh more on Jupiter than any other planet. Because the moon’s gravity is less than Earth’s gravity, you’ll weigh less on the moon than on Earth. Of course, you may have already known that gravity affects your weight, but now you have the tools to explain the math and physics behind it!

Source: Universe Today, STEM Matters Manager: Marisa Ostos

Guest Author: Carmen Cornejo, Hispanic Community Liaison, AZ SciTech Festival

Any given Saturday, during the school year, students and mentors get together at Galveston Elementary to enthusiastically work on algebra, calculus, physics, chemistry and robotics. Young students practice solving problems and equations, writing their responses on whiteboards while being guided by college students.

The young students belong to the Si Se Puede Foundation STEM Program and which has partnered with the Chandler –Gilbert Community College and the Chandler Unified School District to work in extra-curricular programs to enhance their instruction. All come from district schools with a high percentage of children who are economically disadvantaged. Si Se Puede Foundation offers these extra-curricular activities free of charge.

Currently the program has 85 students attending the STEM programs.

You can feel the excitement in the air. Every child is filled with knowledge and confidence to tackle problems, some of them above their grade level.

At the end of the math sessions they will go into robot building mode with Legos Mindstorms to top a morning filled with learning and excitement.

“Si Se Puede Foundation is giving inspiration (through our robotics program) to pursue careers in STEM, but we also want to be provide them with tools to succeed in math so they can make the connection between inspiration and academic rigor.” We want to give them the right formula for success, says Alberto Esparza, President and CEO.

I call that inspiration + perspiration.

“It is so fun to see the students getting excited to take on calculus or chemistry problems individually or as a group. We have a significant group of girls in our program because we want to encourage them to enter these fields,” says Esparza.

Si Se Puede college students and professors who lead the calculus sessions, come, thanks to a partnership with the Chandler Gilbert Community College, and the Arizona State University Mexican American Engineering and Scientists student group.

“For the parents we create an environment where the children can be out of trouble while they learn. We want to provide our children innovative opportunities and not just a basketball and a baloney sandwich to pass the time,” Esparza says.

Autora invitada: Carmen Cornejo, Coordinadora de Audiencias Hispanas, AZ SciTech Fest & dueña de Criticalmassc.com

Cualquier sábado durante el año escolar, estudiantes y mentores se reúnen en la escuela elemental Galveston de Chandler para, con mucho entusiasmo, trabajar resolviendo problemas de álgebra, cálculo, física, química y practicar en proyectos de robótica. Los jovencitos practican escribiendo animadamente sus respuestas en pizarrones blancos mientras son guiados por estudiantes universitarios.

Los chicos pertenecen al programa de Ciencia y Tecnología (STEM) de la Fundación Si Se Puede, el cual ha asociado al colegio comunitario de Chandler –Gilbert y al distrito escolar Chandler Unified School District para apoyar la instrucción de los jovencitos en dichas aéreas. Todos los jovencitos asistentes vienen de escuelas del distrito con gran porcentaje de estudiantes cuyos hogares son considerados de bajos recursos. La Fundación Si Se Puede ofrece estas actividades extra-curriculares gratuitamente.

Actualmente la fundación tiene 85 estudiantes asistiendo estos programas de STEM.

Tú puedes sentir la emoción dentro del ambiente. Cada chico y chica se llenan de conocimiento y confianza de poder resolver problemas, algunos hasta más difíciles de los requeridos en su nivel escolar.

Al final de las sesiones de matemáticas, ellos procederán a la sesión de construcción de robots, usando Legos Mindstorms (MR) para culminar una mañana llena de entusiasmo y aprendizaje.

“La Fundacion Si Se Puede está ofreciendo la inspiración, a través de nuestro programa de robótica, de comenzar carreras en Ciencia y Tecnología (STEM), pero también queremos proveerles las herramientas para tener éxito en matemáticas para que ellos hagan la conexión entre la inspiración y el rigor académico. Queremos darles la formula correcta de éxito”, dijo Alberto Esparza Presidente de la Fundación.

Yo llamo a eso inspiración + perspiración.

“Es tan divertido ver a los estudiantes emocionados y trabajar en problemas de cálculo o química, individualmente o en grupo. Tenemos un grupo considerable de niñas, porque nuestro programa quiere animarlas a que entren en esos campos de conocimiento y tengan un mejor futuro”, dijo Alberto.

Los estudiantes y profesores universitarios que colaboran con la Fundación Si Se Puede vienen gracias a la asociación lograda con el colegio comunitario de Chandler Gilbert y el grupo estudiantil Mexican American Engineering and Scientists (MAES) de la Universidad Estatal de Arizona (ASU).

“Para los padres creamos un ambiente donde los niños no se meten en problemas y no están en las calles, mientras aprenden. Queremos proveerles oportunidades innovadoras a los chicos y chicas, no sólo darles una pelota y un sándwich de bologna para pasar el tiempo”, finalizó Alberto.

Guest Author: Ted Kraver, Ph.D.

When I arrived in Arizona just out of college for my first STEM job, the politicians, economists and business folks were pitching Arizona’s five C’s. All five were “in your face” industries in the early 60’s. As my wife and I came into Arizona for the first time we drove down through the Globe-Miami area. We saw the weirdest looking high hills that came right up to the roadway. Later I learned they were the tailings from COPPER mining and extracting. I bought my first home a few days after arriving in East Mesa. It had a north facing picture window with a view of farm land and the mountains. A few days later I heard the roar of a radial engine. I turned and my picture window was filled with a bi-plane coming right at me – shades of WWI. Before I could even duck it pulled up over my house and turned for its next dusting pass on the COTTON field. Every road we drove on in East Mesa seemed to be bordered by massive CITRUS orchards – oranges, grapefruit and lemons with an occasional Roadrunner darting in front of the car. We would attend meetings and someone was always trying to give away fruit from the citrus trees new home builders had left on their lots. When my mother first visited, she stepped out of the door of the plane onto the boarding stairs. A ghastly look came over her face and she turned to go back inside. She was hit by not only the 110 degree heat but the stench from the CATTLE stockyards, just north of Sky Harbor airport. The final C was our unique CLIMATE. The one main reason I was not tempted to leave Arizona is that I have never really gotten the chill out of my bones. I was reared in northern Ohio within the “lake-effect” blizzards south of Cleveland and the biting cold during college in Massachusetts.

The five C’s are still with us but new economic drivers are now touted as the five T’s by our governance folks. The T’s are less physically obvious compared to the C’s and are still being sorted out.

When a sophisticated economic or business presentation is made, it usually focuses on TECHNOLOGY. Technology is not only one of the core STEM themes, but well over a thousand Arizona technology based enterprises in aerospace, defense, telecommunication, electronics, computers, data, microchips, optics, biotech, energy, healthcare and software have grown to global prominence. Enhancing and filling the gaps in our TRANSPORTATION system of highway, rail, air, pipeline and broadband telecommunication is vital for our commerce and industry and pursuit of happiness by our citizens. The five C’s climate was mainly TOURISM which is still strong. With switch from evaporative coolers of the 1950’s to air conditioners of today, Arizona is now a year round attraction from the high country to our deserts. Our biggest five T’s challenge is TEACHING/TRAINING. We have exemplar schools, public and private universities, and training for our workforce. But exemplars don’t scale by themselves. Only with significant new investments in the $billions can we graduate 100,000 STEM savvy students each year and significantly shrink our high drop-out rates in all schools. A major investment in the transformation of our Arizona job training system to serve our 21st century five T system is also mandatory. Finally Arizona’s complex TAX and public investment system must be redesigned and transformed into a 21st century system. Only then can Arizona realize our potential as nation leading state.

I will miss the fun I have had with the five C’s. But I am looking for to a reprise of the aggressive collaboration that our ranch, farm, mine, power, road and canal folks had to bring Arizona into the economic main stream a century ago. It is up to the follow-on generations of governance, education, business and technology folks to work together for Arizona to benefit from the emerging five T’s.

By Judy Nichols

About 20 middle- and high-school students from the Phoenix area – participants in the Aviation Career Education (ACE) Academy – used flight simulators, learned about piston engines and even used riveters on a recent visit to the aviation program at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University.

The ACE Academy is sponsored by the Archer Ragsdale Arizona Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., and the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals.

The campus tour, hosted annually by ASU, was facilitated by Jim Anderson, a senior research scientist in the School for the Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, and a retired Southwest Airlines captain.

“We want to expose the young students to college education,” said Larry “Jet” Jackson, director of the Academy, who had a 20-year career as a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force and is now a captain for Southwest Airlines. Jackson and Anderson knew each in the Air Force, and regularly share their experiences with youth.

“Aviation is just the hook,” Jackson said. “Some of the students may be interested in aviation, others may not be. We want to encourage them in the STEM areas: science, technology, engineering and math.”

Earlier in the day, the students visited Southwest Airlines at Sky Harbor Airport where they saw a Boeing 737 up close, and learned job interviewing skills and airline operations. They also visited Luke Air Force Base to see the military side of aviation and military life. The ACE program culminated with Young Eagles flights provided by the Experimental Aircraft Association at Glendale Airport.

“For many of the students, this is the first time they’ve seen anything like this,” Jackson said. “They have no idea what’s under the hood of a car or inside a jet engine. Seeing things in a book is one thing, seeing them in a classroom or lab means a heck of a lot more.”

When you hear the very first seconds of The Beatles' "Let It Be" or Debussy's "Clair de Lune," you'll know what songs they are by their famous first chords. But what makes those chords, or groups of notes played together, sound so wonderful? Why do some chords sound not as pleasant as others? The answer lies in math. Centuries ago, the Greeks found out that the ratio of string lengths to each other determine "good" and "bad" sound: "If the lengths of the strings were in ratios of small whole numbers, such as 2:1 (an octave), 3:2 (fifths), or 5:4 (a third)" then that is when chords made by strings will sound "pleasant." What's interesting to see is that if you look at a guitar, you'll notice that the string's overall length, thickness, and even tension are different from eachother. These differences, along with the proper string setup of course, are all related to math, and are what help to make instruments such as the guitar make such beautiful music! What a wonder math is! 

*Source: "Ask Dr. Math: The Math Forum @Drexel University." http://mathforum.org/library/drmath/view/52320.html

Guest Author: Ted Kraver, Ph.D.

Great STEM minds were not all born in the 20th century. Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier was born in 1768 and orphaned at age 9. Educated by the Benedictines, and surviving the French revolution and Reign of Terror he found himself with returning from Napoleon’s Egyptian expedition in 1801 with an ink pressed copy of the Rosetta Stone. The Rosetta Stone was the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs by using the Greek and Coptic letters also on the stone. READ MORE.

Fourier was both a mathematician and a physicist. He began by experimenting with the transmission of heat. His innovations include mathematics applied to the physics of heat conduction. The two most important were the use of partial differential equations and dimensional analysis. Determining that a planet the size of the Earth could not be warmed by just the incoming solar radiation, he believed that the atmosphere must be an insulator. This was the first proposal of what we now call the greenhouse effect. His mechanism if heat convection is used today.

He is most famous for the theorem that bears his name, the Fourier Theorem. The theorem states that an infinite series of periodic waves such as Sine waves or Cosine waves can be added together to form any shape whether regular like a triangular wave or irregular like a random squiggle. Circles can also be used. The resulting Fourier Transform is used over a wide range of current applications: voice recognition, optics, radio, animation, music, quantum physics and medical body scans to name a few.

The huge benefit of the Fourier transformation is that it can compress the huge number of data points needed, for instance, to present a digital color photograph into a much smaller data set. The most common picture data set is a JPEG file that comes out of your camera as a photo.jpg. I was attending my wife’s high school class reunion a couple of decades ago and I got to talking with a husband of one of her classmates. It turned out that he had worked for the air force space program when we started sending up spy satellites in the late 1950’s. We needed to send digital photos back to Earth immediately, but did not have the bandwidth capacity in the early days of space flight. His team was responsible for the “crash” effort to create the Fourier techniques to compress the digital images. Their work resulted in JPEG that we all use. The follow on audio/video technology became known as MPEG that produces the MP3’s we enjoy.

Not a bad set of accomplishments for a poor orphan from the city of Auxerre, France.

Check out:

http://tinyurl.com/FourierAndHomer For a demo of how JPEG works.

http://tinyurl.com/blogMathTrick-for-JPEG-MPEG For a more complete description of Fourier techniques.

STEM Matters Coordinator: Marisa Ostos 

Fish are fascinating creatures, from the giant whale shark to the tiny neon tetra, and will often have some neat hidden talents. Did you know that fish carry small pits on different parts of their bodies, called chemoreceptors, which help them to both smell and taste? Did you also know that some fish use their swim bladder, which they use for buoyancy, to hear?

Source: Samantha Henrickson, Curator, Rainforest Cafe

Autora invitada: Carmen Cornejo, Coordinadora de Audiencias Hispanas, AZ SciTech Fest & Dueña de Criticalmassc.com

Nosotros que apoyamos la ciencia, la tecnología, la ingeniería y las matemáticas (STEM por sus siglas en inglés) estamos conscientes de la importancia de STEM en la educación y los beneficios que estas aéreas traen a la economía de Arizona, la deEstados Unidos de América y su futuro. Nosotros nos esforzamos para invitar estudiantes a sumergirse en estas aéreasque traerán conocimientos nuevos y oportunidades mejores de trabajo en sus futuros. Nuestras comunidades están llevando a cabo grandes esfuerzos en este aspecto, pero para poder ser inclusivos y aprovechar toda la creatividad disponible, debemos poner esfuerzos para incluir comunidades que frecuentemente tienen baja representación en áreas de STEM.

Las mujeres, las personas con discapacidades, los afroamericanos, los hispanos, y los nativo-americanos no tienen los números necesarios de individuos involucrados en campos de STEM, donde necesitamos sus visiones del futuro y sus contribuciones. Nosotros entendemos que un campo de conocimiento es exitoso si incluye oportunidades para todos.Esto es especialmente crítico para Arizona, que se convertirá pronto en un estado de mayoría minoritaria, donde la composición de la población joven, nuestro mercado laboral del futuro, es diferente a la de las generaciones pasadas.

Cómo podemos ayudar a incorporar a todos en los campos de STEM? Teniendo maravillosos programas a nivel estatal como el Festival SciTech de Arizona (AZSciTechFest), el cual inspira a individuos de todas las edades y niveles a considerar a entrar aáreas de STEM, es uno de los componentes de éxito a la par del trabajo de nuestras instituciones educativas, desde kínder hasta el 12º grado y siguiendo hasta la universidad, proveyendo el rigor académico necesario para el éxito. Investigadores de educación en STEM han señalado la importancia de establecerprogramas específicos que trabajen con poblaciones de bajarepresentación. Aquí en Arizona tenemos grandes organizaciones e individuos que dedican sus esfuerzos en hacer que la buena nueva de STEM llegue a todos.

Esos esfuerzos son reportados en las noticias y nos hacen sentirnos orgullosos. Demuestran que cada estudiante, no importa de donde venga puede enfocarse en alcanzar metas altas y puede lograrlo todo…con un poco de ayuda de la comunidad.