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Arizona SciTech Blog

This blog is courtesy of the Arizona SciTech Festival.

Guest Author: Carmen Cornejo, Hispanic Market Liaison, AZ SciTech Fest & Principle, Criticalmassc.com

We STEM supporters are aware of the importance of STEM education and the benefits it brings to Arizona’s economy and that of America and its future. We strive to invite students to dive into the areas that will bring incredible knowledge and stronger job opportunities for their future. Great efforts and programs have being initiated in our communities but in order to be inclusive and tap all the creativeness and ingenuity available to us, we must allocate efforts to include often unrepresented communities in STEM education.

Women, people with disabilities, African American, Hispanics, and Native Americans do not have the numbers of individuals involved in many STEM fields where we need their visions for the future and contributions. We understand a successful field is one that is inclusive with opportunities for all.

This is especially critical for Arizona, which is set to become a minority majority state soon where the make-up of the young population, our future labor force, is different than previous generations.

How can we help to incorporate everybody into STEM fields? Having wonderful statewide programs like the Arizona SciTech Festival, which inspires individuals at all ages and levels to consider and enter STEM fields, is one of the components for success along with the work of our educational institutions, from K-12 all the way to college, providing the instruction and academic rigor needed to succeed. Researchers of STEM education point out the importance of setting specific outreach programs that target specific underrepresented populations. Here in Arizona we have great organizations and individuals who dedicate their efforts to share the gospel of STEM to all.

These efforts make the news s and make us all proud. They demonstrate that every student, no matter where she or he is or where he/she comes from can set their minds to achieving higher goals and expectations and can accomplish anything… with a little help from the community.

Guest Author: Ted Kraver, Ph.D.

The news this month includes the passing of 96 year old Maxine Greene, a leading educational theorist at Columbia Teachers College. She was a progressive thinker that believed the most effective path to learning was “creative thinking and vivid imaging.” The core of her belief was that “the color, glimmer and sound” of the arts were an essential part of learning. She wanted her students to engage the world both as it is and what it could be.

Her use of the Thoreauvian “wide-awakeness,” hampered our struggle to avoid our electronic inputs so we can focus. We all try to avoid wasting hours on YouTube or turn off our devices for a day but to no avail. Two thirds of our work force cannot focus on one specific job. The answer may be found in our young children.

They are learning and doing at a prodigious rate. What’s their method?


  1. Secure place so they can be absorbed in one thing without outside distractions or demands;
  2. Narrow focus on the current obsession;
  3. Not being self-consciousness, they ignore the little narratives found in our older heads and experience life directly.


The shelf of books between “wide-awakeness” and “art of focus” has many other titles. But the most important take away for STEM students and practitioners is three fold:


  • Put the creativity driver of STEAM into STEM;
  • Create a steam age environment of quiet, expect when your obsession sounds the whistle;
  • Immerse yourself into your self-made center of the universe and let creativity fly.




Bruce Weber, “Maxine Greene, 96, Dies: Education Theorist Saw Arts as Essential,” The New York Times, June 3, 2014
David Brooks, “The Art of Focus,” The New York Times, June 3, 2014

Editor: Marisa Ostos 

We've often heard that our thoughts can influence our behavior, but can our behavior influence our thoughts? Science certainly points in a "yes" direction. The "Facial Feedback Hypothesis" states that our facial expressions can influence how we feel. In a study called the "Pen study," people were told to hold a pen in their mouths so that their lips didn't touch the pen. Without knowing it, the participants' mouth-shape reflected a smile. Then, while still holding the pen between their teeth, the participants were told to rate a funny cartoon that they were shown. Low and behold, the participants whose expression reflected a smile found the cartoon to be much funnier than the ones who weren't made to hold the pen in this manner. In a similar study called the "Headset study," participants were told to listen to a speech while they either moved their head up and down (unaware that they were actually nodding) or kept their heads still. The ones who "nodded" tended to agree more with the speech that they listened to! Isn't that something? It's a wonder to think about just how much our actions can influence our thought-processes and feelings. Perhaps on those off-days, or even the on-days, try a smile. It may help to brighten your mood!

[*Source: Mae, Lynda. "Lecture 8: The Cognitive Approach." Arizona State University. 24 Jun 2014. Online Presentation.]

Guest Author: John Drury, president/creative director, Ideality, Inc.

I love the movies. They are the perfect blend of technology and art, storytelling and science. French inventor Louis Lumiere is credited with the creation of the motion picture camera in 1885. Thomas Edison brought us the Kinetoscope and subsequently the Vitascope projector which really began movie viewing by the masses in America. Motion picture film is the ideal method to promote STEM / STEAM education because of its seamless connection of art & science. I viewed the documentary movie, “Particle Fever” recently. It’s about the history and creation of the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland and the experiments in search of the “God particle.” A movie about physics that is totally engaging, entertaining and inspiring!

What do you think is the drive behind man’s innate urge to understand the world around you? (PF)

“As Savas says at the end of the film, the pursuit of these things, (Science & Art) not really necessary for survival, are what make us human. There is a continuous line, beginning with the first symbolic representation of our “environment” with the cave paintings at Chauvet, to the sophisticated equations of physics that we think describe the deepest, inner workings of the universe. Fabiola quotes Dante as well about this: “There is something fundamental about this that distinguishes us from animals. Man has always tried to make sense of the world around him and to understand his place in a vast universe.”

(Excerpt from article on Particle Fever)

https://www.facebook.com/ParticleFever; http://particlefever.com/; http://home.web.cern.ch/ 


Editor:  Marisa Ostos

When you think of whirlpools, you may imagine a swirling maelstrom (the largest whirlpools) faced by Odysseus in "The Odyssey" or Captain Nemo in "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." But what is the science behind these fascinating works of wonder? Whirlpools can be seen in the ocean as a swirl of rotating water around a certain point and can be caused by a number of reasons: the "meeting of opposite currents" that swirl around eachother, winds that cause the current on the surface to switch direction, and even physical characteristics of the water such as differences in temperature and salinity. Some of the largest whirlpools, called malestroms, are famous because of their size and longevity, including the Moskstraumen off the Norway coast or the Naruto Whirlpool near Japan. Of course, most whirlpools are quite small and can be hardly visible, but regardless, they can be quite fascinating to watch (from a safe distance of course)! 

[*Source: "What is a Whirlpool?"]

Guest Author: Ted Kraver, Ph.D.

It seems like there is a procedure for everything. For creativity we work and work on a problem or idea and then take a break or sleep on it. BINGO…the solution appears from nowhere. In the 1960s my group of engineers even tried auto-hypnosis with mixed results. The breakthrough idea does not come from quantitative world of mathematics. Logic can find and describe the problem and be used to implement the solution. But unique solutions seem to come from creative intuition, the mainstay of the arts. It may come from far outside the domain of the current problem.

In the late 1950s my engineering capstone course had a design problem of putting the Physics Department at MIT (massive building with stone columns) into orbit and safely returning it to earth. The professors wanted us to ignore orders of magnitude while we wrestled with our slide-rules and got creative. Putting it into orbit was straight forward and stone makes a pretty good heat shield for reentry. But how would I bring it in for a safe landing? Then I remembered that during a summer job at Goodyear Aircraft an Inflatoplane was flying around the plant. Goodyear engineers had taken their inflatable airship and carpet making technology and invented inflatable wings that would be collapsed in a canvas carry bag. Voila! My rock based physics department would sprout inflated wings and glide to a landing. I then capped the capstone by using my boyhood skills to build a model of the reentry configuration.

Academics of math, science, technology and engineering with their drill and practice are crucial as a foundation for creativity. But this knowledge is only a foundation. True success comes when you are able to use this foundation to implement you creative ideas. Creativity is hard to teach but proliferates outside a classroom setting. Do not miss opportunities to practice your creative side.

I wanted to be an artist but mom, with her infinite wisdom, set me on an engineering pathway, bless her soul. I prospered. About twenty years later I was between high tech enterprises and decided to take an art class at Mesa Community College. I recaptured my earlier skills and turn out some decent still-life paintings. Then our professor tacked strips of cloth and ties on a board and told us to paint that. I loosened up and started painting from instinct. The class ended shortly and left the unfinished painting, and forgot about it. Six months later my teacher called me and said, “Come by pick up your painting. I won best of show over 300 others!”

The most rewarding life is to roam back and forth between academics and creativity. Let your calling be your guide. Being at an age where I am post-gainful employment I no longer have the enterprise world of creativity driven innovation. In its place I have turned to my boyhood passion of control line model aircraft. I study the hobby/sport for new ideas to support my designs, building and flying. What fun!

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.