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Arizona SciTech Blog

This blog is courtesy of the Arizona SciTech Festival.

1Arizona's Got STEM Talent

1Arizona's Got STEM TalentTrack: Student Voice

Its back by popular demand! This amazing group of students and STEM enthusiasts showcase their favorite SciTech experience in our 2nd annual Arizona’s Got STEM talent show!


Do you have a STEM talent that you can showcase in 3 minutes or less? If so, let us know. We are looking for 10 of Arizona’s top STEM Talent to showcase as part of our 2nd Annual Arizona’s Got STEM Talent session. Please emailjeremyb@azcommerce.com ASAP if you are interested.

1Modeling Instruction2

1Modeling Instruction2Track: School STEM Best Practices

How do scientists solve everyday problems? This is an activity to engage students in the discovery of how science works in the real world.  Students work through common misconceptions that science is done by a “cookbook” set of instructions provided by the teacher.

Students work collaboratively to come up with a consensus on how to play some games: Learning the “Game” of Science. This activity uses simple abstract games to introduce students to critical processes of science such as observations, hypothesis testing, analysis of data, collaboration, communication, and supporting conclusions with evidence. 


  • Chantel Dooley, President, STEMteachersPHX, Educator, Hamilton High School 

  • Wendy Hehemann, Modeling Workshop and Outreach Coordinator, American Modeling Teachers Association

  • Mina Bhagdev, Vice President, STEMteachersPHX 

  • Amanda Whitehurst, Media Specialist, STEMteachersPHX, Middle School Science Teacher


Pictured Above: Chantel Dooley, Amanda Whitehurst 

Register for the 6th Annual Kickoff Conference today!  

1Modeling Instruction

1Modeling InstructionTrack: School STEM Best Practices
Presenters: Chantel Dooley, Wendy Heheman, Mina Bhagdev
How do scientists solve everyday problems? This is an activity to engage students in the discovery of how science works in the real world.  Students work through common misconceptions that science is done by a “cookbook” set of instructions provided by the teacher.
Students work collaboratively to come up with a consensus on how to play some games: Learning the “Game” of Science. This activity uses simple abstract games to introduce students to critical processes of science such as observations, hypothesis testing, analysis of data, collaboration, communication, and supporting conclusions with evidence. 


1WonderwomanTrack: Social Equity & STEM
Join Phoenix Comicon’s Science Programming Track as we celebrate the 75th anniversary of Wonder Woman: Amazon princess, Army Nurse and one of the first female superheroes. Created by William Moulton Marston, psychologist, lawyer, inventor of the lie-detector, Wonder Woman, with her lasso of truth and invisible jet, enjoys a resurgence of interest with a new movie release in June 2017. Our panel of experts will discuss women in the military, the science of deception and the current status of stealth technology.  Our panelist are: Michelle Loposky, Military Advocate, Assistant Military Advocate & Dependent Programs, Pat Tillman Veterans Center, Arizona State University; Tracey Wood, PhD, Detective, Glendale Police Department; Mike Fillman, Aerodynamics Engineer, The Boeing Company; and Rebekah Brubaker, Manager, Science Programming at Phoenix Comicon, Researcher, Keck Lab, Arizona State University.
During panels, at evening social events like “Beer with Scientists,” and in the interactive demonstration space, the Science Programming track at Phoenix Comicon provides science fans, Career & Technical Education, science and humanities instructors an opportunity to meet and ask questions of credentialed Arizona scientists, researchers and engineers.
Phoenix Comicon’s Science Track also provides professional development credit to attending K-12 and community college instructors.  The Every Student Succeeds Act requires that schools provide professional development in the area of parent & family engagement–including collaborating with organizations with a record of success in improving and increasing parent and family engagement–and Phoenix Comicon Science Programming provides a unique opportunity for teachers to align current STEM topics with popular culture.
Phoenix Comicon’s Science Track attracted almost 10% of the estimated 100,000 attendees of the June 2016 event at Phoenix Convention Center. Phoenix Comicon is Memorial Day weekend, May 25-28, 2017, check for teacher discounts and Early Bird ticket discounts: http://www.phoenixcomicon.com/ 
Conference Session - 'Hera Give Me Strength The Science of Wonder Woman'
Seen in image above: Michelle Loposky (far left), Tracey Wood (middle) & Mike Fillman (second to the right)

1Social Equity

1Social EquityTrack: Social Equity & STEM
This session explores the educational landscape of Arizona under-represented and under-served students. We will share how disadvantaged students fair in our education system, programs that exist, personal stories of individuals in STEM who entered through academic and industry paths.  Participants will be introduced to a) approaches used across our nation for STEM advancements that may be leveraged in Arizona, b) inspiring stories for cultivating a sense of belonging, c) and experiential learning exercises that help educators with STEM communication.  Diversity and inclusion is paramount to the U.S. reaching its’ 21st Century STEM goals.  According to the recently published annual report by The Annie E. Casey Foundation KIDS COUNT Data Book, Arizona students are at risk.  While Arizona is still in the bottom ten states, improvements in math proficiency were the most notable area of progress, propelling the state from 35th in 2015 to 18th in 2016. Arizona eighth graders performed better than the national average on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test, with 65% in our state not meeting proficiency, while nationally, that statistic is 68%.  Better scores can be attributed to an aggressive effort by public K-12 schools to adopt and meet more rigorous math standards. One of the leaks into the pipeline for students entering STEM has been creating environments for learning and belonging. 
Intended audience:  Students, educators, and civic leaders of all experience levels including none arewelcome. There is no limit on the number of participants.
Moderator Biography:
Loretta Cheeks have developed systems & led development teams within the communications, radio, avionics, instrumentation & control and chemical industries. After Cheeks spent 20 years engineering technical solutions for Fortune 500 corporations, she started the journey to achieve a lifelong goal, which is to earn a PhD in Computer Science. Cheeks is currently a full-time PhD graduate student as an Adobe Foundation GEM Fellow at Arizona State University in the School of Computing, Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering.  Cheeks founded Strong TIES to promote STEM K-12 education that emphasizes discovery, creativity, problemsolving, collaboration and a sustainable education program using computer technologies and cultural-relevant tools.


  • Dr. Karen Hardin, Retired Maricopa County Administrator and Faculty.  A provider of STEM K-12 Education
  • Melissa L. Moreno, CPC, CM-Lean, Employee Owner, Sundt Construction, Inc.
  • Carl Davenport, Director, Silicon Operations/Product Development Engineering, Platform Engineering and Development (PED), Internet of Things Group (IOTG), Intel Corporation
  • Dr. Arlisa Richardson, Physic Faculty, Gilbert Chandler Community College

2XQ Supercool Project

XQ America: The Super School Project, a nationwide movement to “rethink and reimagine high school”, spearheaded by Russlyn Ali, Chief Executive Officer of XQ Institute, and Laurene Powell Jobs, president of Emerson Collective (and widow of Steve Jobs), is underway! (See the XQ Super School Project at www.xqsuperschool.org).

Building on the notions of bold and audacious projects pioneered by Peter Diamandis and XPRIZE competitions (see  http://www.xprize.org/about/what-is-an-xprize) the XQ Super School competition incentivizes high school reform with a $50 Million prize. On Aug. 4, 2016, XQ America will award five to 10 winning design teams up to $10 million each to fund their High School designs and transform our industrial era educational system into education systems that empower young people and their communities.

XQ Phoenix Rising (PHxQ) is among 350 innovative high school models chosen from nearly 700 entrants. What sets Phoenix Rising apart from the competition is its skunkworks educational design. Skilled teaching teams partner with student cohorts and use design thinking, the Socratic method, and integrated learning to provide real world solutions for business and government. Supported by staff, students brainstorm solutions, work in project teams, and produce prototypes and white papers to be implemented by the organizations who hire the school skunkworks as consultants. In this way, each and every student participates in an internship, receives guidance and mentoring, develops critical thinking, and obtains invaluable job skills all while learning the standards they need for post-secondary education and long-term career success. (See many more details at www.risingaz.com.)

The Phoenix Rising team was formed in October 2015 by Wendy Bias and became a national, grassroots movement. The team includes members and support from UCLA Extension, LAUSD, Phoenix College, Rio Salado Community College and others. After reviewing the skunkworks plan proposed by the Phoenix Rising team, Arizona State University (ranked the #1 most innovative school by U.S. News & World Report, 2016) agreed to sponsor the charter for Phoenix Rising when selected as an XQ Super School winner. ASU’s own charter school, ASU Preparatory Academy, achieved a 100% graduation rate in 2016.

Although the initial site of the Phoenix Rising school is set to open in Phoenix, AZ, the Rising Education model is flexible and applicable to a wide range of communities.  Team members around the globe support the movement to “Rethink High School” and anticipate national expansion opportunities of innovative educational models for 21st century students, their families and communities.

Show your support and join the conversation to #RethinkHighSchool by following @XQPhoenixRising on Twitter and Instagram and PhoenixRisingAZ on Facebook and Snapchat. 

Calling all teachers, educators, parents, community members, and more! 

Get ready for The Great AZ Code Challenge 2.0 that will be held on July 22-23 this year.  It is an MIT Enterprise Forum sponsored local event.

This inaugural event last July was the second biggest hackathon in AZ history, with 120 kids, and well over 400 people at the closing ceremony.  Here is a link to a short video of the hackathon last year as a reminder of how impactful this event was.

It was created with the thought that culture is defined by what we celebrate.  This hackathon is meant to get kids excited about coding/programming, technology, and entrepreneurism.  You have seen firsthand the enthusiasm that kids in the Bay Area have towards tech— we want our kids to be just as eager to get involved in the tech scene.

Official marketing just launched last week, but we have already had over 100 kids register for this year’s event, and expect to be sold out with 200 kids participating and hundreds more people at the closing ceremony.

We would love to get you involved in this year’s event.  

Whether you’re a kid interested in participating or would like to volunteer, we are reaching out to you! Sign up to register or volunteer today! 

Guest Author: Loretta H. Cheeks, written June 22, 2017 

Honorable Megan J. Smith, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, Loretta H. Cheeks, Strong TIES Founder, Quincy Brown, Ph.D., AAAS Science and Policy Fellow NSF (from right to left).

Honorable Megan J. Smith, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, Loretta H. Cheeks, Strong TIES Founder, Quincy Brown, Ph.D., AAAS Science and Policy Fellow NSF (from right to left).

On June 14-15, 2016, the Honorable Megan J. Smith, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, led the way to elevate awareness about STEM careers and resources made available to communities across our nation.  At the first ever Summit on The United State of Women, over 5000 mostly women convened to hear, share and be inspired by the very best the world has to offer in the form of leadership, advocates, educators, celebrities, technologist, business owners, among others.  STEM was at the forefront of discussions for career choices for women and girls in our future.  My name is Loretta Cheeks, Founder of Strong TIES, a provider of STEM K-12 educational programs and an AZ SciTech Festival partner.  I was invited as a Change Maker Nominee to his outstanding event that celebrated women and girls.

Mathtastic 4, MathCounts Video Challenge Project winners and Honorable Megan J. Smith

Mathtastic 4, MathCounts Video Challenge Project winners and Honorable Megan J. Smith

The day of the Summit, Megan hosted “Cracking the Code”, which was a breakout session that gave educators, government, industry and community leaders a platform for showcasing what they’re doing to increase more participation of women and girls.  The Mathtastic 4 presented their Math Video Challenge project, which was an innovative storyline movie that demonstrated the constraints and rules when tackling a permutation problem.  Giving the students a voice and the tools for expressing how they see problems and provide solutions aligns well with AZ SciTech Festival Chief Science Officers (CSO) program.  What was especially awesome about this session is Megan gave a big shout out to Arizona CSO’s?  Did you hear that, the work of the AZ SciTech Festival has hit the highest level of attention!  And afterwards, we spoke and she expressed great excitement about CSO’s and its’ potential. 

1Pic3The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hosted “Crafting the Bigger Picture: Empowering Women and Girls in STEM”, where a small group of STEM non-profits, education, industry, higher education institutions engaged in a working session.  The cool thing about this
session is our host and the leadership for DOE and EPA are women; Gina McCarty (Adminstrator EPA), Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall (Deputy Secretary DOE), and  LaDoris “Dot” Harris (Director DOE). 
The purpose was to share experiences and resources among the group and bring awareness of STEM initiatives underway at DOE and EPA. 

Our next stop was NASA Headquarters for the session called “Engaging Women and Girls in STEM through Data Science”.  As an ASU Computer Science Ph.D. graduate student with a focus in data mining and machine learning, this topic really intrigued me.  What I found wasn’t the deep dive of algorithms and techniques, rather women who were not computer scientist taking the lead to innovate using NASA datasets for making their communities better and women who had taken non engineering careers had decided on engineering.  For instance, Michele Easter began her career as a model and became a Mechatronics Engineer.  She now works on the Europa Lander Project and is founder of the educational initiative, MindMakerProject.org.  Say amazingly smart, strong and beautiful!

1Pic4My last stop was NASA Science Day on Capitol Hill.  This was geek heaven where the coolest scientist converged to talk about explorations, space and earth.  Did you know on July 4th, NASA spacecraft, Juno, will orbit Jupiter around 11:30PM (PST)?  We may have fireworks in space as well as on earth.   During the flybys, Juno will probe beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and study its auroras to learn more about the planet’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.  Jupiter is believe to be the blueprint for all Solar System Planets.  NASA scientist are on a quest to understand life that exist on Jupiter, which is an indication that water exist.  Listen up on July 4th.  

Let’s aspire and inspire others to engage in STEM.

The Goal: Identify and prototype relevant, real-world solutions that build education and career pathways in STEM that support innovation, entrepreneurial learning and collaboration.

The Challenge: The STEM workforce in Arizona is crucial to our innovation capacity and global competitiveness. Yet, in Pima County the education to employment pipeline (in most STEM industries) is underdeveloped and underutilized. To address this problem, our community needs to come together to identify relevant and sustainable ways to help young people connect with STEM education and employment opportunities.

The Method: We challenge teams of students, educators, and professional mentors to answer the following question by creating real prototypes for local solutions:

What does a STEM Town (ecosystem) that supports your future look like?

The competition kicks off in June with a two-day, “Startup Weekend-inspired” event where cross-generational teams of PCC students, PCC faculty, and K-12 educators work together with industry professionals to design relevant and sustainable solutions to the Challenge question. From June through September the student teams meet bi-weekly with faculty mentors as they design and test their pilots, preparing to pitch their concept at a community-wide STEM Innovation Showcase in October.

Get Involved! Become a mentor!

Support workforce development and STEM education by participating in the PCC STEM Innovation Challenge as an industry or community mentor.

Mentor Opportunities: Choose the level of engagement that works for you. The time commitment depends on your schedule and availability. To participate, contact PCC STEM Challenge Organizers Michael Peel (mpeel@pima.edu) or Frank Velasquez (fvelasquez4@pima.edu).

Mentor Position / Time Commitment & Duties: 

  • On-CallTime commitment: On-call mentors have no obligation to participate if time does not allow. Duties: Your name will appear on a list of skills-based mentors. If needed, student teams will contact you for specifc advice.
  • Idea Development: Time commitment: 9 am – 1 pm, Thursday, June 9 @ PCC West Campus. Duties: Idea Development mentors will be paired with teams for the initial ideation phase. Mentors will participate as team members with the primary goal of providing industry and/or community perspective.
  • Team Support: Time commitment: 8-12 hours from June – October, 2016. Duties: Team Support mentors will be paired with teams for the idea development and testing phase. Mentors will attend 4-6 team meetings over the course of the challenge. The primary goal of team support mentors is to provide perspective and help connect the team with resources and/or connections that might be required to develop and test the team’s innovation concept.

1ObamaIf you could personally share with the President any idea on how to use science and technology to make our country better, what would you recommend? While it may be true that voting age in the United States happens at 18, President Obama now wants to hear from YOU. He is giving any and every kid around the country a chance for their voice to be heard by the White House itself about their recommendation on important science, innovation, and technology ideas. We need as many submissions as possible!

It all started this past April at the _6th White House Science Fair_ where President Obama had the chance to meet up with a nine-year-old inventor, Jacob Leggette, who suggested this idea: Why not have a kid science advisor? President Obama loved this recommendation and took off with it, suggesting that a group of kids be brought together to share their own ideas and insights on what’s working in their classroom and how to better engage students in S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). This is where you (any kid in the country) come in.

President Barack Obama talks with students about their science projects as he tours the White House Science Fair in the Blue Room of the White House, April 13, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama talks with students about their science projects as he tours the White House Science Fair in the Blue Room of the White House, April 13, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Whether you care about tackling climate change, finding a cure to cancer, using technology to help make people’s lives better, or getting a human to Mars, President Obama wants to hear from YOU. In his own words at this year’s Science Fair:

“One of the things I find so inspiring about these young thinkers is that they look at all these seemingly intractable problems as something that we can solve. There is a confidence when you are pursuing science. They don’t consider age a barrier. They don’t think, well, that’s just the way things are. They’re not afraid to try things and ask tough questions.”

So no matter what grade level you’re in, what school you attend, where you come from, or whether or not classes come easily to you, now’s your chance to be heard by President Obama himself. What is your favorite thing about Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math? What is YOUR idea on how we can use science and technology to make our country better? Don’t be afraid to speak up or that your idea may not be good enough or “smart enough.” If you have any recommendation or input, President Obama wants to hear yours. This is a point of pride for Arizona and we need to get as many submissions as possible, so spread the word! Get your friends, cousins, classmates- all kids in Arizona involved. Tell him your idea now!