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Arizona SciTech Blog

This blog is courtesy of the Arizona SciTech Festival.

Track: Student Voice 

26605462294_f039561491_zJoin our Chief Science Officers (student STEM advocates) in a community-style environment as they discuss the means through which they have already become involved and will continue to work with civic action. Topics will include their role in Washington DC this past summer, the development of the CSO program into a nationwide initiative, strategies for political engagement, and more! 


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HackathonsThis session brings you the opportunity to learn all about hackathons and the myriads of people from different backgrounds (children to adults) who come together to collaborate and solve problems through computer programming.


Register for the 6th Annual Kickoff Conference today!  


1Space (1)JANE POYNTER is co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Arizona-based World View Enterprises, a company pioneering discovery at the edge of space through the use of high-altitude balloons. Poynter will expound on World View’s goal to provide the “orbital perspective,” and will explain how viewing Earth from space changes people’s lives for the better back on the ground.

GEOFF NOTKIN is President of Arizona-based Aerolite Meteorites, Inc. and a world-renowned meteorite hunter and expert. Notkin will discuss his lifelong fascination with meteorites and how the discovery and study of space rocks contributes to our constantly evolving perspective of life on Earth and the origins of our solar system.


Jane Poynter HeadshotMore about Jane Poynter: Ms. Poynter is a member of the Biosphere 2 design team and a member of the original crew who lived inside the sealed, self-sustaining habitat for two years. She was co-founder, President and Chairwoman of Paragon Space Development Corporation, which develops technologies for extreme environments. Experiments in her patented, self-sustaining habitats have flown on the International Space Station (ISS), Mir and the Space Shuttle.


Geoff Notkin VLA hi resMore about Geoff Notkin: The media has described Geoff as one of the “rock stars of science.” He hosts Science Channel’s award-winning adventure series, “Meteorite Men” and the two-time Emmy Award-winning educational TV series, “STEM Journals.” Notkin is an internationally recognized authority on meteorites, an award-winning author and photographer, a television and film producer, world traveler, and adventurer. His commercial meteorite company, Aerolite Meteorites, Inc., is a global leader in space rock recovery and research. Notkin serves on the Board of Governors of the National Space Society.


Register for the 6th Annual Kickoff Conference today!  

Track: Social Equity & STEM 

The Hispanic community is underrepresented in most STEM fields, but Hispanic stories of success in Arizona are movie material. Who would have thought that high school students will design, built robots, participate in sophisticated competitions and win against top Universities?

This panel will share some good stories of STEM success in the Hispanic community, the fastest growing demographic group in Arizona and the country.

Among the panelist are up and coming young leaders and STEM professionals deeply committed to advocate for STEM for all.

Find out how the community is actively pushing for representation, inclusion, and success.

This panel is presented by CPLC, Chicanos por la Causa, one of the largest non-for-profit organization and the only community development corporation in Arizona that offers extensive services in both urban and rural areas. Its service delivery system is expansive enough to effectively reach more than one hundred thousand low-income individuals.


  • America, Chief Science Officer Alhambra High School, Phoenix, Arizona, 11th Grade 
  • Mabel Munoz, International Regulatory Affairs Associate at C R Bard, CEO & Founder at Building Dreams Robotics / Construyendo Sueños
  • Ingrid Tay, Microchip Technologies, Tournament Director for the FIRST Lego League Arizona 
  • Alexandra Figueroa, General Motors Lead Sr. Software Developer, Hispanic Initiative Team Arizona Lead 
  • Marcos Garciaacosta Jr., Mechanical Engineer Student, Metron Scientific Solutions, State Technology and Manufacturing, NASA/JPL


1AmericaAmerica, Chief Science Officer Alhambra High School Phoenix, Arizona 11th Grade

America’s objective is to Influence her peers to get involved in STEM.

America as Chief Science Officer has promoted STEM initiatives in her school like the Freshman Carnival, helped plan and organize STEM events for next year, and spread the word about MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, and Science Achievement).

Additionally she is Planning Hermanas STEM field trip.

In February 2016, she attended the Honeywell State Cabinet Meeting and participated in the Town Hall with AZ Governor’s Office of Education. America advocated for the CSO Program in Washington D.C last May and met Arizona’s Legislators and representatives from the White House Office of Science/Technology Policy.

Her Passion is to share STEM programs at her school.

America is planning to study Aerospace Engineering.


Mabel Munoz, International Regulatory Affairs Associate at C R Bard, CEO & Founder at Building Dreams Robotics / Construyendo Sueños

Mabel Munoz is an Arizona State University alumnus. In May 2012, she graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Engineering in Biomedical Engineering. Currently she is working as an International Regulatory Affairs Associate at C R Bard, an international medical device company.

Throughout high school, Mabel was involved in many academic and sports organizations including: The National Honor Society, Math Club, Falcon Marching Band, Cross Country, Tennis, Hispanic Mother Daughter Program, Phoenix Youth Council, and Aguila Leadership Institute. In the year 2008, Mabel was part of an international robotics winning team, Falcon Robotics. For her leadership and involvement, Mabel was awarded the Paul Allaire Medallion; award given to only one student from the world champion team. Do to the various achievements and awards; Mabel was able to get a full ride to Arizona State University.

At ASU, Mabel got the opportunity to become politically active in the DREAM Act movement. She was one of the first members of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition. There she participated in marches, fundraisers, vigils, and other political movements. During that time, Mabel also volunteered her time as a Spanish Medical Interpreter for the Wesley Clinic; a clinic ran by medical students to help low income families.

After college, Mabel started tutoring all subjects for K – College students. It was then when she decided to partner with Melchor and Ingrid to start Building Dreams. Building Dreams is an organization that exposes children to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). For the past three years, Mabel has been involved with teaching robotics and has taken teams to participate in FIRST Robotics Competition. The organization has been very successful and has managed to take teams 2 out of the 3 years teams have competed to state.

Mabel hopes to continue working in the development of nonprofit STEM organizations. Outside of work and robotics, Mabel enjoys traveling, hiking, and taking pictures. She is a dreamer in every aspect and has a passion for education and technology.


Ingrid Tay, Microchip Technologies, Tournament Director for the FIRST Lego League Arizona

Ingrid Tay attended Carl Hayden High School where she was involved in numerous clubs/programs including the Aguila Leadership Institute, National Honors Society and the Falcon Robotics Team.

She was part of the team that presented in front of a panel of judges and helped win the most prestigious award in the Worldwide FIRST Robotics Competition, the Chairman’s Award.

Ingrid graduated salutatorian of her class and received enough funding through private academic scholarships to attend Arizona State University. While at ASU she continued being involved in student organizations including Tau Beta Pi, The Engineering Honor Society, STEP Multicultural Honor Society, Society of Women Engineers, and the Society of Hispanic Engineers among others.

She received her Bachelor of Science in Engineering (Mechanical Engineering) with Magna Cum Laude honors. In 2013 she co-founded Building Dreams, an organization that introduces children to robotics and engineering. Ingrid along with the children of the Building Dreams program were featured in the Underwater Dreams documentary that received national attention.

Currently Ingrid, continues to be involved in her community and frequently volunteers at various robotics competitions throughout the state. She is the South Mountain Tournament Director for the FIRST Lego League here in Arizona where she is in charge of putting together a one day robotics event for about 32 robotics teams for children in grades 4 through 8th. Ingrid works at Microchip Technology and is currently working with the Wireless Team developing Bluetooth Low Energy content for their customers.


Alexandra FigueroaAlexandra Figueroa, General Motors Lead Sr. Software Developer, Hispanic Initiative Team Arizona Lead

Alexandra Figueroa is currently a Lead Senior Software Developer for the Manufacturing Engineering IT team at General Motors Corporation. Alexandra’s responsibilities include design, developing, testing and implementing new software engineer solutions to the different applications that support manufacturing facilities through the world.

Alexandra is also responsible in helping leading junior developers technically as well as performing any coding reviews for the quality of the applications being build. Alexa She is the founder of the Hispanic Initiative Team Arizona, an employee resource group within General Motors. Her leadership has contributed in establishing a good connection with the community in the Tempe and Phoenix area in Arizona. As part of this role, Alexandra has led program opportunities to the Tempe High School that focuses on helping create awareness to the students about Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (STEM).

Alexandra’s goal is to continue to give back to the community, to help the next generation as much as possible, being an example to our Hispanic/Latino community and to continue to create great relationships with the community. Alexandra currently lives in Tempe, Arizona with her amazing husband of 15 years.


1Marcos E. Garciaacosta Jr.Marcos Garciaacosta Jr., Mechanical Engineer Student, Metron Scientific Solutions, State Technology and Manufacturing, NASA/JPL

Marcos Garciaacosta Jr. is a soon-to-be graduated mechanical engineer with a passion for making and STEM. Marcos was exposed at a young age to many different engineering events and activities, the most impactful activity being the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC). Marcos competed in FRC for his 4 years of high school with the Seton Catholic Sentinels. Up until his senior year of high school, Marcos still thought that a career in STEM was out of reach. Surrounded by mentors from Boeing, Microsoft, and other local tech companies, he discovered a passion for designing, prototyping, and building robots.

Throughout his college career, Marcos has worked on implementing what he has learned in his engineering classes to solve real world design problems, like designing autonomous underwater robots. Marcos has also gone back and mentored FRC teams. He currently mentors Team 5465 The BinaryBots working out of Techshop in Chandler. Marcos has had several internships; NASA/JPL research internship on ASU’s Tempe campus assembling and creating parts for sensor arrays commissioned by NASA scientists, as a CAD designer for State Technology and Manufacturing designing parts for customers while also supervising fabrication of large assemblies, and most recently, working as a mechanical engineering intern at Metron Scientific Solutions, a defense contractor with a division that engineers unique solutions to challenging military problems. Marcos graduates in December and hopes to find work building robots for defense purposes.

Track: School STEM Best Practices 

Robotics InnovationRobotics can be a useful forum for engaging students in engineering and teamwork through the fun and competitive nature of sport. Learn from high school robotics club presidents on how to start and maintain a robotics club in your school or community. 



  • Chief Science Officer Dhruv, Hamilton High School 
  • Chief Science Officer Dominique, Casa Verde High School 
  • Chief Science Officer Sage, Centerra Mirage STEM Academy 


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Track: Future STEM Pathways 

1MicroprocessorToday, even lightbulbs, thermostats, and toys have microprocessors in them and can connect to the internet. What does this mean for us now, and what amazing feats will this allow us to accomplish in the future? Ask the experts at the forefront of the field.
  • Chris Matthieu, Citrix, formerly Octoblu
  • Moheeb Zara, Citrix, formerly Octoblu
  • Stewart Christie, Intel
  • Luis Montes, Iced Dev
  • Kevin Woolverton, Trine University


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Track: Future STEM Pathways 

The Arizona Cyber Warfare Range is a unique resource available to the the residents of Arizona. Learn what goes on there and how you can keep yourself and your devices safe online from experts in the field. Also, learn about how you can become part of the rapidly growing cybersecurity industry.  
  • Tina Slankas, AZ Cyber Security Program Coordinator
  • Brett Scott, Arizona Cyber Warfare Range
  • Christopher Pavan, Bechtel


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Track: Future STEM Pathways 

1DroneRemotely controlled vehicles used to require substantial skill to operate. As modern computing has been integrated into these devices, some are becoming capable of flying/driving fully autonomously. What fascinating new possibilities and products does this enable, and what pitfalls do we need to be sure to avoid? 
  • Bruce Johnson, Falcon Engineering (Military)
  • Mark Fedasiuk, Professor, University of Advancing Technology (Civilian)
  • Alex Palmer, Local Motors (Civilian)


Register for the 6th Annual Kickoff Conference today!  

Track: Social Equity & STEM 

1Bridging the Connection Between STEM Professionals and SchoolsThis session will provide engaging round-table discussions centered on the values and challenges of connecting STEM Professionals from Business and Industry into schools.  STEM Professional companies and organizations will provide input of working with schools. The session will kick-off with how MCESA’s Engineering STEM Identity Program uses video conference to connect STEM Professionals as Role Models. You will also learn from other STEM organizations how they connect with mentors and STEM Professionals in classrooms.  



  • Gale A. Beauchamp, M.Ed, Engineering STEM Identity Project Director


Register for the 6th Annual Kickoff Conference today!  

Track: SciTech Festival Meet the Mentors 

 1Make it S.T.E.A.M – Y“Make it S.T.E.A.M. – Y,” a session about creating experiences through S.T.E.A.M., is an interactive opportunity to see how creativity and play provide clarity around innovating and integrating S.T.E.A.M into business and educational practices with a focus on Process over Product.

Session Objective:

In this session you will learn how to leverage creative, playful methods to enhance your work. What you will learn from this session include the following discussion points: 

Discussion Points:

1. Have Fun
Ask are you having fun? If the answer is no – make small ‘micro moment’ changes now!

2. Be Brave
Learn how to walk into creative play with bold bravery and a ‘let’s just try it’ attitude.

3. Brainstorm
Start with playful Ideation and creative brainstorming.

4. Experiment
Allow for the process to let experiential, organic magic to occur. Then learn how to capture this to use next time. This takes bravery to muster up the courage to play creatively but let’s talk about the fact that you have nothing to lose and will likely have a fun time experimenting.

5. Commit
Be deeply committed to Process Over Product because it is a journey – there will be many ever-changing destinations. S.T.E.A.M is already designed to celebrate this – learn how to harness and enhance it.

6. Just Do it
The way to allow for process to take root in your playful creative practice is to say out loud things like ‘I am playing’, ‘I am experimenting’, ‘I want to see what will happen if. . . . . .’ Learn how to Just play, enjoy the process, make and experience a lot of stuff. If you commit to the playtime to just be creative you will create all kinds of stuff, some terrible, some very cool, some you want to repeat.

7. Dump it or Deposit it
If you look at something you have been working on and think maybe there is something there but are not sure then store it for a while by depositing it in a place for safekeeping. Then pull it out when you have a fresh perspective.

8. Time
You have to dedicate time to this. When and how can you set aside time to play and be creative?



Cyndi Coon is a creative, a disruptor, a play activator, an instigator of S.T.E.A.M activities, speaker, writer, a storyteller, community builder, business owner, reader, maker, crafter, music lover, hiker, camper, teacher, researcher, transformational coach, connector, magic maker, thinker and Experience Producer and Creative Clarity Advisor! She is passionate about connecting playful creativity to everything as it changes lives and brings value to everyone and everything. 


Register for the 6th Annual Kickoff Conference today!