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Arizona SciTech Blog

This blog is courtesy of the Arizona SciTech Festival.

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 


Register for the 6th Annual Kickoff Conference today!  

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


Register for the 6th Annual Kickoff Conference today!  

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


Register for the 6th Annual Kickoff Conference today!  

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!  

Track: SciTech Festival Meet the Mentors 


When it comes to creating an event, one of the most essential elements is the theme, as this is what will both attract attendees and help to create an event that is memorable and uniquely yours. How do you come up with a strong theme for your event that will drive attendance and rally your content providers? Learn from the best as they present ideas on how they have come up with some of the most exciting and long-standing STEM festivals in Arizona! These events include the organizers from the Night of the Open Door (an open house-style STEM festival that attracts thousands to all five Arizona State University campuses), the Arizona Renaissance Festival (one of the longest and strongest renaissances festivals in the country whose Student Discovery Days bring STEM to kids ranging from elementary through high school), and the Flagstaff Festival of Science (the longest-running Science Festival in the nation with fantastically and creative themes each year).


  • Bonnie Stevens, Flagstaff Festival of Science
  • Chuck Kazilek, Night of the Open Door
  • Sanja Malinovic, Arizona Renaissance Festival

1Flagstaff Festival of Science  1Night of the Open Door  1Arizona Renaissance Festival


Register for the 6th Annual Kickoff Conference today!  

Track: SciTech Festival Meet the Mentors 


Did you know that several of the SciTech Festival events that happen during Festival season in February and March are actually planned and run by students? Join three of our very own students who will share how they each turned their ideas in to a STEM event success!


  • Chief Science Officer Johnathan, Metro Tech High School Graduate, “STEAM Week”
  • Chief Science Officer Dominique, Casa Verde High School, “Casa Grande Union High School District SciTech Festival”
  • Maeneka Grewal and Emily Wood, Xavier College Preparatory, “Girls Have IT Day”



1STEAM WeekSTEAM Week —  An entire week of STEAM events focusing on one letter of the acronym “STEAM” per day (Monday = Science, Tuesday = Technology, Wednesday = Engineering, Thursday = Arts, & Friday = Mathematics) 


1Casa Grande Union High School DistrictCasa Grande SciTech Festival — A school STEM festival that draws 400 student presenters and 3,000+ attendees. CGUHSD has been a part of the Arizona SciTech Festival since its inception and hosted the first Pinal County School SciTech event. The festival showcases how STEAM learning connects and empowers Arizona students in the competitive contemporary economy by helping students connect to STEAM across multiple disciplines. Through this Festival, CGUHSD students are excited to share what they have learned and look forward to providing experiential opportunities for others.


1Girls Have IT DayGirls have IT day — The primary objective of GHITD, simply put, is to promote middle school girls’ interest in the STEAM fields. This is done through an afternoon event where roughly one thousand girls from middle schools around the state, of which over half are Title 1 schools, visit Xavier College Preparatory and participate in an event filled with various activities focused on particular experiments, research, and new developments relating to STEAM. Next, the aspects of the day themselves will be described. The basic rundown of this event includes a welcoming address, a guest speaker presentation about fascinating work they do in the STEAM fields (ie- dolphin research), a performance that incorporates technology (ie- dance performance on hover boards), and then an exploration period where girls can visit over one hundred different activity booths filled with experiments, inventions, or guest speakers. Xavier’s own students run these booths voluntarily, and love to engage with the middle school girls. We like to encourage this near-peer mentorship between the high school girls and middle school girls, hoping to inspire this next generation of future scientists and mathematicians. GHITD also has a number of companies that host booths, such as Intel, Arizona Science Center, and Grand Canyon University. We want to emphasize that we aim to inspire the next generation of innovators and creative thinkers, especially within the young female population. Thus far, the event has been incredibly successful with over 92% of girls inspired to work harder in school, and 91% declared GHITD gave them the opportunity to explore new ideas. We hope to accompany this summary of GHITD with a power point presentation filled with data and photos in an interesting manner, and hopefully a video that demonstrates the passion and excitement that drives this day.


Register for the 6th Annual Kickoff Conference today!  

Track: SciTech Festival Meet the Mentors 

10012262825_291a3984ee_zWhat are you doing for lunch? If you are an event organizer, why not join in on the “Event Planners Meet Up,” an informal lunchtime session in which event planners can come together to share best practices with one another, serve as mentors for other event planners, and connect with new events coming up! If you are an event planner, what better place to spend your lunch at the Kickoff Conference?


Register for the 6th Annual Kickoff Conference today!