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Arizona SciTech Blog

This blog is courtesy of the Arizona SciTech Festival.

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


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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.


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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!  

Track: SciTech Festival Meet the Mentors 


A variety of platforms exist on which cross-sector community partnerships can be built, and festivals are no exception. Over the years, a number of efforts have been done to develop community partnerships, including events such as the Chandler Science Spectacular, the Verde Valley SciTech Festival, and the Prescott Regional SciTech Festival. Learn how their partnerships are being used to successfully move their initiatives forward.



Chandler Councilman Rick Heumann, Chandler Science Spectacular 

Cottonwood Mayor Diane Joens, Verde Valley SciTech Festival 

Kimberly Moon, Civil Engineer Prescott Valley, Prescott Regional SciTech Festival 


1Rick Heumann    1Kimberly Moon
(Seen Above: Chandler Councilman Rick Heumann, Cottonwood Mayor Diane Joens, & Kimberly Moon) 


SciTechFestivalHorizontal_Chandler2Chandler Science Spectacular – An annual event that celebrates the exploration of invention as it showcases the businesses, artists, students and innovators in the community as part of the statewide Arizona SciTech Festival.


1Verde Valley SciTech FestivalVerde Valley SciTech Festival – An extension of the Arizona SciTech Festival that celebrates science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematic throughout the Verde Valley Region in Arizona. 


1Prescott Regional SciTech FestivalPrescott Regional SciTech Festival – An event which “provides an opportunity for schools, industry, and organizations in the Prescott area to showcase their innovation, technology, and the interesting STEM-related activities taking place in the community” (- James Curtis, Ph.D., Department Chair of Applied Aviation Sciences, Co-Chair of the Prescott Regional SciTechFest)


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Track: STEM in Our Communities 

1Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran PreserveScottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve is like no place else. Spread across more than 30,000 acres of spectacular desert, it is home to diverse wildlife, lush flora and jaw-dropping topography.

This oasis of beauty and solitude, however, exists near neighborhoods, office parks and one of the busiest corporate jet ports in Arizona.

The preserve has become a laboratory, where the interaction between wilderness and intense human activity can be charted and studied.

What we hope to learn is significant. A healthy desert ecosystem is more than just an aesthetic treat. The Sonoran Desert is the Valley’s “ocean,” a place that attracts tourists from around the world and significant investment from those who seek the beauty and privacy offered by places like the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

Preserving that environment requires understanding a complex ecosystem and how it interacts with humans and development. That’s were science comes in. Join us for a fascinating discussion of what we’re learning about the desert and how it can help us preserve and enhance our quality of life, economic development and tourism for future generations.



  • Helen Rowe, Ph.D., the Field Institute Director for the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy 

  • Rachel Pearson, the Vice President of Community & Government Affairs at the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau 

  • Scott Hamilton, the Senior Trails Planner for the city of Scottsdale

  Rachel Pearson 2013 - print  1Scott Hamilton
(Pictured Above: Helen Rowe, Rachel Pearson, Scott Hamilton) 


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Track: Future STEM Pathways 




  • Phil Howardell, Paradise Valley High School District CREST/STEM Coordinator, Phoenix 
  • Dr. Sara Byron, Research Assistant Professor, Center for Translational Innovation at TGen 
  • Karen Anderson, MD, PhD, Associate Professor, The Biodesign Institute, Personalized Diagnostics, Arizona State University 


Phil HowardellPhil Howardell is currently the Paradise Valley Schools District CREST/STEM Coordinator. He has 23 years experience teaching Industrial Technology and Engineering. Before his recent move to the CREST Program Coordinator position, Phil taught engineering for the CREST program for seven years and is a Project Lead the Way Master Teacher.

Phil has a Bachelor’ s degree in IndustriaJ Technology Education fonn Virginia Tech and a Master’s degree in Educational Technology from Northern Arizona University. Phil is a U.S. Navy veteran who also worked in the highway construction industry as a project manager before becoming a teacher. He is an active member of several professional organizations and is a past Lifetime Achievement Award recipient from the Association for Career and Technical Education Association-AZ.


Dr. Sara ByronDr. Sara Byron is a Research Assistant Professor in the Center for Translational Innovation at TGen. Her research interests center on understanding the molecular mechanisms whereby aberrations in oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes lead to tumorigenesis, evaluating the clinical consequences of aberrant pathway activation in cancer, and investigating the genetic context associated with sensitivity and resistance to inhibition of pathways dysregulated in cancer.

In the Center for Translational Innovation, Dr. Byron’s group focuses on content analysis of exome and RNA-sequencing data and knowledgebase development to map drug-gene relationships and pharmacological considerations for indicated therapeutics to identify clinically actionable vulnerabilities. As part of TGen’s precision medicine program, she is involved in various collaborative studies covering a broad spectrum of cancers, including brain tumors, melanoma, and lung cancer.

Sara received her PhD in pharmacology from the University of Minnesota, where she studied insulin-like growth factor receptor signaling in breast cancer under the direction of Dr. Douglas Yee. She joined TGen as a postdoctoral fellow in 2006, working with Dr. Pamela Pollock to investigate the molecular mechanisms and biological consequences of FGFR2 mutations in melanoma, endometrialcancer, and ovarian cancer, and then with Dr. SuWon Kim to explore the influence of chromatin modifications on pathway regulation in breast cancer. 


1Karen AndersonKaren Anderson is an associate professor at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University’s Virginia G. Piper Center for Personalized Diagnostics and ASU’s School of Life Sciences. She is also a medical oncologist and an associate professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic Arizona.

Anderson is focused on understanding how the immune response can be used to detect and alter cancer development. To create an effective cancer immunotherapy, Anderson’s team identifies target antigens and pushes scientific understanding of the mechanisms of immune regulation that limit effective immunotherapy. 

Before moving to Arizona in 2011, Anderson was an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School’s Dana Farber Cancer Institute where she also completed her clinical fellowship in adult hematology and oncology and served as a medical oncologist at the Breast Oncology Center. While at Data Farber, Anderson led two investigator-initiated breast cancer vaccine trials.

One challenge in tumor immunology is how to measure immune responses across the proteome.  Antibodies to tumor antigens can be detected in the blood of cancer patients and be used as biomarkers for early cancer detection. Anderson’s team uses custom protein microarrays and bead-array assays to detect these antibodies and has identified novel biomarkers for the detection of breast, ovarian, and human papillomavirus-associated cancers. 

Anderson developed novel assays for the detection of serum antibodies to the HPV16 proteome, which are strongly detected in HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer patient sera. She is evaluating these antibodies as diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers. 

The Center for Personalized Diagnostics at ASU, where the Anderson Lab is housed, has adapted custom protein microarray technology developed for high-throughput screening of tumor antigen-specific antibodies. The team has developed secondary confirmatory assays for rapid antibody detection using plate-based and bead-based formats, resulting in identifying panels of autoantibody-based biomarkers for breast, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers. 

Anderson is board certified in internal medicine and medical oncology.  She has written more than 40 peer-reviewed articles, reviews, book chapters and editorials. Anderson serves as committee co-chair of the National Cancer Institute’s Early Detection Research Network Breast/Gyn Cancers Collaborative Group and is a member of NCI’s Cancer Biomarkers Study Section. She is a member of the American Association for Cancer Research and the American Society of Clinical Oncology. 

Anderson earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Virginia. At Duke University, she completed the Medical Scientist Training Program in which she earned a medical degree at the School of Medicine and a doctorate from the department of microbiology and immunology. Anderson completed her medical internship and residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital Department of Internal Medicine. 


Register for the 6th Annual Kickoff Conference today!  

Track: School STEM Best Practices 

1NeuroscienceCome join our interactive and collaborative session where we explore the relationship between Cognitive Neuroscience, Educational Psychology, and Technology and how the intersection of these fields can provide a deeper and meaningful learning environment for all students.
As a group, we will explore aspects of Cognitive Neuroscience (how the brains builds schema and neuropathways), Educational Psychology (learning theories applicable to learning and memory), and Technology (EdTech) and develop connections between them, engaging in group activities (game-based and hands-on) while leveraging attendees’ experiences. Often, iPads are used depending on session size, but BYOD approach may be utilized as well. 



  • José Ivan Alfaro, M.Ed., MIND Research Institute


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Brainstorm Begins: Trying to appeal to the educators.

“Think STEM doesn’t matter? Every STEM principle is used in order to make this race car go 150 miles per hour and win 27 times on the way to winning the Arizona State Championship. Drivers who have driven this car have gone on to the Indy 500.

“Let STEM motivate them!” Brainstorm ends 

1Smith's EXXON Car  2012-08-03_23-09-25_909  2012-08-11_12-19-45_828

Track: STEM in Our Communities 

T-Teacheerr -4Integrating & Innovating STEM across the Curriculum-Connecting STEM practices to core curriculum content and instruction through informal outdoor education.

How can outdoor learning experiences contribute to meaningful experiences in classroom?  During this interactive learning experience, participants will gain knowledge about the unique and changing role of outdoor education in our changing society.   The effects of outdoor education experiences on participants’ beliefs and attitudes about science mirror the STEM goals of increasing student interest, and identity in STEM.  Participants will leave this session with concrete ideas about high quality, meaningful STEM integration in grades 3-8.  

Outdoor STEM Centered Education Explorers (OSCE ) workshop gives teachers the opportunity to enmesh informal outdoor education techniques into their classroom/school yard.  

During this session they learn specific outdoor education skills essential to bringing experiential learning into the classroom, learn practical planning an logistic skills to prepare them to design, implement and prepare set-up stations for hands-on activities, they gain a structured approach to inquiry-based lesson planning as well as resource gathering information that will enable students to make personal connections to the activities.

This creative event strategically curates workshops and experiences in three areas to give teachers the tools to succeed.   Join us at Tonto Creek Camp, Payson AZ (and/or local venue TBA), for this game-changing experience. There are interactive group discussions and creative experiential lessons.

Interactive exercises:

Schoolyear Ecology Hike-Teacher will go outside to collect things to identify with nature and then make the connection to interest in STEM.  This exercise leads to having students develop interest and identity in STEM.

Engineering Pathway: Genetic Engineering-Teachers will handle live Crayfish. E ach group will be assigned to observe one structure/behavior carefully.  Draw structures and describe behaviors related to those structures.  When scientists draw pictures to understand how something works it is called a model. 

STEAM Machine-Teachers will work in teams to build a machine based on Rube Goldberg chain reaction but will have to also market it to the “Shark Tank.”  Build all out of duct tape, PVC, mouse traps, wood, dominos etc.  Prizes for the STEAM Machine. 


Register for the 6th Annual Kickoff Conference today!  

Track: Future STEM Pathways 

1Dig Into Mining InnovationLearn about the cool innovation happening in the mining industry and the STEM skills necessary to get there, including big data, IoT and unmanned aerial system technologies. 



  • Lia Walker, Quality Leader
  • Erika Fretheim, Manager, Mine Technology


Register for the 6th Annual Kickoff Conference today!