Building Arizona’s STEM Ecosystem

It’s that time of year again when the Arizona SciTech Festival presents its kickoff conference, gathering together Arizona’s educators and STEM outreach community for a day of learning. This is the event’s seventh year!

This year’s conference, Building Arizona’s STEM Ecosystem, is being hosted by the Mesa Center for the Arts. I am looking forward to the new venue. One exciting feature of this conference is that there are sessions aimed squarely at wedding STEM and art: printmaking, glass making, and jewelry making, all incorporating technology.

There is also a special 105-minute video game design workshop offered in the morning (and repeated in the afternoon). 

And for homeschooling families, there is a session on STEM/STEAM projects for homeschoolers.

But wait, there is still the session that I am most looking forward to: Arizona Telemedicine Program’s Janet Major will present a session on ways to produce a virtual field trip! 

I will post updates on Facebook and Twitter throughout the day, and I will try to get photos from the conference published soon.

 

UA students work on cool projects, show them to high school students at STEAMworks.

Inspirational and aspirational.

Helping high school students say, “That was really exciting! How would I go about doing some of that myself? How can I get there? What do I need to do?”

Lisa Stage and Kelly South talking about the University of Arizona’s new event, STEAMworks

STEAMworks is an ambitious new event that directly connects high school students to the work that UA undergraduates are doing in STEAM fields—science technology, engineering, art, and mathematics. The STEAMworks planning team, led by University of Arizona’s Office of the Chief Information Officer, Communications and Marketing staff members Lisa Stage and Kelly South, includes representatives from the UA STEM Learning Center, UA University Libraries, UA’s Eller College of Management, Tech Launch Arizona, UA Student Affairs & Enrollment Management/Academic Initiatives & Student Success, Early Academic Outreach, UA’s IEEE Student Branch, Cisco, and cStor. STEAMworks launches on Thursday, April 14, in the University of Arizona’s Student Union Grand Ballroom.

Stage described STEAMworks: “We will have forty to forty-five UA student groups, departments, and labs showing off what they do, and it will have interactive components for the attendees to really get some hands-on experience. It will be full of high school students, and it is also open to UA undergrads, PCC students, technical college students, anybody who’s interested in STEAM studies or STEAM careers or who asks ‘What can you do in science, technology, engineering, arts, math?’”

“It’s in the research that people learn through a combination of so many things—seeing, touching, hearing, smelling—so being able to have exhibits that hit on some or all of those components just helps to bring science to life,” elaborated South.

An important goal of the event is to have high school students work directly with college students. Stage stated, “That is why we had wanted to get the [UA] students, because they are so much closer in age, and a [high school] student really could say, ‘That could be me in three years.’”  She added that when UA students tell a high school student that they just started here [at the UA] two years ago, and now they’re doing this, the younger students will think, “Okay, that’s foreseeable!”

Another goal was to make sure that a broad mix of high schools participated, from schools that send 100% of their kids to college, to majority Title 1 schools that don’t send many students to college. “We really wanted to make these workshop opportunities available to students that might not have resources in their schools to try something out. They can hands-on try something out on this day and say, ‘Okay, I just spent 20 minutes with a Raspberry Pi and I get coding—it is a totally doable thing. If I could learn it in 20 minutes, it’s doable,’” explained Stage.

Here is a sampling of what STEAMworks will showcase:

  • X-Terminator Drone, utilizes UV light to sterilize virus-contaminated areas remotely and safely. The UA students who developed this award-winning drone will demonstrate the technology behind it.
  • Walking Free, sensors placed on the foot soles of people having problems with balance or foot sensation. In combination with apps, the system helps people learn to recognize when they are off-balance, helping them to walk better and avoid falls
  • Ferrock, an eco-friendly substitute for Portland cement. This material was invented by David Stone, a UA graduate student, and is now being tested by a UA undergraduate class.
  • Coding with Raspberry Pi, twenty-minute workshops for learning programming.

UA student clubs also jumped at the chance to be part of the event.  “We’ve got a whole bunch of engineering students, engineering clubs, the UA game developers, IEEE students club, the  Hardware and Computer Knowledge Society, , the autonomous flight and the autonomous underwater clubs,” said Stage.

In addition to working with high schoolers at the event, IEEE is STEAMwork’s student sponsoring group. “IEEE is our student-club partner on this because they went gangbusters. They went around to a whole bunch of different clubs, recruited, nudging people, ” noted Stage.

handBut exhibitors won’t all be UA students. The STEAMworks planning team heard about a boy scout who is 3D-printing prosthetic hands. “This boy scout and couple of the troop members send the hands to people across the world who need them. We found him, invited him, and he is going to be part of STEAMworks. It is mainly UA students, but if there were great opportunities to showcase STEAM in action like that, we wanted to do that,” explained Stage.

A wide range of event sponsors and supporters will be in the ballroom to talk about both the work their companies do and what students can do to move themselves into those careers. For instance, Adobe will present hands-on workshops, and University Libraries will show off 3D scanning and printing and virtual reality technology.

“The university sponsors … are very much a part of it. I think what they tuned into the most was the interactive component, that this wasn’t a traditional career fair or science fair, what we’re doing is an interactive exhibition of STEAM in action,” said South.

That fresh approach to science and career fairs will continue after the high school students leave for the day. “That evening,” Stage explained, “there’s going to be a reception with the sponsors and with the university leadership, where they [the UA student exhibitors] can actually make connections. They are not going to just be stuck in booths all day, because there is somebody from Adobe they can talk with then, somebody from Lenovo they can make connections with.”

The entire STEAMworks planning team is excited about the event and thrilled with the enthusiastic response from UA students. “We’re enormously grateful to all these students for taking the time to do this, and we are really excited about all the work they are doing, and I think the high school kids are going to be…  I mean, I’m 52 and my mind is blown!

“’Two years from now, I could be doing that?! I could be doing that?’

“ Yes, you could” said Stage.

She added, “These technologies can change the world.”


 

Check out the exhibitors coming to STEAMworks!

Poetry, dendrology, and astronomy unite for Moon Tree Celebration

Moon tree roots dig branches reach towards home, haiku by Maria SchuchardtFour University of Arizona organizations will come together on Friday, October 30, to commemorate the planting of the UA’s moon tree. Truly a STEAM event, the Poetry Center, the Lunar and Planetary Lab, the Tree Ring Research Laboratory, and the Campus Arboretum will celebrate the sycamore that graces the UA campus between Flandrau Science Center and the Kuiper Space Sciences Building, grown from a seed that traveled to our moon.

Please click here for an event schedule.

Why Was THA Community STEM Festival Different From All Others?

Snake handling
Snake handling

Earlier this month, Tucson Hebrew Academy, a private K—8 school in Arizona, presented its first-ever Community STEM Festival.

Since attending the event, I have talked with people who were also part of the festival, both exhibitors and visitors, and universally I have heard words like amazing and terrific used to describe their experience that day.

So what set this event apart from others that I have been to and/or planned?

My thought this morning is that it was the intimacy of the event that set a completely different tone from the typical atmosphere of STEM events. There is often a frenetic feel at STEM events, while the THA festival was quiet and relaxed.

Another big difference is that the setting for the event really lent itself to creating an intimate feeling. Rather than setting up exhibitors in one large room, tables were arrayed throughout the courtyard of the school.

If you were part of the STEM festival, either as someone who attended or as someone who exhibited, what are your thoughts on this? What do you think set this event apart from typical STEM events? What made this festival different from all others?

We need the answer so that the magic can be replicated and repeated at other outreach events!

Exploring STEM at 2015 SARSEF Future Innovators Night

Child touching Van de Graaf generator at the Tucson Mad Science display
Hair standing on end thanks to Van de Graaf generator

I had been waiting a while to catch this moment and SARSEF‘s 2015 Future Innovators Night was my chance. This child was checking out the Mad Science Tucson display at the event, and I just happened to be walking past. In fact, the resident mad scientist running the display was about to pack up his equipment in preparation for his stage show on the other side of the room.

Moments like this are neat–watching kids, and adults too, discover something new, learning about what happens if they try this or that.

Parents and other family members attending events like this: be ready to explore, to try something new, to get your hands dirty, to look silly. That is the best way to show children the fun in learning.

2015 SARSEF Cox Future Innovators Night

Crowd after Mayor Jonathan Rothschild spoke; notice Star Wars characters liberally sprinkled about.
Crowd after Mayor Jonathan Rothschild spoke; notice Star Wars characters liberally sprinkled about.

I had the pleasure of attending SARSEF‘s 2015 Cox Future Innovators Night on March 11 at the Tucson Convention Center. What a blast!

More than 75,000 STEM research projects were entered in Southern Arizona science fairs this school year, and 1,903 of them were selected to compete at SARSEF. The TCC exhibition hall was lined with tables displaying the projects, and students and their families spent the evening viewing projects and exhibits, being congratulated by a mayor, and learning the fine art of working with light sabers.

Tucson mayor Jonathan Rothschild congratulated both the students and their families for making STEM a priority in their lives. He was accompanied by an honor guard of Star Wars characters, including Darth Vader, storm troopers, Annakin Skywalker, Han Solo, Boba Fett, and Jedi knights, and Chewbacca (big thanks to the Dune Sea Garrison for taking part in the event!).

Over 40 organizations brought exhibits and demonstrations that highlighted interesting aspects of STEM.

Below is a gallery of photos I took of Southern Arizona’s future STEM innovators.

 

 

Tucson’s 2015 Arizona SciTech Festival events

2014 Family SCIFest at Children's Museum TucsonThe Arizona SciTech Festival‘s 2015 kickoff is January 31, with a fantastic downtown Phoenix event, Connect2STEM.

But what if you’re in Baja Arizona? What’s happening when? Give us our STEM!

The Arizona SciTech Festival website offers a sortable events calendar–if you’re looking for Tucson-area events, select Pima County and/or Southern Arizona as filters.

Here is an list of Arizona SciTech Festival events happening Tucson-way between now and the end of March.  Please click on the event titles for details.


Garden Talks

Friday, January 30, 2015
2:00 – 3:00 p.m.


11th Annual Mathematics Educator Appreciation Day Conference

Saturday, January 31, 2015


Green Pathways

Saturday, January 31, 2015
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.


STEAM TEENS Series at Main’s 101 Teen Space

EVERY MONDAY – FRIDAY THROUGH MARCH 31, 2015
3:00 – 5:00 p.m.


Gardening Demonstrations: Warm Weather Vegetable Gardening

Wednesday, February 4, 2015
1:00 – 2:00 p.m.


Mad Science: Magnificent Magnets!

Tuesday, February 4, 2015
12:30 – 1:30p.m.


Felines of Arizona Educator Workshop

Saturday, February 7, 2015
7:00 a.m.- 3:00 p.m.


4th annual Great Paper Airplane Fly-Off

Saturday, February 7, 2015
All-day event


Children’s Storytime: Weather!

Saturday, February 7, 2015
11:00 a.m.- 12:00 p.m.


Mad Science: Science of Magic!

Saturday, February 7, 2015
2:00 p.m.- 3:00 p.m.


Science Saturday: Animals in the Sky

Saturday, February 7, 2015
2:00 p.m.- 3:00 p.m


Greater Tucson Lego Club

Sunday, February 8, 2015
2:00 – 4:00 p.m.


Children’s Storytime: Recycling!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015
11:30 a.m.- 12:15 p.m.


Key to Employment for the 21st Century Symposium   ARIZONA SCITECH FESTIVAL SIGNATURE EVENT!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015
9:00 a.m.- 12:30 p.m.


Children’s Storytime: Space!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015
10:30 – 11:30 a.m.


Sahuarita SciTech – Science Passport Experience   ARIZONA SCITECH FESTIVAL SIGNATURE EVENT!

Thursday, February 12, 2015
8:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.


Pima Air & Space Museum Volunteer Presentation Series

Saturday, February 14, 2015
10:00 a.m.


BASIS Oro Valley Engineering Expo

Saturday, February 14, 2015
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.


Imagine Rockets

Saturday, February 14, 2015
1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.


Children’s Storytime: Brick Engineers!

Saturday, February 14, 2015
2:00 – 3:00 p.m.


STEMAZing Tuesdays: Engineer This! (K-8 teachers)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Children’s Storytime: Space!

Tuesday,February 17, 2015
10:30 – 11:00 a.m.


Boom Wow! Stink Bugs, Skunk Beetles and More!

Tuesday,February 17, 2015
6:00 : 7:00 p.m.


Children’s Storytime: Math!

Wednesday,February 18, 2015
10:30 – 11:30 a.m.


Create Club

Wednesday,February 18, 2015
2:00 – 3:30 p.m.


Bear Essential Educational Services’ Young Reporter Night

Wednesday,February 18, 2015
5:30- 7:00 p.m.


Preschool Storytime: Science!

Thursday,February 19, 2015
10:30 – 11:15 a.m.


Children’s Museum Tucson’s Family SCIFest   ARIZONA SCITECH FESTIVAL SIGNATURE EVENT!

Saturday,February 21, 2015
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.


Children’s Storytime: Hair-Raising Fun!

Saturday,February 21, 2015
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.


Pima Air & Space Museum Volunteer Presentation Series

Saturday,February 21, 2015
10:00 a.m.


How Things Fly

Saturday, February 21, 2015
1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.


Mad Science: Spin, Pop, Boom!

Saturday,February 21, 2015
2:00 – 3:00 p.m.


Mad Science: Laser Light!

Tuesday,February 24, 2015
3:00 – 4:00 p.m.


LEGO(R) Robotics Experience

Saturday, February 28, 2015
1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.


Children’s Storytime: Mathtastic!

Saturday,February 28, 2015
2:00 – 3:00 p.m.


Pop Culture Astronomy

Saturday,February 28, 2015
2:00 – 3:00 p.m.


Bats: Myth and Reality

Tuesday,March 3, 2015
6:00 – 7:00 p.m.


Children’s Storytime: Science!

Wednesday,March 4, 2015
6:00 – 7:00 p.m.


ToddlerTime: Math!

Thursday,March 5, 2015
10:30 – 11:15 a.m.


Children’s Storytime: Science!

Friday, March 6, 2015
10:30 – 11:30 a.m.


Marana Founders’ Day   ARIZONA SCITECH FESTIVAL SIGNATURE EVENT!

Saturday, March 7, 2015
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.


Women in Flight” Exhibit Grand Opening

Saturday, March 7, 2015
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.


ToddlerTime: Computers!

Saturday, March 7, 2015
10:30 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.


Nature Through the Senses

Saturday, March 7, 2015
2:00 – 3:00 p.m.


Greater Tucson Lego Club

Sunday, March 8, 2015
2:00 – 4:00 p.m.


SARSEF and Cox Communications Future Innovators Night   ARIZONA SCITECH FESTIVAL SIGNATURE EVENT!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015
5:30 – 8:30 p.m.


SARSEF Project Viewing: Southern Arizona Research, Science and Engineering Fair

Wednesday, March 11 – Friday, March 13, 2015
5:30 – 8:30 p.m.


Tucson Festival of Books – Science City   ARIZONA SCITECH FESTIVAL SIGNATURE EVENT!

Saturday, March 14, 2015
9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.


Imagine Rockets

Saturday, March 14, 2015
1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.


Children’s Storytime: Brick Engineers!

Saturday, March 14, 2015
2:00 – 3:00 p.m.


Wings and Wheels at the Pima Air and Space Museum

Sunday, March 15, 2015
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.


Tucson Festival of Books – Science City   ARIZONA SCITECH FESTIVAL SIGNATURE EVENT!

Sunday, March 15, 2015
9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.


Mad Science: Slime!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.


Big Hunk Candy Bars and Geology

Tuesday, March 17, 2015
6:00 – 7:00 p.m.


Children’s Storytime: Building and Construction!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015
10:15 – 11:00 a.m.


Babytime: Building and Construction!

Thursday, March 19, 2015
11:00 – 11:45 a.m.


ToddlerTime: Building and Construction!

Thursday, March 19, 2015
11:00 – 11:45 a.m.


Mad Science: Fire and Ice!

Thursday, March 19, 2015
2:30 – 3:30 p.m.


Bricks 4 Kidz

Friday, March 20, 2015
3:30 – 4:30 p.m.


Family Fun Storytime: Uniquely You!

Saturday, March 21, 2015
2:00 – 3:00 p.m.


Children’s Storytime: Building and Construction!

Saturday, March 21, 2015
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.


How Things Fly

Saturday, March 21, 2015
1:00  – 2:30 p.m.


Garden Talks

Friday, March 27, 2015
2:00 – 3:00 p.m.


LEGO(R) Robotics Experience

Saturday, March 28, 2015
1:00 – 2:30 p.m.


Family Fun Storytime: Ninja Science!

Saturday, March 28, 2015
2:00 – 3:00 p.m.


 

 

Connect2STEM kicks off the Arizona SciTech Festival during Super Bowl Weekend

Logo for Connect2STEMMy most recent guest blog post for the Arizona SciTech Festival is about Connect2STEM, the Festival’s 2015 kickoff event that happens Saturday, January 31 from 10:00 a.m to 4:00 p.m. in downtown Phoenix. To write it, I talked with Allison Otu, Director of Outreach and Communications at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix. Her excitement and enthusiasm about the upcoming event was contagious–I am contemplating making the four-hour round trip drive up there to experience it myself!