Uplifting messages to the world travel into the stratosphere and back again

World View and TMC for Children cooked up a holiday project for kids in Southern Arizona: Have the children write letters to the world expressing their hopes and dreams, then send those messages aloft in a balloon to travel into the stratosphere and back.

Once the messages were recovered after their trip to the edge of the atmosphere, astronaut Ron Garan would sign each letter to certify that it had been soared above Earth, and World View would then mail the letters back to the children.

Neat idea!

Almost four hundred letters were sent to World View for the launch, exceeding everyone’s projections. Those letters were launched on Saturday morning, December 10, 2016 just west of Tucson, Arizona.

This video depicts the launch.

I want to thank World View and TMC for Children for bringing this idea to life, and Andrew Antonio for inviting me to attend the balloon launch.


PCC STEM Innovation Challenge

What is Pima Community College’s Innovation Challenge?

  • Students engaging STEM to learn about entrepreneurship and innovation.
  • Mentors from the STEM business community sharing their knowledge and experience with students.
  • Community members coming together at an October showcase to explore the ways PCC fosters STEM learning.

It is also a series of workshops.

Five mentors presented pitches to student teams on Saturday, August 26 at Pima Community College’s West Campus library. Each mentor represented a different business or industry application of STEM, with the goal of giving the teams ideas to incorporate in their own pitches at the PCC STEM Innovation Challenge Showcase in October. I had the opportunity to videotape these mini-workshop sessions.

Note: I recorded only a short portion of David Lesser’s pitch because the questions from the students were too focused on their team’s project and I didn’t want to disclose that information prematurely.

Keep moving forward

I am thinking about why I do this work to connect people with STEM/STEAM. I mean really, what is the point?

I have a sense that people really need opportunities to connect with possibilities, with potential, with ways to change their lives and the lives of their children. Helping people find those opportunities is important. There is often a sense of isolation within the STEM outreach community.

Even to put it that way, to call it a community, is to give a mistaken impression of people working together, known to each other and to the outside world. Too often, these are people laboring alone, or within small groups.

For this STEM outreach work to be effective, there has to be wider awareness of the efforts that are presently being put forth. To continually bring out new initiatives, new programs, is to leave the people who are already doing this work to feel at best unappreciated, and at worst, like they are wasting their time.

And that is what is most wrong with almost every new initiative that I have encountered. Instead of working to build on what already exists, there is an idea that the next shiny thing will be the answer.

What is needed are better connections between the people doing the outreach and the general community, and better ways for people to disseminate knowledge to teachers, to parents, to students.

So maybe I have both answered my question and given myself a direction for Agents of STEAM.

Night Wings Returns This Summer to Pima Air & Space Museum 7/23 & 8/27

Night_Wings_2016_FINAL (1)Explore the museum during the cool summer evenings from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m.! Hand-on kids educational activities in all hangars. Flight Grill open for dinner. The entire grounds open until sundown. Cost: Discounted admission $10 for adults and children 12 and under FREE! For more information about Night Wings, please visit http://www.pimaair.org/edu/family-events or email: education@pimaair.org

Sign up for Jr Shark Tank Today!


Is your student a born Entrepreneur or Inventor? Do they have interest in Business, Engineering, Technology or Science? Are they thrilled by a challenge? Then S.Y.STEM Coalition’s Junior Shark Tank Competition is the summer program for them!!

From June 6-July 30th*, S.Y.STEM Coalition is conducting a scholarship competition for high school students in Tucson hosted at Sonoran Science Academy. For this competition, teams of up to 5 students will work together to develop a product, guided by one of our skilled mentors, and taught all of the skills they need to design, build, and market their entrepreneurial idea!

At the end of the 8 week program students, top Local Industry and Government Leaders will judge the teams’ projects, and the winning team can earn up to $5000 in scholarships!!!

Space is limited; register individually or as a team today at the Junior Shark Tank website. Application closes on May 20th. For more information, please visit systemcoalition.org or email info@systemcoalition.org.

*8am-12pm, M-Th – students must attend at least 75% of classes to be eligible to win scholarship

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!

Agents of STEAM Goes to Baltimore

Gordon Moore quote
Gordon Moore quote

I stayed overnight in Baltimore earlier this month and discovered an unexpected museum across from my airport-area hotel. Next time you are near BWI, consider making a stop at the National Electronics Museum. It is packed with fascinating gadgetry, and every exhibit functions perfectly!

Many of the docents worked at Northrop Grumman’s Electronic Systems , headquartered nearby in Linthicum, Maryland. Everyone was ready to answer questions and to point me to interesting aspects of the exhibits.

Located within the museum is a working shortwave radio station, and it was broadcasting that weekend in recognition of the upcoming anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The museum gave me a terrific overview of electronics in relation to radio, space, and defense. I am looking forward to a return visit next spring!

Below are a couple of videos from my visit, plus a collection of photos.






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.