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.

Transcending Barriers One Line of Code at a Time

Snippet of computer codeCoding is moving mainstream.

Rafts of articles are showing up on business and education sites, touting the benefits of teaching kids to code.

One of the biggest things that gets lost in the noise is the idea that learning to code is simply learning another way to communicate, just another language. These languages differ from what most people understand as language though, because they are not generally used to communicate person to person but rather, person to computer.

And that is where people’s understanding of the importance of coding languages took a wrong turn, because they didn’t generally grasp that these languages are akin to Esperanto in their ability to transcend barriers. Learning a coding language gives children the power to communicate in a new way, with people across the world. It sharpens their thinking skills. And it gives them some real control over both their learning and their application of that learning.

Here are a just a couple recent articles about kids and coding:

Happy reading!


Startup Tucson, Thryve, and YWCA Join Forces to Support Culture of Entrepreneurship

August evenings can be unpredictable in the Old Pueblo, but Startup Tucson and Thryve caught a real break Wednesday night when they presented Thryve’s Demo Day Summer2015. The temperature was perfect, and the brief spritz of raindrops was only refreshing, not drenching.

The YWCA Tucson‘s spacious courtyard hosted the evening’s preliminary event, Startup Drinks, with free beer and snackables. The size of the courtyard turned out to be important, because attendance for the event had to be limited to the two hundred who had RSVP’d.

Schedule for Thryve Demo Day Summer2015After networking and conversation, it was time for Demo Day to begin. Everyone moved inside to hear quick pitches from the nine companies that had participated in this summer’s Thryve program:

Massage Ready wants to connect clients with massage therapists, creating an system for finding massage therapists and for efficiently booking appointments.

The teachers behind the Mindfull Learning Institute will provide K-12 teachers with high quality STEM/STEAM made from recycled materials that are affordable, and will provide teacher training on using the materials in their classrooms.

Citizfied rethinks the entire world of civic engagment, providing means for citizens and municipalities to connect, survey, and fundraise.

Helping older women to age in their own homes is the idea that motivates Home Share Circle LLC, kind of an Airbnb for living rather than vacationing.

Incycle Water brings design to the world of rainwater harvesting, utilizing modular units suitable for building fences and sheds.

Find traveling companions on Triipmates, a new approach to connecting people with potential trip partners.

Readers will find free ebooks and authors will receive renumeration on eMegaBooks.

Orbit Express plans to work with college engineering students to provide them with hands-on experience building and (simulating) launching CubeSats (more on CubeSats here).

Handle aims to solve the problem of having what can seem like a zillion usernames that a person ends up with on different social media sites.

Having the chance to learn about the problems these nine companies had identified and how they proposed to solve those problems is one reason why I love working on Agents of STEAM. The combination of curiosity and drive in tandem with being unafraid to try something new, to fail, is wonderful to see in action.

The evening wrapped up with welcoming the next cohort of Thryve participants.Introducing Thryve Fall 2015 Cohort

Best wishes for success to this upcoming class and to the nine companies that were part of Thryve this summer!


Focus on Pluto

photo of PlutoJuly was all about Pluto and other small bodies in our solar system.

Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium, on the University of Arizona campus in Tucson, debuted a brand-new FullDome planetarium show, Exploring New Horizons, as part of its Pluto Week celebration. The show focuses on Pluto and NASA’s New Horizons mission that is at this moment sending us the most detailed images of Pluto’s surface yet seen.

The UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory also celebrating Pluto Week by opening its doors on July 14 for Pluto Phone Home, displaying live video feed direct from Johns Hopkin’s Applied Physics Laboratory, mission control for New Horizons.

Then on July 19, the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory hosted its annual Summer Science Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with this year’s theme, Small Bodies of the Solar System. The community open house featureed lectures, tours, exhibits, and interactive activities for kids.

Want more information about Pluto and New Horizons? Visit NASA’s New Horizons page or check out the Applied Physics Lab page: both have comprehensive resources for learning more about the mission and about Pluto.


Exploring Brains in London

Human brain and spinal column displayed at Natural History Museum in LondonDisplay of unfolded cortex next to typical presentation of brainWhen there is STEAM to be done, I don’t restrict myself to the United States, or even North America.

I just got back from a week in London and between the amazing springtime weather, the history, the food, and the science, I had a blast!

These photos are from London’s Natural History Museum‘s Human Biology Gallery.

This was the best display I have yet seen about brains. To whoever had the idea to display a brain still attached to a spinal column, bravo!

And what a fantastic way to present the cortex. Genius!



Who Provides the STEAM in Tucson and Southern Arizona?

Ever wonder about the organizations behind the STEM and STEAM programs in Southern Arizona?

Here’s a quick roundup, in no order but alphabetical, of just a few of the *whos* responsible for the amazing learning opportunities that happen here!


LOCALGreen saguaro cactus issuing clouds of steam on a orange-to-red background

Bio5 Institute at the University of Arizona

Biosphere 2

Children’s Museum Tucson

Debbie Does STEAM

Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory, University of Arizona

Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium

Kuiper Circle Outreach

LPL (University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory)

Pima Air and Space Museum

Pima County JTED (Joint Technology Education District)

Pima County Public Library

PSI (Planetary Science Institute)

SARSEF (Southern Arizona Research Science and Engineering Foundation)

Science City at the Tucson Festival of Books

SparkConnect, Inc.

Startup Tucson

The STEMAZing Project, from the Office of the Pima County School Superintendent

Tucson STEM Community

Private Facebook group–contact Debbie Does STEAM for details

UA STEM Learning Center

University of Arizona College of Science



Arizona SciTech

Arizona Technology Council

Helios Foundation

Science Foundation Arizona



Did you spot some I’ve missed? Please let me know and I will add them to the list!




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.

Startup STEM Camps for Middle and High School Students

Startup Tucson A Venture Community logoAs new technologies transform the world around us faster than ever, entrepreneurship is becoming an essential skill for the 21st Century. Startup Tucson’s Startup STEM Camp will introduce attendees to cutting edge technology and teach entrepreneurial skills to solve problems, improve the world, and start businesses.

This week-long camp will feature technology demonstrations and guest speakers from Tucson Entrepreneurs and the University of Arizona. Attendees will learn the same tools entrepreneurs use including how to identify problems, validate solutions, evaluate financial feasibility, and pitch ideas.

They are accepting applications now for middle and high schoolers who are ready to learn the innovation skills critical to a successful career in the new global economy!

Middle School Session, Grades 5-8: July 20-24
High School Session, Grades 9-12: July 27-31

8:00 a.m.-9:00 a.m., early drop-off
9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., Monday-Friday.
Pick up no later than 4:30 p.m.

Cost is $299, with $50 scholarships available.

Visit for details and applications.