The 2nd Annual Flagstaff Community STEM Celebration was held on April 1, 2015 in the J. Walkup Skydome at NAU. An estimated 5,000 people participated in the Celebration this year!
The Beginnings of the STEM Celebration
Jillian Worssam, an 8th grade science teacher at Sinagua Middle School, and founder of the Scientists in the Classroom program, held a STEM Night at Sinagua Middle School in the spring of 2013. A week later, Mt. Elden Middle School held their STEM Night. Many of us worried that our STEM Partners (local businesses, government agencies, higher education groups, and nonprofits) were being asked to participate in more and more STEM Festivals at the schools. To honor these many STEM Partners, Jillian took the steps to develop a community-wide STEM Celebration that involved the District schools, charter schools, and parochial schools. One big event for all our students, that wouldn’t burden our many community STEM partners with multiple events each year.
Jillian shared this idea with Karin Eberhard, FUSD Community Relations Director, and with Dave Engelthaler, STEM City "Instigator", Director of Operations for TGen North, and Chairman of Flagstaff Forty, and the Flagstaff Community STEM Celebration was born!
We thank our many STEM Partners for their contributions to making this annual event a true Flagstaff Community Celebration of all things STEM!
Special thanks to NAU for the donation of the J. Walkup Skydome and providing tables and personnel, APS for printing all our materials, and Suddenlink for all our radio and television spots!
Aaron Tabor and Sarah Burcher presented on bioengineering during Killip’s intersession to seventeen 5th grade students.
Aaron is recognized for both his strong teaching and his innovative research. He has master's degrees in pathology and in anatomy and physiology, and is currently working toward his doctorate as a wound specialist at Development Engineering Sciences, LLC with Dr. Robert Kellar. Aaron teaches biology at both Northern Arizona University and Coconino Community College, and works with students on the Bridges to Baccalaureate program at CCC. Aaron was voted CCC’s Part-time Instructor of the Year. You can read the full article that honors his achievements here.
Aaron showed some gory pictures of wounds, that the students loved, and taught them about the role of platelets in healing wounds, and how bioengineering platelets can increase their healing power! Killip Educator Jillian Hernandez wrote this about Aaron's presentation: "The students loved having Aaron visit and present on his research and work. Aaron was incredibly engaging and welcomed all of the students questions. The students were inquisitive about the process behind creating PRP and he not only explained it clearly but brought samples for the kids to see. It was apparent that Aaron is not only passionate about what he does but that he is able to communicate about it in a way that honors young learners. Simply put, he is a teacher. He brought in microscopes and skin slides so the students could see skin cells in different situations. He also brought in sheep's blood so the students could create their own slides and look at them under a microscope. We appreciated his expertise and the hands-on approach to learning about bioengineering. One student who had to leave early the day of Aaron's presentation asked me if I had saved the presentation so he could see it. I look forward to working with Aaron again in the future!"
Sarah Burcher is a graduate student in Dr. Kiisa Nishikawa's lab at Northern Arizona University. She also holds the honor of begin a Science Foundation Arizona Graduate Research Fellow. Sarah has been instrumental in developing environmental science curriculum for STEM City and creating a website that explores soil, water, and forestry investigations and kits that you can access here. Sarah met with the students at the beginning of the intersession to give them an introduction to bioengineering. The students favorite parts of her presentation were the glow in the dark cats (of course), but were also engaged by the prosthetics, biosuits, and bioengineered bacteria. Sarah returned at the end of the week to observe the frog habitats the students designed.
The students based their investigations on a unit from the award-winning Engineering is Elementary curricula. This unit, Just Passing Through: Designing Model Membranes, has students learning to think like bioengineers as they design a model membrane to mimic the properties of real membranes in live organisms. The storybook Juan Daniel’s Futbol Frog sets the scene, as students read about a boy who engineers a membrane to keep a frog alive. Students learn how membranes function and apply their knowledge of the basic needs of living organisms to the engineering design challenge: designing a frog habitat with a model membrane that delivers just the right amount of water.
Sarah explained: "The students were given materials such as sponges, foil, cheese cloth, and felt, and tested them by pouring water through them and seeing how it was absorbed. Then they constructed a "membrane" of the materials, with the objective of their membrane allowing some water through but not all. They poured half a cup of water on it, left it overnight, and then came back to see how it worked. They measured the flowthrough, and discussed how saturation, materials, and the order of materials can affect the design, and talked about how they could do it differently next time. They also learned about the engineering design process (finding a problem, devising a solution, testing, reevaluating) and discussed how they could apply it to everyday life."
Thank you Sarah and Aaron for your contributions to Bioengineering at Killip!
STEM City Center challenged students to do something "STEMmy" with a small plastic test tube. We just received our first experiment: Arlo Millis writes "We mixed vinegar from test tube with baking soda." He sent us this great video of a wonderful reaction of an acid (vinegar) and a base (baking soda) that many people use to clean their drains.
Thank you Arlo and don't forget to wear gloves and your safety goggles!