Guest Blog Post by Rose Houk
It’s pretty easy to just flush the toilet and forget where our human waste goes. For most of us, it’s “out of sight, out of mind.”
But on a Saturday in April, nearly 50 interested residents toured Flagstaff’s Rio de Flag Water Reclamation plant to look a little deeper into where our wastewater goes once it leaves our homes and businesses.
It turns out the behind-the-scenes story is really interesting.
The Rio de Flag Water Reclamation Plant is a clean, attractive building standing just beyond Sam’s Club by a trail along the Rio. Inside are bright offices, maps on the walls, and a friendly city employee, Jim Huchel, who greeted us and led the tour.
Once we were all signed in, Jim gave us a firsthand look at the reclamation process from beginning to end. The plant, built in 1993, receives wastewater from the west side of Flagstaff. It first comes into the “primary clarifier,” what looks like a big black spaceship that just touched down. We peered inside to see a thick, dark, watery substance just sitting there.
Unseen were the natural bacteria that were beginning to biologically alter the wastes. Some of the material in the chamber stays suspended, while other parts sink. The suspended solids are skimmed off and sent down to the city’s other water reclamation plant at Wildcat Hill.
In the next step, the liquid enters a secondary chamber where it’s further clarified. It then flows indoors where it’s treated with ultraviolet light for a third step of purification.
Jim poured the water into a wineglass, and it looked good enough to drink. In fact, it’s graded as Class A+, but under Arizona regulations reclaimed water can’t yet be used as potable, or drinking, water.
Residents had lots of questions: Is the reclaimed water okay to put on plants? Is it safe to drink? Using reclaimed water for drinking will take getting over the “yuck” factor, said Erin Young, the city’s water conservation manager. She noted that Arizona is devising regulations that might make that a possibility.
The Rio de Flag plant can treat up to four million gallons of wastewater each day. In summer, nearly all the reclaimed water is spoken for –to irrigate fields, parks, and golf courses, some residences, and for industrial uses. In winter, the city sells excess reclaimed water to the Arizona Snowbowl for snowmaking. A certain percentage also goes back into the Rio. According to the city, reclaimed water accounts for about 20 percent of Flagstaff’s total water use.
Next time you see those purple pipes and signs indicating reclaimed water, it will have a whole new meaning.
A Big STEM City Thank You to Rose Houk for this post! And to Jim Huchel and Erin Young of the City of Flagstaff for this engaging and educational tour!
Girls Take Center Stage at the Flagstaff All Girls Chess Championships
Guest Blog Post by William Cheney, Originally published in the Arizona Daily Sun
The 2017 All Girls City Chess Championships were held on Saturday, January 28, at Lowell Observatory. The tournament was moved one week after the scheduled date due to all of the snow Flagstaff received the weekend before. This was the third annual all-girls tournament and three sections were a USCF rated tournament, run by Northern Arizona Chess Center. This is the first year the event was hosted by Lowell Observatory and it attracted over 50 participants. Besides the K-3, K-5 and K-12 sections, there was also an unrated women’s section.
Lowell Observatory, STEM City, Northern Arizona University and Flagstaff Film Festival all hosted the event. In between rounds, students and families were able to explore the visitor’s center, look through telescopes and interact with the hands-on experiments at the site. They also met a female astronomer and heard her interesting presentation during the lunch time break. Dr. Deidre Hunter, an astronomer at Lowell Observatory, gave a presentation on women in science and her work with dwarf constellations. The Flagstaff Film Festival gave out two tickets to each of the first-place winners in each section. NAU gave out three scholarships to the first- through third-place winners in the K-12 section good for any STEM related field at NAU. Thank you to Provost Dan Kain for giving out the scholarships! Domino’s Pizza and Chick-Fil-A also contributed to the event.
The girls and their families really enjoyed the Spaceguard Academy at the Observatory!
In the K-12 section, the winners of the tournament were as follows: first place, Emma Tennyson, Phoenix area; second place, Mia Osmonbekov, Northland Preparatory Academy; third place, Barbara Senff, Blue Ridge High School. In the K-5 section, the city champ was Adrianna Long, 5th grade, Killip; second place went to Imola Seiben, 4th grade, BASIS Flagstaff; and third place went to Christian Begay, 4th grade Killip. In the K-3 section, first place was for Natasha Vasquez, second place went to Alexa Cardenas and third place was for Kayleigh Smith. All three girls are in third grade at Killip. The women were led by Lecretia Ashley. In second place was Sarah Martinet and third place went to Vicki Uthe.
Some of the top national and state girls in chess were at this tournament. In the 8-year-old USCF national all girls’ list was Natasha Vasquez, who is 91st in the nation and 6th in the state. In the 10-year-old group was Imola Sieben, who is 78th in the nation and first in the state. Also in the 10-year-old group is Adrianna Long, who is 93rd in the nation and second in the state. Emma Tennyson, who is 71st in the nation and first in the state, was there as well.
The 3rd Annual All Girls Chess Tournament Champions!
Guest Blog post by Christine Sapio, CocoNuts Coach and CHS Educator
On December 3, 2016 the Coconino High School “CocoNuts” FIRST Robotics Competition Team hosted 400+ FIRST Robotics students at the 9th Annual High Altitude Robotics Extravaganza. The Extravaganza featured two FIRST events happening simultaneously at Coconino High School: The Flagstaff FIRST Lego League Qualifying Tournament and the Northern Arizona FIRST Tech Challenge Qualifying Tournament. Thirty-six teams will compete in the two events.
The Flagstaff FIRST Lego League Qualifying Tournament featured 26 teams from Flagstaff, Kingman, Cottonwood, Heber, Holbrook, Phoenix, Camp Verde, Glendale, Cibecue and Sedona. The teams competed in this year’s challenge ANIMAL ALLIES for a chance to advance to the Arizona FIRST Lego League Championship January 14-15, 2017 at Arizona State University.
The ANIMAL ALLIES Challenge calls for teams of 9 to 14 year-old children worldwide to research and present their original ideas that explore the interactions between humans and animals. Teams will also build, test, and program an autonomous robot using LEGO® MINDSTORMS® technology to solve a series of wisdom-gathering missions which include: pushing a lever to open a door to learning, moving an idea outside of the box, loading a model with knowledge and skill loops, and more. The cornerstones of the experience are the FLL Core Values, which emphasize contributions of others, friendly competition, learning, and community involvement.
The Flagstaff FIRST Tech Challenge Qualifying Tournament featured 10 teams from Flagstaff, Laveen, Winslow, Buckeye, Gilbert, Heber, St. Michaels, Eager, and Joseph City. The teams are competed in this year’s challenge VELOCITY VORTEX. The teams were competing for a chance to advance to the Arizona/New Mexico Championship February 25, 2017 at Northern Arizona University.
The 2016-2017 Game: VELOCITY VORTEXSM presented by Qualcomm® is played on a 3.7m × 3.7m (12 ft. × 12 ft.) square field with approximately 0.3m (1 ft.) high walls and a soft foam mat floor. The field is divided diagonally into a “red” and a “blue” side corresponding to the two alliances. In the center of the field are two goals on a rotatable stand called the Center Vortex. Two ramps, each with a goal, called the Corner Vortex, are placed in opposite sides of the field. The Center Vortex Goals and Corner Vortexes are alliance specific. There are also four alliance neutral Beacons, two placed on each front wall next to the Corner Vortex. There are floor markings as well as Vision Targets placed on the field walls as reference points for robot navigation.
The top teams in the tournament were: FIRST Lego League Champion’s Award: FALA Llamabots, Flagstaff Arts & Leadership Academy, Flagstaff FIRST Tech Challenge Inspire Award: Navajo Code Writers, St. Michael’s Indian School, St. Michael’s FIRST Tech Challenge Winning Alliance: Mogollon Rim Jaegers (Mogollon High School in Heber) and elkSPLOSION (Round Valley High School in Eager)
Nine FIRST Lego League teams and three FIRST Tech Challenge Teams advanced to their respective Championship Tournaments.
Guest Blog Post by Vicki Anderson (STEM VISTA Member) and Danitza Hill (Lead Science Teacher at Leupp)
Leupp Public School had their Winter Family STEM Night on December 1st from 5:30-7:00 pm. About 150 participants used STEM Activity Passports to log in their hands-on activities at 20 stations. The stations were run by teachers, students, and community groups from both Leupp and Flagstaff.
Top-notch hands-on STEM activities for the Leupp students and parents were provided by: NAU Tribal Environmental Education Outreach Program (EEOP), NAU NASA Space Grant group, American Indian Mobile Education Resource (AIMER), NAU Cohort Education students, W.L. Gore engineers, The Wonder Factory, NAU Americorp VISTA STEM Education Project Volunteers, and the Leupp Public School teachers, support staff, and PTO.
Welcome to STEM Night, and The Wonder Factory shares activities with Leupp families
STEM activities were organized by content areas of Engineering, General Science, Astronomy, Geology, Forestry, Math, Technology and STEM integration into Navajo Culture. Some of the many exciting challenges included building catapults, making 3D pasta dinosaurs, designing and testing MAKEY-MAKEYS, making snowflake prototypes with a 3D Printer brought by W.L. Gore, developing molecular gastronomic treats (s’mores), making constellation telescopes, designing, making and testing their aluminum boat buoyancy, and playing math games and measuring activities.
This Leupp Public School STEM Night was a wonderful collaboration with the community and partners in Leupp and Flagstaff. This fun exposure to STEM educational activities was a good motivator for students to want to become future engineers, scientists, mathematicians and technologists. A special thank you goes to Principal Ryan Chee and Danitza Hill (Lead Science Teacher) and the LEUPP staff and the Leupp and Flagstaff community partners for their support in providing these STEM enrichment educational opportunities! Go STEM!
Ruby Hammond, a doctoral graduate student with Tad Theimer's lab at Northern Arizona University, recently presented on Flagstaff birds to Killip Elementary School's after school Habitat Class. The class, led by teacher Mable Wauneka-Goodwin and volunteer Moses Aruguete, is building a bird-friendly habitat in the school's Luna Courtyard.
The fourteen 2nd and 3rd graders already knew a lot of information about both birds and bats, and had many bird stories to share with Ruby! They are all enthusiastic about creating better habitat for birds near Killip and learned more about the local birds and their food and nesting preferences from Ruby's presentation.
Ruby also taught the students some good tricks for identifying birds. Now the students (and you) can distinguish between a raven and a crow!
Ruby's "Urban birds in Flagstaff" presentation and information on nesting preferences is now located on the STEM City Resource page. Moses Aruguete also provided information on building nesting shelves for Robins and Cardinals on this same page.
Killip's Habitat Class hopes you will help feed and house the birds this winter!
The Girls on the Run season finale on November 11th at Coconino High School included a Hall of Heroes with many STEM professionals represented! Thank you so much to the following Wonder Women for participating in the 2016 Hall of Heroes!
Medical professionals, Dr. Kate Preston, Dr. Margaret Donnelly and Clinical Pharmacist Randee Fullenwider, all shared their experiences in the medical field with the girls.
Mechanical Engineer Beth Cooperrider, Lawyer Jennifer Mott, and Wildland Forest Fighter Maggie Knight shared their journeys and careers with the girls.
Lowell Observatory Astronomers Dr. Lisa Prato and Dr. Deidre Hunter shared starry wonders, and Lisa Lamberson, owner of Mountain Sports, described the joys and challenges of running a successful store in downtown Flagstaff.
Thank you all for your contributions to empowering our young women through the Girls on the Run Hall of Heroes!
Guest post by Lisa Winters, formerly of Arizona Game and Fish, and presently a STEM VISTA Member with the Grand Canyon Trust
The best ten days of the year, the Flagstaff Festival of Science, is in full swing. And this year, we had the first BioBlitz at Francis Short Pond! Organized by Rocky Mountain Research Station, Willow Bend Environmental Education Center, and Friends of the Rio de Flag, the BioBlitz was an opportunity for students, teachers, and the general public to work in collaboration with biologists, naturalists, and other scientists to complete a biological inventory of the plants, animals, and organisms that live in or near the pond.
Thanks to Lisa Winters, left, of Grand Canyon Trust, and Zack Zdinak, right, of Life Drawing and Education
Stations were set up around the pond that collected information about water quality, aquatic insects, birds, plants, and fish. Over 260 students from Marshall Elementary, Flagstaff Junior Academy, and Mount Elden Middle School measured the temperature and dissolved oxygen of the water, used microscopes to identify the aquatic invertebrates they caught, wandered the pond in search of common plants, used binoculars to spot ducks and red-winged blackbirds, fished for rainbow trout, and then pulled together what they learned by constructing a life cycle diagram of an organism of their choice. In the afternoon, many community members got the same chance to explore this unique ecosystem in their backyard while contributing to the survey data collection.
Photos show Alice patiently fishing, the excitement of the catch, and measuring for data prior to release!
Additional partners of the event include the City of Flagstaff Sustainability Section, The Museum of Northern Arizona, Grand Canyon Trust, local illustrator Zack Zdinak, and more! The event was made possible through a generous grant from the National Geographic Education Foundation and the AZ Game and Fish Heritage Grant. Thank you all for the great contributions to citizen science and education in Flagstaff!
Guest Post by Elii Chapman, Flagstaff Junior Academy, Math and Science Educator and Garden Club Advisor
As the school year came to a conclusion last spring I learned about a fantastic funding possibility for our gardening project at Flagstaff Junior Academy: Flagstaff Neighborhood Sustainability Grants. Our project fits all aspects of the criteria sought:
At the time I wrote the project proposal there were some of these criterion that I did not fully anticipate meeting. Our existing project was a campus garden that had been funded by a grant from Western Growers Foundation. This garden project was built and used the first year by the Sustainability elective class for 5th and 6th grade students. The second year our Orchestra teacher, Mary Allison, certified in Permaculture, joined my science sessions to teach us the principles of Permaculture Systemic Theory. This year, I wanted to extend our growth season and the productivity of our garden project with the addition of a greenhouse. Mary Allison created a shopping list for the grant proposal to the Flagstaff Neighborhood Sustainability Commission. It was approved!
This year, we have an after-school garden club. It is open to all students, but comprised mainly of 5th grade female students and parents from a variety of grades. As the day approached to install the greenhouse, I had heard from one committed parent volunteer, Matt Young, who was bringing his professional builder knowledge and tools. The day before the big day, I heard from a 6th grade parent, Susie Jardine from American Conservation Experience that several newly arrived AmeriCorp members expressed interest in helping. Thank you to the following AmeriCorp Members who came to help:
Morgan Fiorina, Anna Buchanan, Emily Tanner , Selina Burnette, Daniel Brunner, Tristan Joseph , Victoria (Tori) Maurer, Stephany Gonzalez, and Brandon Martinez.
Our new greenhouse was complete that afternoon at 5:10pm! What an amazing day resulting in a fantastic educational resource. We will continue exploration of native plants and climate difference in the Common Garden system, and grow student knowledge of germination and cooperative plant relationships. Our Garden Club will likely grow now too in terms of age and gender!
Guest Post by Moran Henn, Executive Director,
Willow Bend Environmental Education Center
What better way to help celebrate Colorado River Days than kiss some fish!?
That’s just what some lucky kids (and a few brave parents) got to do
thanks to Colorado River Days’ Annual Fish and Watersheds Science Saturday
at Willow Bend event.
This free, all ages event focused on the importance of the Colorado River,
healthy watersheds, and native fish. Participants engaged in hands-on
activities organized by numerous event partners who came together to make
the event a great success.
Activities included making paper watersheds with the AZ Trail Association,
creating nature journals to record drawings and stamps of wildlife and
nature with the Sierra Club, watching the far reaching effects of water-flow
on a 3D terrain model and learning how long objects last in ecosystems
when left behind with Oak Creek Watershed Council, making origami boats
and rowing in a real river ducky with Grand Canyon Youth, learning about
the ecology of aquatic worms and snails with Friends of the Rio, seeing
the effects of rain on the watershed with Willow Bend, and the highlight
of the event... meeting live native fish up close and in person with the
USGS aquatic lab team. Over 4 species of native fish were on display,
including the Humpback Chub and Rainbow Trout.
The public experienced, in a fun and engaging way, just how important the Colorado River is, not just to Flagstaff, but to everyone who depends on healthy flowing rivers.
Information on other Colorado River Days activities can be found here, and consider subscribing to Willow Bend's newsletter to stay informed about upcoming Science Saturday programs and other events.
Guest Blog by Marney Babbitt, NAHEC Youth Program Coordinator, Girls on the Run of Northern Arizona Council Director, North Country HealthCare
Are you passionate about STEM, healthy living, empowering girls to be their best, brightest selves, and giving back to your community? If so, consider coaching for Girls on the Run. This may be the perfect fit for you!
Girls on the Run (GOTR) is a physical activity-based, positive youth development program that inspires 3rd through 8th grade girls to recognize their limitless potential and boldly pursue their dreams. The 10-week Girls on the Run program, which is led by volunteer coaches (that's you!), focuses on helping girls develop key life skills, such as cultivating confidence, responding to oneself and others with care and creating positive connections. The teams also learn the value of giving back to their community through a service project. Girls on the Run is non-competitive and works to help each girl achieve her goal. Each season culminates with a 5k event that celebrates girls' growth during the season.
How does GOTR relate to STEM?
66% of 4th grade girls say they love science and math but only 24% of the STEM workforce is female. Children's general perceptions of gender inequality don't start to set in until about age 7. Children who are engaged in physical activities in elementary school have higher self-esteem.
As a GOTR Coach you will work closely with your team of girls and fellow Coaches. You will all have the opportunity to positively impact the lives of girls in your community, not to mention the tutus, glitter, beads and, oh yeah, cheers....lots of cheers!
As a GOTR Coach you will be trained on the GOTR curriculum where you will learn how to work with the girls on important topics such as making friends, healthy relationships, inner beauty, and healthy nutrition, all while creatively integrating running. For example, the girls may have to answer questions about the day's topic each time they complete a lap, while you and your coaching team are encouraging and cheering the girls on.
Girls on the Run is celebrating their 20th Anniversary and you can be a part of girl empowerment. Their message is: We believe that every girl can embrace who she is,
can define who she wants to be, can rise to any challenge, can change the world.
Some quotes from GOTR girls that will help them as they move forward in life:
"I learned to be strong and never give up."
–Ciondra, Grade 6
Girls on the Run could make any girl fearless, because when you're surrounded by people you trust, respect and care for, nothing can hold you back from being the most beautiful person you have grown to be." – Josie, Grade 6
Note: GOTR Coaches do not have to be runners! You just have to be enthusiastic and have a desire to work with girls of this age group. Women and Men over 18 are welcome to apply. We can't wait to have you as part of the GOTR team!
Still not convinced? Watch this short GOTR video here! Then apply to be a GOTR Coach by completing the NEW Coach application here: http://www.gotrna.org/get-involved/hey-coach
To learn more about Girls on the Run of Northern Arizona visit www.gotrna.org or contact Marney Babbitt (firstname.lastname@example.org) at 928-522-9452.
Flagstaff STEM Coordinator