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Posted On:
July 29, 2016
at 9:40 pm

STEM Community Development


By: Michele Peters, writer, Arizona SciTech Festival

The Arizona SciTech Festival now enters its sixth season with over 400,000 people participating last year throughout Arizona including students, teachers, parents, colleges/universities and corporations. This unprecedented growth and success would not possible without the support of elected community leaders who used their positions to further engage and impact the communities they represent. Through their commitment and leadership, they help to embody the grassroots nature of the entire Arizona SciTech ecosystem in its mission to further STEM education and innovation in Arizona. We wanted to acknowledge a few of these leaders who have gone above and beyond, rolled up their sleeves and directly and regularly engaged in the Arizona SciTech Festival’s program development:

1Don CoveyDon Covey – Maricopa County Superintendent of Schools, instrumental in helping launch the Festival its first year; was, and still is, a critical partner in the development of AZ SciTech and STEM education for all students. Covey worked to link STEM professionals with schools in the community.  He was responsible for key introductions with educational leaders throughout the community along with County Superintendents around the state. Covey championed the Maricopa County Education Service Agency (MCESA) team to join the development of the AZ STEM Community of Practice which now has over 60 school teams bringing hundreds of school leaders together to improve STEM instruction state-wide. He was one of the first local leaders who invested in communication and collaboration efforts that made the Festival such a success. Covey knows, and continues to model, how local elected leaders can leverage government, education, and business to increase and improve STEM instruction for Arizona.


1Michelle HessMichelle Hess – Vice Mayor, City of Buckeye, championed the development of the Buckeye SciTech Festival which brings together a unique, interdisciplinary collaboration of business, government, community and education in Buckeye. A vital participant in several events, Hess helped to integrate a SciTech Festival as part of the popular Buckeye Air Fair with over 50 STEM-related activities. The Buckeye Air Fair is one of the top ten events in the Arizona SciTech Festival with an attendance of over 10,000.



Diane Joens – Mayor of Cottonwood, led the efforts to form the Verde Valley Regional SciTech Festival that now includes the four towns of Cottonwood, Clarkdale, Camp Verde and Sedona and has grown into one of the strongest regional SciTech collaboratives in Arizona. This festival is a role model since it has united a diverse collaborative in the Verde Valley region and continues to meet monthly to keep collaborators connected. Joens has inspired other elected leaders to engage in the Arizona SciTech Festival and directly impacts STEM education in all four towns.


1Rick HeumannRick Heumann – Councilmember of the City of Chandler, enthusiastically led the development of the Chandler Science Spectacular, one of the longest and most robust AZSciTech collaboratives in the state. Now entering their fifth season, the Spectacular continues to feature a night of art and science along with a Science Saturday that draws over 100 content providers and 5,000 attendees. Heumann’s work and results in Chandler have inspired other communities to actively and successfully participate in Arizona SciTech Festival events in addition to several other collaborations.  Heumann has helped to mobilize leaders within the Chandler Economic Development Department and the Downtown Chandler Community Partnership to jointly plan and develop Chandler’s continued initiatives.  But it does not stop there.  His commitment to education and students led to his creation of the Chandler Education Coalition that continues to meet monthly and has expanded to additional projects related to early education and literacy.

1Robin Arredondo-SavageRobin Arredondo-Savage – Vice Mayor, City of Tempe has created and championed the development of Tempe’s  Geek’s Night Out, one of the most memorable events of the SciTech Festival. Her work directly mobilizes the City of Tempe’s support to plan and promote Geek’s Night Out, a grand idea that blends fun and science and brings together all “Geeks” at all levels.  Arredondo-Savage has worked diligently to maintain a thriving grassroots collaboration of business, education, community and government.



1Linda O'DellLinda O’Dell – Gila County Superintendent, was instrumental in the creation and growth of the first regional SciTech Festival in Gila Valley, the Gila Valley STEM Fest. O’Dell brought together a distinct and diverse collaborative of business, education and community members to extend STEM to Globe/Miami. Now in their 6th season, the Gila Valley STEM Fest is an outstanding role model for successfully bringing STEM education into a community. Based on the success in Globe, O’Dell helped to develop a sister festival in Payson, once again following a similar model that is now in its 4th season with ever-growing attendance and interest in STEM education. O’Dell has lent her talents and commitment to the Arizona SciTech team and has, for multiple seasons, worked on a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to expand the reach of SciTech opportunities year round.

THANK YOU to each and every one

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