Story by Marian Frank / Photos by Sun Belous and Tabbitha Mosier
A record 7,500 children and parents enjoyed a day of science, technology, engineering, math and medical activities at the fourth annual Connect2STEM at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix campus in downtown Phoenix.
Saturday's event was organized by the medical school and Cox Communications. The kickoff for the year's Arizona SciTech Festival — a monthlong campaign promoting science events across the state — was intended to inspire kids about STEM careers.
"The UA College of Medicine – Phoenix is committed to inspiring the next generation of physicians, researchers and STEM professionals," said Allison Otu, senior director of marketing and communications for the college. "We are the university for all of Arizona, and were thrilled to see so many children exploring science on our campus."
"Today was incredible," said Matt Rawley, regional director for the STEM Revolution Bus, a traveling exhibit designed to excite students and teachers about science. "Just watching the kids walk through the bus, you could tell they loved being here. What an incredible opportunity for them and for our community."
Children clustered around 200-plus fun science activities, including foaming toothpaste experiments led by students from the UA College of Pharmacy, cow eye and pig heart dissections led by medical students from the College of Medicine – Phoenix and exploding pingpong ball demonstrations by the STEM Revolution Bus. Participants played on a mini computer keyboard powered by a half-dozen bananas at Intel Corp.'s exhibit. The youngest attendees took stuffed animals for checkups at the Wildcat Play Hospital, staffed by UA College of Nursing students.
Other UA divisions and departments on hand were the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory; Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health; College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture; Maricopa Agricultural Center; Maricopa County Cooperative Extension; School of Information; Health Sciences Library; UA Police Department; Eller College of Management; and Arizona Athletics.
The daylong event at the Phoenix Biomedical Campus showcased exhibitors from all three of the state's public universities, including the Northern Arizona University athletic training, physical therapy and occupational therapy programs, and Arizona State University's Graduate Association of Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Students.
Professionals from businesses and local community organizations also took part, including the Challenger Space Center of Arizona, Children's Museum of Phoenix, Musical Instrument Museum and the Phoenix Zoo's Arizona Center for Nature Conservation. Several local high schools were represented with their robotics displays, including Paradise Valley, Mesa Westwood and Mountain Ridge high schools, and Luke Air Force Base brought a flight simulator and a fighter pilot.
In addition to Cox, sponsors were Arizona SciTech Festival, USAA, APS, City of Phoenix Public Works Department, Fry's, DPR Construction, Boyer Co., Sundt Construction, Kitchell and Standard Parking.
Kristi Boles of Phoenix brought her 10- and 11-year-old daughters to the event. Their favorite activity was learning about virtual reality.
"They definitely have an interest in science," Boles said. "They found out about Connect2STEM at school and said they wanted to go. It's important that they have a broad exposure to science and medicine. They loved exploring all the interactive exhibits."