STEMFest brings science to local students


For the second year, STEMFest will take place on the Gila Community College campus to coincide with the college’s Arbor Day festivities for a spring event focusing on the importance of STEM: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“Why do we do it? Because we want kids to see what’s out there in science and technology and the great things on the community college campus,” Gila County School Superintendent Roy Sandoval said. “We couldn’t do it without [GCC] and the use of their beautiful facilities.”

The STEMFest is entering its seventh year and has become a popular county event, drawing more than 600 participants last year.

Featured at this year’s festival will be the Globe Unified School District robotics program, the Midnight Cicadas, led by Noelle Anderson, the district’s administrative receptionist.

Anderson has been involved in Gila County STEMFest from its inception.

“STEMFest originated as the brainchild of then- Gila County Schools Superintendent, Dr. Linda O’Dell, in 2012, as an event to showcase the regional business, academic and government STEM resources in our community,” Anderson wrote in a recent email. “Her inspiration came from the newly minted AZ SCITECH festival, which still features events throughout the state during the months of January through April.”

After a stint at the Gila County Education Service Agency coordinating project-based learning enrichment programs, Anderson returned to GUSD with visions of recreating science and technology programs, such as FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in the local district.

Utilizing funding secured from a Freeport McMorRan grant, Anderson enlisted a pair of former Globe High School students, Darrel Yerkovich and RJ Castaneda, to create a robotics program that has had as many as 75 student participants.

“We are one of only 80 school districts in the world that provide access to all the FIRST Division of programs,” she said. “We are also regionalizing, and will promote robotics in our other local districts, inviting students without access in their schools to participate in ours.”

Anderson’s role is primarily organizational and includes seeking funds, event coordination, communications, promotions, and other details surrounding the program.

The Midnight Cicadas return after having participated in all but one STEMFest, as the group was in Houston last year for the FIRST Worlds Championships.

And while they did not qualify to compete, the group attended in support of one of its members, Kendra Martinez, who was in the running to win a prestigious award on a global level.

“We decided to take the opportunity to bring her and attend the event as spectators and workshop participants,” Anderson said. “It was crazier than competing, which we did in St. Louis for the 2015 Recycle Rush season.”

The Cicadas plan to “pull out all the stops” this year and will have a substantial amount of space to do so.

STEMFest is a free community event made possible by the businesses, organizations, agencies and individuals that volunteer time and effort to make STEM education a community issue.

Organizer Bianca Tarango said there will be more than 30 booths exhibiting science and engineering projects, with demonstrations, plenty of SWAG and the Gila County Sheriff’s Department K-9s will be giving demonstrations.

But at its heart, the festival is about increasing interest in science and technology by making it fun for students.

“Science may be boring to them so we want them to see what can be done,” Tarango said. ‘This is a great amalgamation of interests in the community.”

Additionally, the Fifth Annual Ruin to Ruin 5K Run takes place on the day of the event and Sandoval is encouraging local elected officials to participate.

“I challenge all elected officials to participate and I’ll spot $20,” he said. “I’m throwing down the gauntlet.”

On-site registration begins at 7 a.m. and the race begins at 8 a.m.

To register in advance, go to www.gilaccc.org.

The 2018 STEMFest will be held April 28 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on GCC’s Sixshooter Canyon Campus, located at 8274 S. Six Shooter Canyon Rd. in Globe.

For more information, contact Bianca Tarango at the Gila County Superintendent’s Office. Call 928-402-8788 or email [email protected] for more information.

Gila County STEMFest is part of the Arizona SciTech Festival. For more information on events statewide, go to www.azscitech.com.

For more information on the Midnight Cicadas, email [email protected], or go to www.midnightcicadas.com.

Pictured: Gila County School Superintendent Roy Sandoval invites all local elected officials to join him in the 2018 Ruin to Ruin 5K taking place on Saturday.

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