ASU Doctoral Students Work with 6th, 7th and 8th Graders on STEM Experiments in After School Program funded by Science Foundation Arizona

250 Kyrene Students to Present Results and Projects at April 19 Event

PHOENIX (April 13, 2012) – For the past nine weeks, 250 middle school students from the Kyrene School District have been performing a variety of STEM experiments and projects such as using hydrogen fuel cells to power toy cars to designing their own aliens based on their growing knowledge of molecular and cellular biology. On Thursday, April 19, the students will present the results of their experiments and projects to more than 750 family and community members, as well as special guest speaker, Craig Barrett, Chair, Arizona Ready and retired CEO of Intel. The event will take place at Kyrene School District’s Centennial Middle School Gymnasium at 6:00 p.m.

The ASU Citizen Scientist-Engineer @ Kyrene after-school program taps into student interest in pursuing careers in STEM-related fields utilizing Science Foundation Arizona’s Graduate Research Fellows (GRF) from ASU and ASU science and engineering faculty. The Graduate Research Fellow doctoral students worked side-by-side with teachers and students from six Kyrene middle schools on science and engineering projects touching on everything from the design of water filtration devices to alternative and renewable energy models and exploratory microbiology and genetics.

“Most of our Graduate Research Fellows really enjoy sharing their knowledge and research with K-12 students and find hands on teaching extremely rewarding,” said Len Fine, senior scientific program officer at Science Foundation Arizona. “We’re looking forward to hearing directly from the youth and teachers impacted by the work of our GRF’s.”

Michael DiNezza is one of Science Foundation Arizona’s ASU Graduate Research Fellows that worked closely with the middle school students teaching them about energy, how circuits work and how solar and alternative energy can be harnessed to meet our daily needs. He says, “I want to excite and inspire students to challenge themselves by choosing a science-related career.” Michael is part of a research team at ASU’s new Center for Photonics Innovation studying semiconductor and optoelectronic devices.

The ASU GRF’s met with the students for 90 minutes once or twice a week over nine weeks. The project goals are to make science and engineering relevant and transparent to K-12 students as an investment in future innovation, to increase public engagement with science, and to develop GRF’s as citizen scientist-engineers who can effectively communicate their science and engineering knowledge and research to K-12 students, their families and their communities.

Dr. Tirupalavanam Ganesh, who helped oversee the program and is a professor at ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering said, “It’s more important than ever to collaborate with young scientists and engineers to integrate their passion, interest, knowledge and engagement in STEM fields. Through this program, we’ve helped create life-changing experiences for middle school students and their teachers and we hope to continue to be able to do so.”

Arizona State University President Michael Crow said, “This program demonstrates one of the many ways in which ASU strengthens its communities. We are motivating the next generation of innovators by collaborating with middle school students and their teachers. We are enhancing learning opportunities for our K-12 students by engaging our science and engineering doctoral students in creating innovative ways to enhance interest in the STEM fields.”

Facilitated by the ASU Graduate College and overseen by Dr. Andrew Webber, Associate Vice Provost, Graduate Student Programs, the program has recruited outstanding doctoral students to attend ASU and take part in this education outreach effort with partner middle schools in the Kyrene School District.

The GRF program is led and funded by Science Foundation Arizona, a nonprofit public-private partnership that serves as a catalyst for revitalizing Arizona and strengthening its economic future. The program was created to help strengthen Arizona’s research universities by providing access to the best and brightest doctoral students in science and engineering. Working in middle and high school classrooms is part of the program requirement. This is meant to help encourage students to explore their interests in STEM by nurturing natural curiosity and developing observation and analytical skills through hands-on experience, thus helping grow Arizona’s talent pipeline.

To date, Science Foundation Arizona has produced and funded 263 graduate research fellows at ASU, UA and NAU who also work directly with teachers and students in K-12 classrooms throughout Arizona.

About Science Foundation Arizona
Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization initiated in 2006 by the Greater Phoenix Leadership Inc., Southern Arizona Leadership Council and the Flagstaff Forty in conjunction with the executive and legislative branches of state government. SFAz serves as a catalyst for high-wage, knowledge-based jobs and economic diversity through administration and strict oversight of research, development and education grants to public education and other non-profit research performing institutions. For more information, visit www.sfaz.org.

About Arizona State University
Arizona State University is a New American University, promoting excellence in its research and among its students, faculty and staff, increasing access to its educational resources and working with communities to positively impact social and economic development. The ASU Citizen Scientist Engineer @ Kyrene program is one of ASU’s many efforts that are representative of the design principle that ASU is socially embedded by connecting with communities through mutually beneficial partnerships.

About Kyrene School District
The Kyrene Elementary School District is an award-winning suburban district comprised of 25 schools (19 elementary and 6 middle schools). Kyrene’s boundaries are located within Chandler, Tempe, Guadalupe, and Phoenix. Kyrene enrolls approximately 18,000 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, and over 400 preschool children. The ASU Citizen Scientist Engineer @ Kyrene program has impacted around 550 middle school students and their families through 24 after-school programs since Spring 2010 when this collaborative effort began at Centennial Middle School and in Spring 2012 has expanded to all six Kyrene middle schools.

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