By Robert Blood
[Editor’s note: The following interview was culled from conversations between the reporter and Andy Fraher, director of STEM outreach at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, who’s hosting the fifth annual Prescott Regional SciTech Fest, 10-4 p.m. Saturday, April 21 at Embry-Riddle, 3700 Willow Creek Road. Find out more at AZSciTech.Com and Facebook.]
What exactly is the Prescott Regional SciTech Fest and what happens there?
It’s a festival for people drawn from organizations from the local area to focus on science and technology and innovation. It’s an opportunity for the public to see exactly what’s going on in those worlds from the perspective of Prescott and Yavapai County. Having said that, there are some presenters from outside the area. It’s a chance to get some ideas and see some of the cool new things coming up in Science Technology Engineering and Math.
Why is STEM important?
It’s especially important for younger people to know about the advances in technology that are taking place. They need to know how these systems work to better their own lives and, hopefully, pursue a career in those fields down the road. With STEM, some of the new innovations are solving old problems with new technology. That’s something we stress at Embry-Riddle, and I should mention it’s our first year hosting the SciTech Fest. Several student groups will be presenting, too.
What’s the target age range for the event?
It’s open to everyone, but I think the demos and displays are meant to attract school-age kids. Some organizations bring games. We’ve got a demo here at Embry-Riddle of new games students are developing so children can get an idea of what they’re developing. I know we’ve got a local utility company that has a VACTOR truck coming with lots of cool stuff like video imaging they use when cleaning out sewers. There’s a wide range of stuff. There’s meteorology and ham radio, and much more.
How did the event end up at Embry-Riddle this year?
Well, it was at the Gateway Mall last year. That wasn’t a very centralized location. One of the other things that Embry-Riddle provides is our connection with education and the community. We’ve always been a big part of the event and by having it on campus, we can have even more students and organizations involved. The undergraduate research office is one of the coordinating offices for the entire event. Embry-Riddle saw an opportunity to bring the event here and there were some issues with the mall. It makes sense for us to bring it here, especially given all of the STEM programs on campus. We’ve also got the Jim and Linda Lee Planetarium on campus, which will have shows throughout the day, so that adds another layer of entertainment.
Taking a step back, why are science, technology, engineering, and mathematics important?
When I talk to students, one of the things I tell them is that everything you see requires science and engineering for it to be manufactured. These are the fields that help us understand and make sense of the universe. Everything has physics, math, and engineering. It’s there in the creation and development of just about everything. Even music has a mathematical basis to it. It’s the essence of our entire life. We can’t exist without chemistry or, at least, we can’t understand how we exist. On the technology and engineering side of things, STEM provides career opportunities. You can approach it from the automotive side, or it could be computer-related, or even paper production. There really are all sorts of ways you can get involved. And the understanding of math and science is really the foundation for all of this. These are the fields that lead to innovations, new products, and new ways of living.
There are SciTech events throughout the state. What makes the Prescott Regional incarnation special or unique?
The unique aspects are related to the businesses and organizations we have here. Obviously Embry-Riddle is a big part of that, especially this year. We’ll have helicopters flying in and and lots and lots of students there to talk about programs. In terms of the area, itself, where we’re located is simply a great place to live. I was born and raised here, but moving back, later in life, a I really appreciate the resources here and the climate. We get a little bit of everything, but it’s never extreme. And it’s so beautiful here. I’m biased, though, and you can tell.
The fifth annual Prescott Regional SciTech Fest is 10-4 p.m. Saturday, April 21 at Embry-Riddle, 3700 Willow Creek Road. Find out more at AZSciTech.Com and Facebook.
Robert Blood is a Mayer-ish-based freelance writer and ne’er-do-well who’s working on his last book, which, incidentally, will be his first. Contact him at BloodyBobby5@Gmail.Com.