Saturday, February 15, 2014

Get Your Geek On With Rio Salado College!

Dye-sensitized solar cell (DSSC) demonstration by
 Rio Salado's Jeanne Ratliff, Rich Cuprak and Rick Vaughn
Geeks’ Night Out is an annual event celebrating all things geeky. Hosted by the City of Tempe to promote an interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), this very special Third Thursday event combines the learning experience of a science and technology convention with the fun and excitement of a Mill Avenue street festival.

Popular exhibits include an R2-D2 robotics display, Phoenix Comicon costume contest and a ghost hunting demonstration.

For this year’s event, Rio Salado College, ASU’s Arizona Initiative for Nano-Electronics and Penn State’s Center for Nanotechnology Education and Utilization will provide family-friendly, educational entertainment highlighting nanotechnology and energy management systems.

According to Rio Salado STEM Faculty Chair Rick Vaughn, the Rio Salado booth will include a variety of displays and demonstrations including a dye-sensitized solar cell (DSSC) display and remote control access to a scanning electron microscope (SEM).

“We are working in partnership with ASU to celebrate educational and career opportunities in emerging technology fields,” Vaughn said. “The hands-on SEM and DSSC exhibits will allow children and adults of all ages to explore the scale of the universe down to the subatomic scale.”

Vaughn said he’s looking forward to showing the next generation how fun and exciting STEM subjects can be.

“This event gives young people first-hand experience with emerging technology and in-person interaction with the experts who make it happen,” Vaughn said. “Because nanotechnology and energy management systems are expected to have a major impact on things like manufacturing and the American economy, it’s important to foster an interest in these technologies.”

According to Rio Salado Faculty Chair of Applied Technology, Richard Cuprak, technology education can be a moving target, so it’s important for students to enjoy the learning process.

“Technology evolves very quickly. We want to encourage the type of curiosity and drive for lifelong learning that will allow students to evolve with it,” Cuprak said. “It’s also a lot of fun.”

Cuprak said he enjoys the Geek’s Night Out event because it gives him an opportunity to share his passion for technology.

“The educational elements are really just a nice side effect,” Cuprak said. “The best part is that we get to play with really cool toys, meet new people who share our interest in science, and geek out about the things we love.”

Cuprak said he also looks forward to talking to potential students about the emerging technology programs that he is working on for Rio Salado College.

“We’re launching an Energy Systems program this fall that I’m really looking forward to,” Cuprak said. “So I’ll be answering questions about that as well.”

Geek’s Night Out, part of the Arizona SciTech Festival, will be hosted by the City of Tempe Feb. 20 from 4:30 – 9 p.m. on Mill Avenue near Tempe City Hall.

This story can also be found in the February 15 edition of the Tempe Republic.