Monday, March 2, 2015

Geeks Night Out Discovers Fun Science

Don’t be fazed if you see Darth Vader, robots or strangely garbed beings descend on Tempe City Hall on Thursday, March 5. It’s not an intergalactic convention, or even a city council meeting. It’s the 4th annual Tempe Geeks Night Out.

Once again, science aficionados will gather in downtown Tempe to highlight interactive displays and sci-fi/pop culture exhibits that blend science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) and more.

The event takes place from 4-7 p.m. and is free and open to the public. This year’s theme is “Discover the Science.”

Among the many exhibitors will be Rio Salado College.

“We wanted our booth to include activities that educate and engage participants in emerging technologies,” said Rick Vaughn, faculty chair for STEM initiatives at Rio Salado College.

Booth highlights include:
  • Remote access to a scanning electron microscope that is located in Seattle. Visitors will be able to take away an actual image that they create using the microscope.
  • See a 3D printer at work! Take in the 3D printer exhibit and see how the additive manufacturing process enables the creation of 3D objects using a layered framework.
  • Infra-red camera activity where kids can see various heat signatures and how heat transfers from lights to surrounding materials. Energy systems lightbulb display. A three fixture lamp will hold one 25W incandescent bulb, one 25W CFL bulb, and one 25W LED bulb. Light meters, volt meters, ammeters, data-loggers, and temperature measuring equipment will be available to compare and contrast. Visitors can record temperature and light output.

While a light bulb display may not seem very scientific, there are many science-related concepts at work.

“The displays of the light bulb components and design of each lead into discussions of fabrication and micro/nano-technology,” said Richard Cuprak, Jr., faculty chair for Applied Technology at Rio Salado College.

Breaking down complex scientific concepts and making them understandable is one of the aims of Geeks Night Out. Another is extolling the importance of STEM as a career choice.

Vaughn cites a nationwide shortage of STEM educated workers and teachers as one reason Rio Salado College participates in events like Geeks Night Out.

“Students who are excited and engaged in STEM events early on are much more likely to select a STEM pathway throughout their education,” Vaughn said.

Another reason is the college’s reputation.

“Rio Salado College has accepted a leadership role in the state to promote STEM education through community events, career and technical pathways, emerging technology programs and professional development for teachers.”

Tempe Geeks Night Out is part of the statewide Arizona SciTech Festival, which takes place in February and March each year. Cities across Arizona host a variety of events and activities to promote STEM in local communities. You can find a full listing of events and the annual program online.

“While these events are educational, they also provide an opportunity for Rio Salado to show the public that learning is fun and can happen in many different ways,” Cuprak said.

For more information about the Energy System Technology program at Rio Salado College visit www.riosalado/energy.

Forget what you think you know about science, Geeks' Night Out is all about discovering what makes science fun!

Check out this City of Tempe video with Richard Cuprak and you'll see what we mean.

By Mira Radovich, Communications Coordinator for Rio Salado College. PHOTO: Rio Salado College’s Rick Vaughn and Jeanne Ratliff at the 2013 Tempe Geeks Night Out event.