Arizona Daily Star: Sahuarita SciTech Festival puts careers front and center

(January 24, 2014) – Hundreds of students milled about the Sahuarita Middle School gym Thursday, learning about mining, insects, the layers in a strand of hair and hybrid car engines.

While the lessons intrigued many of the seventh- and eighth-graders, business leaders hope the exhibits will also encourage the students to pursue science and technology careers.

The middle school hosted the first Sahuarita SciTech Festival, which featured about 20 local companies and groups such as Rosemont Copper, Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold, the Pima County Joint Technical District and the University of Arizona Santa Rita Experimental Range.

Each organization set up a table with a display, with some showing rocks that contain copper and others demonstrating how to determine the pH levels in shampoos.

About 800 students from Sahuarita Middle School and Anza Trail School rotated through four sessions, receiving an up-close look at these careers.

“You can see the job options and careers you can do when you’re older,” said Ashley Brunette, 12, a seventh-grader at Sahuarita Middle School.

Brunette learned how copper is extracted from certain rocks, among other things, she said.

The festival was the result of a partnership between the Sahuarita Unified School District, town of Sahuarita government, Green Valley-Sahuarita Chamber of Commerce and Arizona SciTech Festival, which is the statewide event, said Victor Gonzalez, economic development manager for the town of Sahuarita.

The purpose of the local and statewide festivals is to promote careers in the STEM fields. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

The science theme will continue this weekend with a SciTech Scientist Contest for Sahuarita-area high school students at Desert Diamond Casino, 1100 W. Pima Mine Road.

The students will demonstrate robotics, chemistry, photography and other projects as they compete for a $500 prize.

The contest is a component of the Green Valley-Sahuarita Chamber of Commerce Expo that will take place this weekend.

“In the bigger picture, it’s a way to promote economic development by supporting the youth and developing the future workforce,” Gonzalez said.

It’s also a way to connect local companies with potential future employees.

“We wanted to let the kids know there was industry around us,” he said.