With a major research university right in our backyard, a strong military presence and innovative companies throughout the metro region, there’s often a plethora of interesting science and technology news to be found in Southern Arizona. Here’s a breakdown of the most interesting recent developments.
Computer Science School Opens. On Tuesday, July 23, Marana Unified School District superintendent Doug Wilson and principal Andrea Divijak cut the ribbon at the new Dove Mountain CSTEM K-8 School. The CSTEM school, as the name implies, will focus its curriculum on computer science, technology, engineering and math. School features include science labs that house both augmented reality and virtual reality lessons, 3D printing devices and “maker spaces” for hands-on robotics learning. Computer science program opportunities for students include participating in Code to the Future and Odyssey of the Mind. Other than computer classes, the school still features traditional physical education and arts classes, as well as sports opportunities for middle school students.
Microsatellites and Asteroids. Researchers at the University of Arizona are using a three-year, $3 million NASA grant to research the low-gravity environments of asteroids. The grant, part of NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project Institutional Research Opportunity program, will allow minority students the opportunity to design, build and operate “CubeSats,” or miniature satellites. While there are many reasons to study asteroids, it is extremely costly (not to mention difficult) to reach them. As an alternative, the project will recreate the low-gravity environments of asteroids by sending these miniature satellites into near-Earth orbit. The satellites, which are essentially small laboratories containing asteroidal material, will “generate a centrifugal force equivalent to an asteroid’s extremely low surface gravity” in order to replicate and study the elements of an asteroid.
SARSEF takes the reins on Racing the Sun. The Southern Arizona Research, Science, and Engineering Foundation now has a hand in one of the most unique races in Arizona. For eight years, Tech Parks Arizona has developed “Racing the Sun,” a STEM program where high school students design, build and race solar-powered go-karts. And now, Tech Parks is transitioning the program to SARSEF. According to Carol Stewart, associate vice president of Tech Parks Arizona, “In today’s knowledge-based economy, this type of program is instrumental in preparing students for the workforce. SARSEF is the ideal organization to move Racing the Sun from incubation stage and scaling it up to magnify its ability to build Arizona’s future leaders.”
UA Establishes Micro-Campus in Peru. The University of Arizona recently announced a new campus in Lima, the capital city of Peru. This new ‘micro-campus’ is part of UA Global, and joins the ranks of UA campuses in Vietnam, China, Iraq and Cambodia. UA Lima is part of the Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas (Peruvian University of Applied Sciences). Launching this fall, this is the first UA location in South America, and offers six degree paths from UA colleges of architecture, management, engineering, law, and behavioral science. The campus also offers “accelerated master’s options,” where students can earn up to three degrees in as little as five years. Students can complete their degrees entirely in Lima, or choose to study in Tucson for a summer, a semester or longer.