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SARSEF Fair award winners have been announced!

See the winner list

Registration is open for the 2nd Annual Science Fair Director Conference

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Science Fair.

For Fair Directors, educators, and administrators

Whether you are new to science and engineering fairs or a seasoned alum, connect with other educators and attend workshops that will increase your ability to confidently and easily encourage Science Fair participation at your school and support the next generation of scientists, engineers, and leaders! This conference was such a success in 2023 that we have decided to offer it annually.

Workshop topics include:

  • Project basics
  • Demystifying SRC
  • Data visualization strategies
  • Judging tips
  • Integrating state standards with real-world investigations
  • How best to support student research
  • Addressing common teacher, student, and parent questions
  • How to run a Science Fair at your school
  • Coding basics, using 21st century tools in research
  • How to get the most out of the SARSEF Regional Fair experience

and more!

Conference Details

When? Saturday, September 28, 2024 9:00am-2:00pm

Where? Community Foundation for Southern Arizona 5049 E Broadway Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85711

Cost? $25 per attendee All registration fees are being covered by a generous donation from the Broadcom Foundation!

The conference will consist of general sessions, networking, and breakout “elective” sessions. Attendees will receive the full list of electives and submit their choices as we get closer to the conference date. Lunch and light refreshments will be served! Space is limited – register now!

A Day in the Life of A Public Ally at SARSEF: May Edition

By Katerina Guerrero

The sun is staying out longer, and the school year is ending if it hasn’t already. Congratulations to all students on your academic year. You are our future of critical thinkers and problem solvers. It’s time to spend time with family, friends, and even take time for yourself to be ready for the next school year. This was always my favorite time of the year because not only did I get a break from my busy schedules but my mom, who is a teacher, got time off from her busy schedule.

These past two months at SARSEF have been packed with busy days but amazing events that I just can’t stop thinking about. I attended my first SARSEF Fair. The whole week leading up to the big day was amazing. Watching mentors and judges talk to students about their wonderful projects, I couldn’t stop smiling in the office that week working with the team and sharing laughs as we got ready for award ceremonies. These students were so excited to share their work and were excited to share what they found out from their projects.

The big day for the SARSEF Fair at Reid Park was a day of students, teachers, mentors, and families coming together as a community to support these amazing student scientists. I got to walk around and take pictures of the beautiful energy in the park. Seeing the kids get on stage, giving a big smile to their families as they received their award for the work, they had done made it a day I will never forget, and how could I? It was filled with science and celebration.

Not only did we have our SARSEF Fair, but we also had our Racing the Sun Test and Race Days. Teams from different schools watched as their solar-powered go-karts went on the track and cheered on their driver. It was students supporting students, working together on final touches. Teachers and mentors being these students’ cheerleaders and supporters on the track.

With being a Public Ally, I not only got to be a part of the amazing events with SARSEF but got to work with the Tucson Public Ally group to create the first and hopefully first of many, Armory Artisan Market. On May 11th the team and I worked so hard to have a great turnout of vendors, food vendors, entertainment, and people. Creating a space for the community to come together was our goal and we accomplished it.

Now it’s time for summer. Like I said, it’s my favorite time of the year. In past summers, I had the chance to work with students and this summer I get to do the same. I know I am not the only one excited, because the SARSEF office is excited about SARSEF Summer STEM Camp. Getting to work with students this summer as they explore, wonder, and grow will be a great adventure! Who is excited for SARSEF STEM Summer Camp? I am! Registration is still open until May 1: https://sarsef.org/summer-stem-camps-2024/. Camps take place throughout Tucson and are on a pay-what-you-can model.

Meet the Winners of Arizona JSHS 2024

JSHS is a national competition promoting original research and experimentation in science, technology, engineering, and math at the high school level. These students present their research to a panel of judges and symposium attendees in a 12-minute presentation. These students work on their projects for months and the top five students attend the National JSHS and receive a University of Arizona scholarship. I got to ask this year’s Arizona Junior Science and Humanities Symposium 2024 winners some questions and these future scientists have so much to share with you and hope to inspire future generations.

I asked 1st Place, Finnegan McGill, and 2nd Place, Julianna Serna, what would be one thing you would tell younger students who are interested in science /engineering?

Finnegan: Persevere and believe in yourself! Be curious! Ask questions! Remember, the journey matters as much as the destination. Two years ago, I went to JSHS as a spectator with my family. I sat in the audience and listened to the students present their research. I was both fascinated and insanely intimidated by the presenters’ confidence. I couldn’t even pronounce the titles of their research, and achieving what they did seemed impossible for someone like me at the time. But I didn’t give up! I kept going, believed in myself, and continued learning. I still can’t pronounce half of my fellow researcher’s project titles but look at me now — I am one of them!

Julianna: Honestly, never take no for an answer. If you have scarce resources to conduct your project, find a way to still do it. Should someone doubt your abilities or question your capacity to engineer a project with global impact due to age or perceived limitations, press forward regardless. The key is that you believe in it and in your capacity to complete it! When fueled by genuine passion and dedication, no obstacle should deter you from pursuing what you love.

These students put so much work and dedication into these projects and it isn’t always easy for them either. I asked them, while working on your project for JSHS, what was one of the biggest challenges that you had to overcome and how did you overcome it?

Finnegan: There were so many big challenges that I faced. Creating A-BiRD was a tough journey filled with technical issues and handling lots of data. I had to learn the necessary advanced math and coding from scratch, troubleshoot problems quickly, and refine the system to detect bird sounds in natural places without recording other sounds such as people, cars, wind, and other ambient noises. I felt like giving up many times, but I persevered and learned the importance of continuous improvement. My family and caring neighbors were key factors in overcoming the difficulties. They all believed in me and my ideas and helped me through tough times. They always cheered me on and asked good questions that made me think further. Their support meant everything to me.

Julianna: I conducted my research at school under the guidance of my biology professor. While we lacked access to the most optimal materials and equipment for the project, we still managed to successfully conduct the project with the resources at our disposal. This experience reinforced my belief that one doesn’t necessarily need a state-of-the-art laboratory to tackle global issues. There’s always a way forward, even with limited resources!

I also got to ask 3rd Place Sohini Mallick and 5th Place Caleb Liu questions. I asked them, what is one of your earliest memories that shaped your interest in science/engineering?

Sohini: My interest in science initially rose from my parents’ work in microbiology and cancer. However, I’ve always had a profound interest in nature, especially plants, and even wanted to be a botanist when I was young.

Caleb: My earliest memory that sparked my interest in science and engineering was going to the Arizona Science Center when I was around 5. The interactive exhibits were super fun and made me want to go back even if it was rather far from my house. Each demonstration done by the “blue crew” also expanded my interest in all STEM fields. The most impactful exhibit by far was the one that allowed me to code Scratch games (I didn’t know you could access the website from any device yet), which sparked my interest in computer science. Now, I go back to the science center to volunteer so that other kids can have similar experiences as me.

I asked Sohini and Caleb about their projects and how they would describe their JSHS project to someone who does not have a science background.

Sohini: Using neon fluorescent trackers, which, when viewed under a microscope, display expressions of a protein based on the intensity of the fluorescence, I studied how a specific protein, p53, functions within a group of cells from the intestine, help to form a barrier against unwanted microorganisms in the human body. One of my biggest challenges was trying to develop a protein tracker for p53, which has never been done before. It took a lot of trial and error, and even restarting the whole process, but about 4-5 months later, I was able to finally create an effective model for the rest of the experiment.

Caleb: My JSHS project is simply trying to study and improve self-driving cars. Current self-driving cars work well in ideal conditions, in sunny clear weather. We study how the camera on the car fails to detect pedestrians in bad weather conditions, and how some people of different demographic groups are negatively impacted by the failure more than other demographics.

These students are our future scientists and cannot wait to see the work they do in the future. Congratulations to the winners of Arizona JSHS 2024!

SARSEF CEO Julie Euber Selected as Board President for Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence (AzCASE)

AzCASE Executive Director Courtney Sullivan, Past AzCASE Board President Eva Harlow, and Julie Euber at the 50 State Afterschool Network Meeting in Washington D.C.

Tucson, AZ

May 15, 2024

AzCASE (Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence) has announced that Julie Euber, CEO of the Tucson-based nonprofit SARSEF, has been elected as President of the AzCASE Board of Directors.

AzCASE’s mission is to advocate for accessible, high-quality expanded learning opportunities for all Arizona children and youth statewide. As a leading voice in the out-of-school time community, AzCASE focuses on professional development, advocacy, and capacity building to ensure that every child in Arizona has access to enriching experiences beyond the traditional classroom setting.

As SARSEF CEO, Julie builds and supports a community of staff, board members, partners, and supporters to strategically bring SARSEF closer to its mission of creating Arizona’s next generation of critical thinkers and problem solvers through science and engineering. Previously, Julie served as TGen’s Manager of Education and Outreach where she increased the community’s working knowledge of genomics and educated, trained, and inspired the next generation of researchers and physicians. Since joining the board in 2020, Julie has been a resource on what quality engagement with science, technology, engineering, and math can look like in out-of-school-time spaces.

“Without the out-of-school-time programs I grew up with, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. That’s where I developed leadership skills and a comfort level with science,” Julie shared. “Getting to know AzCASE during my time on the board, I’ve been honored to see how their work provides opportunities for programs to not only grow to meet the significant need for afterschool enrichment but also to refine and celebrate the quality of their programming.”

For more information about AzCASE and its initiatives, please visit https://azafterschool.org/.

Meet the 2024 ISEF Finalists and Observers Selected at the SARSEF Regional Science and Engineering Fair

ISEF is well underway, and this year, SARSEF has a group of 11 students attending to present their research.

Nine high school students were awarded a Finalist spot at ISEF during the 2024 SARSEF Regional Fair in March:

  • Auhona Shil (University High School, Tucson, AZ) – Every day, humans are producing cancer cells but not everyone is developing cancer. One reason this could be happening is due to the phenomenon: mutational meltdown. The theory is that cancer cells develop so many mutations that they lose their fitness (survival and reproductive ability) to reproduce in the next generation. I am using population genetics and biochemistry tools to understand what the most harmful mutations are. From there, I am trying to understand how those cancer cells can be killed with the evolutionary process, mutational meltdown, which will help prevent the recurrence of cancer.
  • Finnegan McGill (Tanque Verde High School, Tucson, AZ) – Bird populations are declining worldwide. Ornithologists need quality data to understand why. A-BiRD is an automated bird recognition device. It uses a specific program to identify bird species and its own computer code and algorithms for direction finding and cueing. A-BiRD collects, processes, and analyzes data, day and night, 24/7, with consistent methods and without human intervention. A-BiRD is like a superhero for bird research.
  • Humberto Gil Villalobos and Michael Castro (Harvest Preparatory Academy, Yuma, AZ) –  Our project is making a weed barrier that can get rid of harmful bugs that is safe for the earth and people. The barrier stops bad plants from growing and repels bad insects.
  • Jimmy Kwon (BASIS Tucson North, Tucson, AZ) – When you open up deliveries at your doorstep, you will notice that they are mostly empty. My project uses a set of cameras, code, and artificial intelligence to quickly choose a different, smaller box, leading to less trashed cardboard.
  • Julianna Serna (Harvest Preparatory Academy, Yuma, AZ) – My project is aiming to make a bioplastic from the waste of corn and algae. By using these natural ingredients, my bioplastic will be able to help decrease plastic pollution and therefore help the environment because it will be stronger, fight bacteria, degrade and melt faster compared to a normal plastic.
  • Katherine Lam (University High School, Tucson, AZ) – I designed fluorescent nanoparticles to monitor intracellular signaling cascades. In other words, I used super-small, glowing submicron particles to take real-time images of living cells. I ultimately found that coating particles with a substance known as TMOS, or tetramethylorthosilicate, could produce highly water-stable and optically efficient nanoparticles.
  • Maritza Roberts (BASIS Tucson North, Tucson, AZ) – Two native saltbush seeds, Atriplex lentiformis and Atriplex canescens, showed that they can withstand very toxic concentrations of Zinc concentrations, while also sprouting under low nutrient exposure. Then, these seeds can be planted on soil contaminated by Zinc from mining waste, and once their roots grow, the shrubs stabilize the soil, reducing the spread of metal into our water, soil, and air.
  • Sohini Mallick (University High School, Tucson, AZ) – I am looking at how our bodies create a barrier to protect us from harmful bacteria.

We asked our ISEF finalists to share about their experiences in research.

What was the first science or engineering project you ever did?

The first project I ever created that really engaged with science was in 7th grade, back when I still studied in my school in Sonora, Mexico. I created a project that focused on explaining how chemistry element differences cause flames to burn different colors, and related this to emission spectra. – Maritza Roberts

As a little boy aggravated by the amount of bug bites I woke up to, I was captivated by the idea of capturing these pests. Seeing multiple blog posts explaining that the reaction of baking soda and vinegar attracts bugs, I rushed to the pantry and developed the mixture in a large plastic bottle. Although this science project never actually captured any bugs, the process of constructing my own scientific contraption was thrilling and ultimately piqued my interest in STEM projects. – Jimmy Kwon

I’ve participated in SARSEF and AZSEF since 6th Grade, researching different topics in Chemistry, Engineering, Animal Science, Computational Biology and Informatics. My very first project was a study on bacteria. I swabbed different surfaces at my school, nursed the bacteria in a warm environment on agar plates, and found out that the door handle of my school’s front office was actually more contaminated than the door handle of the boys’ bathroom! I also discovered that chemical cleaners with higher bleach content get rid of bacteria more efficiently than organic or vinegar-based cleaners. – Finnegan McGill

What is your advice for students just starting out in science or engineering projects?

My advice for students just starting a project is to do what makes you happy and what you enjoy. The reason is that otherwise, you will find it difficult to do research and finish your project. You will get bored of it. – Michael Castro

Science is mostly problem-solving. During whatever project you are doing, you will face many challenges, and you might even have to start over again. But instead of feeling frustrated, think about it as a way to look at the problem from a new perspective you may not have considered, and stay consistent until you can solve the problem. Science is also a collaboration of multiple ideas. Discuss your project with other people to gain their insights on it, because they may look at your project from a different aspect and provide you with solutions you may never have thought of, or give you new ideas to expand your project even more. – Sohini Mallick

Go in expecting science to be nonlinear. The Scientific Method always seems so cut and dried: you ask a question, form a hypothesis, design an experiment, etc. However, it doesn’t account for the countless hours spent doing background research, or troubleshooting equipment, or completely rejecting hypotheses. That’s all part of the learning process, and it’s honestly part of what makes science so thoroughly rewarding. Each setback is an opportunity to grow. – Katherine Lam

My advice is to seek mentorship if you are able to. If you have any clubs or classes at your school where you might be able to have a mentor on your subject, or perhaps even a teacher you know well, talk to them if they might be able to mentor you with your research, because professional feedback never hurts. Always take advantage of any mentorship opportunities you come across with, I assure you they will make a difference. Another advice I would give other young students who are on their pathway to success in STEM, is to always trust your capacity to succeed. If your project is about something you are truly passionate about and something that you care for, you should fight for it and believe in it.  Even if you are not incredibly good in the subject, there is always time and space to learn! ­– Julianna Serna

What was the most exciting moment of doing your project, and what was the most challenging?

The most exciting moment of doing my project was when I had to think outside the box in order to answer my research question. I learned that I had to intersect my tools and use a little piece from many scientific fields including statistics, biochemistry, population genetics, and oncology. The most challenging part of my project was developing my research question because it was hard to narrow down what I wanted to do specifically. – Auhona Shil

The most exciting part of my project was molding the bioplastic into the plastic cutlery, especially the spoons! We utilized a silicone mold used to make chocolate spoons, and while I was pouring the bioplastic formula into the molds I felt like a cook who was doing some sort of dessert; the entire process was very fun. The most challenging part for me was utilizing the statistical analysis programs, like the Image J program. Even though this is my third year working with this project, it still gets a little challenging to get used to them again at the beginning. However, after my mentor goes through the whole process with me, I get used to it and it becomes easier. – Julianna Serna

The most exciting moments were definitely the times when I learned something new and could actually apply my knowledge to my project, including some of the engineering, the technology, the computer coding, and the data processing. I knew nothing about these areas before starting my project and I still cannot quite believe how far I’ve come by learning, not giving up, and finding the answers to my many questions. There were so many big challenges that I faced. Creating A-BiRD was a tough journey filled with technical issues and handling lots of data. I had to learn the necessary advanced math and coding from scratch, troubleshoot problems quickly, and refine the system to detect bird sounds in natural places. I mentored my two younger brothers so they could help me with the huge data processing. I felt like giving up many times, but I persevered and learned the importance of continuous improvement. My family and really caring neighbors were key factors in overcoming the difficulties. They all believed in me and my ideas and helped me through tough times. They always cheered me on and asked good questions that made me think further. Their support meant everything to me. – Finnegan McGill

The most exciting and challenging parts of my project revolve around the coding aspect. It’s impossible for me to point to one specific part of the code as challenging because, frankly, a lot of it was challenging. Instead, I would point to the daily grind, marked by a series of long nights and early mornings, as the most challenging aspect of this project. However, the sheer happiness and excitement that results from the code outputting the desired outcome makes the entire process so, so worth it. – Jimmy Kwon

Is there anything else you would want to share in a blog post about you and your fellow ISEF finalists?

ISEF is one of my favorite experiences ever! The people you meet, the events, the food (!!!) are so memorable, and I will always be grateful to SARSEF for this experience! – Jimmy Kwon

As a Mexicana and Latina in STEM, I understand the importance of visibility in a field where many other BIPOC students have been historically underrepresented in. On YouTube and Instagram I direct content on @maritzastudies, leading a podcast titled Cientifica Discussions, which highlights current high school trailblazers that have diverse science interests. These students are Latinas in STEM who have won international and national distinctions for their work in fields like astrophysics, biology, neuroscience, computer science, entrepreneurship, and chemistry. Ultimately, each Latine student shares how they have achieved success and describes their non-linear path within science. – Maritza Roberts

The first science fair project that I completed in my local science fair was in 6th grade. After moving to Tucson, I was amazed by the majestic Saguaro Cacti. However, on my second day of school, I saw three students puncturing cacti with their pencils. That year, I conducted a research project to explore how bacterial necrosis in Saguaro cactus develops and created a claymation video which I showcased to other classes. This was the first time that I began seeing science as a solution to help the community. Since then, I have done SARSEF projects on everything from environmental science to gender/ethnic studies through bioinformatics. No matter what branch of science I am researching, I always see science as a way to solve problems and positively impact our community. With this mindset, I have been able to be proud and wholeheartedly satisfied with the work that I continue to do. – Auhona Shil

Being an ISEF finalist is one of my biggest achievements and greatest honors. Preparing for the competition taught me how to talk about science in an effective way and how important time management and practice is. My fellow ISEF finalists are amazing and such experts in their fields. It’s quite intimidating to think about! During this experience I have made a lot of connections with others and I have become more confident. Meeting other researchers motivated me and gave me new ideas. I made great friends and felt like part of a community. The experience at SARSEF, AZSEF, JSHS, and now ISEF has made me feel like a real scientist and researcher for the first time. – Finnegan McGill

For the first time in five years, SARSEF is also sending two top 8th graders to ISEF as student observers. Noemi Celani (Emily Gray Middle School, Tucson, AZ) and Alexis Batres (R Pete Woodard Jr High School, Yuma, AZ) won the top middle school project awards at the SARSEF Fair, winning the SARSEF Excellence in Research and SARSEF Board of Directors Community Impact Award, respectively, which include an all-expenses paid trip to ISEF. We asked our middle school observers a few questions about their research as well.

Please explain your project to someone who does not have a science background.

My project was finding what medication was best for people that have Adrenal Insufficiency. – Alexis Batres

I looked at the way plants communicate, and how they react to different companion plants to support their growth. I gave a study plant’s roots a choice between another plant (this could be the same species as the study plant, a native and compatible plant, or a compatible but not native plant), or a pot with just soil. My findings contradict what was previously known about plant’s growing habits (that they will always move away from each other), but instead suggests that plants are specific in their growing habits and will make decisions based on the type of neighbor next to them.  – Noemi Celani  

What is your advice for students just starting out in science or engineering projects?

I would say never give up. It may be challenging, you may never win anything, but do the project for your love and curiosity of the subject, do it to learn something. – Noemi Celani

What was the most exciting moment of doing your project, and what was the most challenging?

The most exciting moment of doing my project was testing the pH of the gastric juice after letting the pill set in the juice for 30 minutes. – Alexis Batrea

I think the most exciting thing was doing the results, turning numbers into something that shows plant growing habits. I think the most challenging thing was the weather. Since I was working with plants I could not predict that there was going to be a huge hail storm killing two of my plants.   – Noemi Celani

In this video, ISEF observer Noemi Celani captures the moment that ISEF Finalists selected at the SARSEF Fair leave the judging floor.

SARSEF Summer STEM Camps 2024

SARSEF Summer STEM Camp Information

Registration now open until May 31. Once camps fill, we will start waitlists.

This summer, SARSEF invites campers in grades 4-8 to join us in exploring the world of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)! SARSEF Summer STEM Camps are hosted across Tucson and provide hands-on activities and the chance to explore STEM careers. Check our listing of camps below to learn about this year’s schedule and themes. 

Campers should bring a packed lunch each day that does not require refrigeration. Food allergies will be recorded in camp registration to ensure any snacks we provide are safe for your camper. 

SARSEF Summer STEM Camps are offered under a pay-what-you-can model. We ask that you consider what a feasible cost is for you and to keep in mind that your registration payments help us keep SARSEF Summer STEM Camps available in Tucson for years to come. 

When registering your camper for one of our camp sessions, you will need the following information:

  • Camper info such as demographics, allergies, and any special needs
  • Primary caregiver contact info as well as the names and phone numbers of other people approved to pick up your camper
  • Emergency contact information
  • Waiver agreements you will need to read and sign. We will ask for your camper’s health insurance information and preferred hospitals.
  • Preorder for t-shirt (optional)
  • Registration payment

Summer Camp Sessions and Registration – 2024

SARSEF Summer STEM Camp: The Future of STEM 

Pima Community College – Northwest Campus 

7600 N Shannon Rd, Tucson, AZ 85709 

Ever wonder what it might be like to be in a STEM career? What is the future of STEM? This summer, SARSEF and Pima Community College invite campers to be scientists and engineers and explore all the possibilities in science, technology, engineering, and math! 

Monday, June 10, 2024 – Friday, June 14, 2024, 9am-3pm – Grades 4-5 – CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Monday, June 17, 2024 – Friday, June 21, 2024, 9am-3pm – Grades 6-8 – CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

SARSEF Summer STEM Camp: STEM Explorers 

Science, technology, engineering, and math are all around us. During this session, campers will explore a diversity of STEM fields through hands-on activities and opportunities to talk to professionals in STEM careers! 

Monday, June 24, 2024 – Friday, June 28, 2024, 9am-3pm – Grades 6-8 – CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

San Miguel High School 

6601 San Fernando Ave, Tucson, AZ 85756 

Monday, July 15, 2024 – Friday, July 19, 2024, 9am-3pm – Grades 4-5 – CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

UA Tech Park

9070 S Rita Rd Suite 1750, Tucson, AZ 85747

SARSEF Summer STEM Camp: Desert Ecology 

Tohono Chul 

7366 N Paseo Del Norte, Tucson, AZ 85704 

The desert is a place of wonder and activity. During this session, campers will make their own observations about the desert world around them and learn how humans have interacted with the desert for thousands of years through art, storytelling, engineering, and science. By the end, campers will feel right at home in the beautiful gardens of Tohono Chul. 

Monday, July 22, 2024 – Friday, July 26, 2024, 9am-3pm – Grades 4-5 – CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Monday, July 29, 2024 – Friday, August 2, 2024, 9am-3pm – Grades 6-8 – CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Other STEM Camps in Southern Arizona

Quantum Quest

Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona, Angel Charity Place for Girls

4336 E. Broadway Blvd., Tucson, AZ 85711

SARSEF is partnering with Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona, Qubit By Qubit, and University of Arizona Office of Societal Impact on a free Quantum Computing Camp for high school girls June 10-14, 2024! The camp will cover everything from the foundational concepts that make up the quantum world to how to code on real quantum computers.

Monday, June 10 – Friday, June 14, 2024 – LEARN MORE AND FILL OUT AN INTEREST FORM

Arizona Science Center’s Camp Innovation

Multiple locations across the state including Tubac, Bisbee, and Willcox

Let your imagination run wild in Arizona Science Center’s series of 5-day camp sessions that spark curiosity in science through hands-on interactive programs that incorporate learning through high-energy challenges, building, and design. Camp Innovation will inspire, educate, and engage your curious mind through hands-on science. Space is limited and pre-registration is required for all camp sessions.

Arizona Science Center helped SARSEF get camps up and running, so if you enjoy our camps, we know you’ll enjoy theirs, too!

Multiple dates – LEARN MORE AND REGISTER

Arizona Students Awarded $141,500 in Scholarships and Prizes at SARSEF Events in February and March 2024

Students from across the state competed at SARSEF events last month to be encouraged, recognized, and awarded for their work.

Press Release – PDF

April 10, 2024

(Tucson, AZ) In March, SARSEF events provided students the opportunity to be recognized and rewarded for their work in science and engineering. Many received cash prizes for their achievements.

The 69th SARSEF Regional Science and Engineering Fair showcased the work of 5,264 students, pre-kindergarten through high school, from across Southern Arizona. $124,000 in awards and scholarships were given out to students as well as teachers who went above and beyond to support their students’ work.

Grand awards were determined by over 200 volunteer judges who reviewed projects and interviewed students in order to determine the winners.

“The most exciting part of my project was molding the bioplastic into the plastic cutlery, especially the spoons!” says Julianna Serna, Yuma, AZ, who won top awards in both of SARSEF’s major STEM competitions this year. “We utilized a silicone mold used to make chocolate spoons, and while I was pouring the bioplastic formula into the molds I felt like a cook who was doing some sort of dessert; the entire process was very fun.”

Serna made a bioplastic from the waste of corn and algae. By using these natural ingredients, Serna’s bioplastic will help decrease plastic pollution. Her motivation was to help the environment and create a bioplastic that is stronger than normal plastic, degrades and melts faster and fights bacteria.

Nine high school students will continue on to compete at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles in May:

  • Auhona Shil (University High School, Tucson, AZ) – Unraveling the Achilles’ Heel of Human Tumors: Moving Towards Inducing Mutational Meltdown by Deciphering the Most Deleterious Mutational Processes
  • Finnegan McGill (Tanque Verde High School, Tucson, AZ) – A-BiRD: Automated Bird Recognition Device — Revolutionizing Ornithological Research for Global Bird Conservation
  • Humberto Gil Villalobos and Michael Castro (Harvest Preparatory Academy, Yuma, AZ) – Pest Buster!: Biodegradable Weed Barrier Infused with Grape Skin and Turmeric Extracts: Year 2 Study
  • Jimmy Kwon (BASIS Tucson North, Tucson, AZ) – Cardboard Packaging Reduction by RGB-D Vision System and Deep Learning
  • Julianna Serna (Harvest Preparatory Academy, Yuma, AZ) – Applications of Engineered Novel Solid and Liquid Bioplastic From Waste Corn Cobs and Invasive Algae- Year 3 Study
  • Katherine Lam (University High School, Tucson, AZ) – Novel TMOS-Based Synthesis and Purification of Perovskite Nanoparticles For Biosensing Applications
  • Maritza Roberts (BASIS Tucson North, Tucson, AZ) – Germination Characteristics and Metal Tolerance of Atriplex lentiformis and Atriplex canescens Seeds Under Zinc Stress
  • Sohini Mallick (University High School, Tucson, AZ) – The Function of p53 in Intestinal Epithelial Wound Healing

For the first time in five years, SARSEF is also sending two top 8th graders to ISEF as student observers. Noemi Celani (Emily Gray Middle School, Tucson, AZ) and Alexis Batres (R Pete Woodard Jr High School, Yuma, AZ) won the top middle school project awards at the SARSEF Fair, winning the SARSEF Excellence in Research and SARSEF Board of Directors Community Impact Award, respectively, which includes an all-expenses paid trip to ISEF.

Earlier this year, SARSEF hosted another STEM research competition – the Arizona Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (AZ JSHS). The program is a high school oral presentation competition promoting original research and experimentation in science, technology, engineering, and math and publicly recognizes students for outstanding achievement. This year, the event was held in Yuma for the first time in its history and included 34 oral presenters as well as 11 poster presenters from across Arizona. $17,500 in awards and scholarships were given out to students who won top prizes at the virtual event as determined by 15 volunteer judges.

Sohini Mallick, who attends University High School was an ISEF Finalist at the SARSEF Fair, also received third place at the AZ Junior Science and Humanities Symposium.

“Science is mostly problem-solving. During whatever project you are doing, you will face many challenges, and you might even have to start over again. But instead of feeling frustrated, think about it as a way to look at the problem from a new perspective you may not have considered, and stay consistent until you can solve the problem,” Mallick advises. “Science is also a collaboration of multiple ideas. Discuss your project with other people to gain their insights on it, because they may look at your project from a different aspect and provide you with solutions you may never have thought of, or give you new ideas to expand your project even more.” 

Mallick studied the germination of a bean seed over time in different light and temperature conditions, looking at how our bodies create a barrier to protect us from harmful bacteria.

Five students will attend the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium in May in Albuquerque, New Mexico: Finnegan McGill (Tanque Verde High School), Julianna Serna (Harvest Preperatory Academy), Sohini Mallick (University High School), Brad Wu (Arizona College Prep High School, Chandler, AZ), and Caleb Liu (Hamilton high School, Chandler, AZ).

At the end of this month, thirteen teams of Arizona students will compete in Racing the Sun, an engineering program for high school students that design, build and race solar-powered go-karts with the help of volunteer mentors. It is another opportunity for Arizona students to be honored and recognized for their hard work, innovative minds, and commitment to science and engineering!

To learn more about SARSEF programs and how students, teachers, and families can get involved, visit sarsef.org or email director@sarsef.org.

Why I give to SARSEF, and you should, too!

By Emily Halvorson-Otts, Board Chair, SARSEF; Dean of Sciences, Pima Community College

SARSEF provides Southern Arizona’s pre-K-12th grade students an avenue to explore their world through Science, Engineering, Technology, and Math (STEM). STEM is a continually growing field, and we need our future scientists and engineers to solve the world’s wicked problems, including ending poverty and hunger, providing access to clean water, creating sustainable solutions, and tackling climate action. We need diverse perspectives, backgrounds, experiences, and ideas to solve these wicked problems.

That is where SARSEF comes in!

Through SARSEF’s numerous programs, children can unleash their creativity, ask questions, and engage their brilliant young minds. More importantly, SARSEF programming helps students recognize their superpower – their minds! SARSEF is a fantastic platform to celebrate kids’ passion, creativity, and curiosity for their world. Further, SARSEF encourages young minds from Title I schools, women, and minorities to participate in STEM – and we need everyone to help solve our wicked problems.

SARSEF has a wealth of programming for pre-K-12 grade students, ranging from Racing the Sun, where students build solar-powered go-carts, to in-school programming called What Do We Wonder, where young kids are encouraged to ask questions and engage in critical thinking and problem-solving. Two of my favorites are the AZ STEM Adventure at the Northwest Campus of Pima Community College (PCC) and the annual SARSEF Science Fair. The AZ STEM Adventure brings approximately 1000 4th-8th grade students to PCC to explore numerous STEM activities, while well over 1000 students participate virtually.

During the most recent SARSEF Science Fair, I had the honor and privilege of handing out the fair awards on stage. We celebrated 1443 projects by 5,264 different students, and over half of those projects were from Title I schools. I am continually amazed by the student projects. Further, their ideas and research remind me that our future is in good hands. It was so much fun to congratulate the students as they walked across the stage. Every student was excited – some visibly so, while others tried to act cool and contain their enthusiasm for the award they had just won. So, why do I give to SARSEF? SARSEF affirms students’ worth by celebrating their minds. And that is why you should give, too!

This Arizona Gives Day, Life Finds a Way

by Julie Euber, CEO, SARSEF

For many, movies are a gateway into the creativity and wonder of science. They teach us the value of exploring and understanding the world around us, but also what can happen when we don’t consider the ethics of how we use it.

The cinematic science that had the most influence on me as a kid was Jurassic Park. Initially, I turned my nose up at the movie which focused more on the people than the dinosaurs I was eager to know. I would later recognize that science is done by real people, and their stories can be just as fascinating. But at the time, I distinctly remember the excited impatience I felt listening in class, knowing that my favorite book was in the basket under my chair. Diving deep into the chapters was just a bell ring away.

Later in life, when rewatching the original film, I was grateful for Jurassic Park’s amazing female scientists. From Lex Murphy, a young girl whose coding skills saved the day, to Ellie Sattler, a woman not interested in sexist directives during survival situations – the women of the original Jurassic Park were true science heroes.

At SARSEF, I see volunteers, teachers and staff being the role models that Lex and Ellie were on screen. They provide encouragement, mentorship, and moments of celebration to students throughout their research journeys. I’m grateful to everyone who shows students that people like them are truly scientists and engineers, and that they have what it takes to pursue a STEM career path if they choose it. I know many students who credit their success in research to an amazing mentor or role model, and there are many ways to volunteer through SARSEF and win best supporting actor in a student’s heart.

This Arizona Gives Day, I invite you to take in the cinematic wonder of science with us.

Are there boring, repetitive, frustrating aspects of the research process? Absolutely. But there are also moments that would shine on the big screen. There’s the moment an idea first sparks. There’s the triumph when something finally works after days of tinkering and failure. There’s the moment when judging begins, and a student eagerly waits to share their work. There’s the hush over the crowd when awards ceremonies begin.

Get your ticket, pick out your snacks, and grab a seat. Arizona Gives Day is about to begin!

Your gift can now have a greater impact. The Connie Hillman Family Foundation has committed to granting SARSEF $1 (up to $200,000) for every $2 (up to $400,000) raised through new donors or increased investments from existing contributors. 

Consider the impact that you can make as with new or increased contributions: 

  • A $10 donation has a $15 impact 
  • A $50 donation has a $75 impact  
  • A $100 donation has a $150 impact  
  • A $500 donation has a $750 impact 
  • A $1,000 donation has $1,500 impact  

SARSEF is a Qualified Charitable Organization (QCO), meaning the money you might pay in state taxes can be put into supporting students in our community!  

The maximum QCO credit donation amount for 2023 is $421 single, married filing separate or head of household; $841 married filing jointly. This means you can also make a meaningful investment as a new donor or through increased investments from existing contributors that can also be qualified for The Connie Hillman Family Foundation match while utilizing the Arizona Charitable Tax Credit. A win-win! 

  • If you contribute $421 as donor filing individually, the impact is $631.50  
  • If you contribute $841 married filing jointly, the impact is $1,261.50 

Ways to support:  

STEM Family Engagement: Growing and Learning Together

By Amber Folkman and Julie Euber

For over five years, SARSEF has hosted Parent Nights at schools called Roadmap to a Rockin’ Project, an evening of exploring what interests students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and how parents can support them in their pursuits. The evening events culminate in both the students and the parents feeling ready for the science fair. As SARSEF expands and broadens its reach, family engagement has remained a key aspect of our work.

This year, SARSEF was one of 10 out-of-school-time organizations selected nationwide to partner on the Institute for the Study of Resilience in Youth (ISRY) Family Engagement and Empowerment Project. The common goal between partners, who are from 9 states and all four U.S. regions, is to learn and grow their family engagement strategies in STEM.

Science education doesn’t end at the school doors. Curiosity is a mindset children naturally possess that can be encouraged across all environments. Parents and other caregivers play an integral role in shaping children’s STEM journeys, and their expertise in what fascinates their children and how they learn is invaluable. Research has shown that how a child perceives their own math abilities is more related to their parents’ perception of the child’s math abilities than the child’s actual achievements in math. Family Engagement Nights give parents the opportunity to encourage and recognize their children’s abilities and to help build their positive associations to STEM fields.

As SARSEF creates more opportunities for STEM family engagement, we will be using ISRY’s CARE framework (Figure 1). This framework encourages programs to connect, act, reflect, and empower for a holistic, thoughtful approach to supporting families from all backgrounds.

Figure 1: The CARE Framework: Caring about Family Engagement in STEM This family engagement planning tool promotes effective and equitable family engagement in STEM (Read more in ISRY’s guide to the tool here).

At the end of the study, SARSEF will have a STEM family engagement plan informed by national research and feedback from local families. Additional insights and opportunities to get involved will be shared here on our blog.

If you are interested in learning more or helping us shape our STEM family engagement plan, reach out to SARSEF’s Director of School Engagement, Amber Folkman at amber@sarsef.org.