Neil deGrasse Tyson on AETN Talking About His Time in Arkansas

I hate that I missed the opportunity to shake this science-educator’s hand when he came to conduct a lecture at the University of Central Arkansas on February 27, 2014.

We featured the talk in our ASSETs of Arkansas magazine via the reporting of a UCA Physics Club leader who put on her reporter cap that night.

I’ve been a fan of Dr. Tyson’s work both in science research and communication and public advocacy for innovation for some time now, but I learned something new when I saw the following clip and read the transcript.  I work in #STEM in #Arkansas and I didn’t know about some of the things he shared about my state’s role in aerospace.  Arkansas is all about #broaderimpacts for our people.

This is a long but good clip.

EAST STUDENTS! Are you ready for the 2015 ASSET Initiative Solar Design Competition?

We are very excited to see all of your applications for the 2015 ASSET Initiative Solar Design Competition. The rules require that students to submit their entries through JotForm this year. If for some reason you are unable to submit it through JotForm you need to let us know so that we can inform the EAST Main Office of the problem.

You should be able to access the online application through the Conference website Click on the Involvement Tab –> Student Competitions and the World of Tomorrow Workshop is the first one listed.

Good luck! Remember the goal is to get 100+ applications this year.  Only 6 students will make it to Conference for the chance to build their design!  Deadline for all applications is December 15, 2015.

Getting Into 3D Printing

With the start of the school year students and teachers are gearing up for another exciting cycle of learning.  As educators learn more about the potential benefits of integrating coding and 3D printing into their curriculum in the efforts to increase STEM opportunities for their students, the question of “How can we afford this?” of course comes up as a potential barrier.  In Arkansas, there are a number of places that have 3D printers that may be conduits for opening access to this technology for educational use.

First, the EAST Initiative ( is doing a big push into 3D printing technologies.  With the recent successes of EAST schools like Hot Springs High School (Time Stamp 6:25 is where they talk about the 3D printer these high school students built) who made it into the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow semi-finals last year, more schools are asking, “How can we do this at our schools”?  


If your school has an EAST Classroom, you should start by talking to your facilitator to find out if they have or are planning to get a 3D printer.  Not sure if your school has an EAST program?  Go here to see the listing of EAST schools   


The Arkansas Regional Innovation HUB ( is another group that is acquiring 3D printers and aims to make them accessible for educational use.  This promises to be a resource that interested students and teachers can travel to or possibly send design files electronically to have things they’ve created printed and mailed to them.  The building is still under construction but should be up and running later this year.  The Launch Pad maker space will also be accessible for community members and businesses to come share in the technology and fun of tinkering.  For a sneak peak at some of the design check this out

Also, there is a wonderful group called the Arkansas Users of Telecommunications and Information Systems or AUTIS ( that promotes the use of telecommunications and information technology in Arkansas that makes grants each Spring to assist non-profit or charitable organizations in the acquisition and implementation of computer-related equipment. 

The Arkansas Space Grant Consortium ( might be another place to look for financial assistance if your interests in 3D printing is related to aerospace education.  There application can be found at  

There are also seven colleges in Arkansas that have accredited engineering programs AND STEM Centers.  Those campuses are: Arkansas State University, Arkansas Tech University, East Arkansas Community College, Harding University, Southern Arkansas University, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Teachers should also plug into the “REPRAP” community if they haven’t already.  Just Google “reprap” and you’ll find it.  Having a printer is only part of the process.  They will need to plug into resources that will help them with the programming aspects of 3D design.

In addition, you might want to check with your Applied Sciences and Engineering Colleges as well as local engineering firms to see if they have any 3D printers on campus that could have part of their time allocated to educational use.  At least one supermarket in the U.K. has begun to offer public access to 3D printers in their store after seeing 3D printers in use at the Walmart Home office in Bentonville, Arkansas.  That’s right, Arkansas is leading innovation around the WORLD. 

3D printers also played a pivotal role in the 2014 ASSET Solar Design Competition where a team of talented students from Helena-West Helena Central High School took home top honors for their innovative clip design (prototyped using a 3D printer) for using solar panels to charge cell phones featured in the July Special Issue of ASSETs of Arkansas

What Comes Naturally


Architecture is one of the most amazing disciplines I can think of when it comes to marrying the best of creativity and innovation to manifest the things that we find useful as human beings, but I’m willing to bet that Arkansas is not the first place to pop into your mind when you think of amazing design.

When I moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas in 1994, I knew three things about this state: the Little Rock Nine, Bill Clinton and this weird team named the Arkansas Razorbacks had just won the NCAA Basketball Championship.  At the time the only team I cared about in college basketball was the Iowa Hawkeyes so this piggish creature wasn’t something that brought fond feelings to my heart.  (Oh yeah and then there was that special called “Bangin’ in Little Rock” but mom and dad didn’t let me watch that because of the violence.)  I spent my formative high school years completely unaware of something extraordinary.  Across Northwest Arkansas I would encounter these buildings that had architectural designs that begged to be admired and touched.  The style was distinctive but I was a kid, I just knew that I liked it.  One day I happened upon a book with the same styling and learned that these were the creations of E Fay Jones.  A native Arkansan, E Fay Jones was not one of the highlights people outside of Arkansas would think of when you ask what they know about Arkansas, but they should.  The engineering and art that this man combined to create physical structures is simply breathtaking.  Jones is not an anomaly when it comes to talent born of Arkansas roots.

John H. Johnson founded Johnson Publishing Company (Ebony, JET) and became the first African American named to the Forbes 400.  He was from a little town called Arkansas City, Arkansas.  Johnson was an innovator in the right place at the right time launching publications that were and remain key communication tools for the African American community.  What some forget is that Johnson and his wife Eunice Walker Johnson launched the Ebony Fashion Fair and its signature cosmetic line that launched a generation of designers and products typed for African American skin types.

Wallace H. Coulter (born in Little Rock) was an engineer, inventor and entrepreneur who designed the Coulter Counter, a simple device that increased the sample size of the blood test 100 times than the usual microscope method by counting in excess of 6,000 cells per second. The Coulter Principle is responsible for the current practice of hematology laboratory medicine.

Raye Jean Jordan Montague was an internationally registered professional engineer (RPE) with the U.S. Navy who is credited with the first computer-generated rough draft of a U.S. naval ship.  Montague was also the U.S. Navy’s first female program manager of ships.  Born in Little Rock and a graduate of University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, this female Arkansan was a trailblazer that many Arkansans know little about.

Samuel Proctor Massie Jr., who worked as a chemist on the Manhattan Project and spearheaded the development of a number of drugs in the 1960s.  Massie was born in North Little Rock and also obtained his undergraduate degree from University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. 

Margaret Pittman, known worldwide for her pioneering research in microbiology and the immunology of infectious diseases, especially her work in developing vaccines for whooping cough and typhoid, was from Prairie Grove, Arkansas, and a distinguished graduate of Hendrix College (Conway, Arkansas).

So the next time someone mentions Arkansas and they start to disparage this state, speak up and remind them that we have plenty of hidden gems in our hill and valleys.  There’s something special about this place that should be honored and cherished.  A spirit of ingenuity that is sorely needed to address the 21st century problems we all face.  If you’re an Arkansan and you need to brush up on all the things that make our state great, check out the Encyclopedia of Arkansas because we have a lot to be proud of y’all!

Elementary, My Dear Arkansans: Summer STEM Camps for K-6 Students


Do you have kids interested in science, technology, engineering or mathematics?  Did you know there are summer camps all over Arkansas where they can explore and learn while having tons of fun?  Here’s a quick list of K-6 grade level STEM camps by city.  Hurry, many of the registration deadlines are fast approaching!  If there are some that you know of please add them in the comments section so that other parents can find them.


 TTauri Movie Camp (4th thru 12th grade students and parents)


“Super Kids” at University of Central Arkansas (1st thru 3rd grade)

“UCA Challenge” (4th thru 6th grade)

“Ridin’ Dirty With Science” at Hendrix College 


Robotics Engineering Camp (rising 4th, 5th, 6th or 7th grade) Application Deadline: May 9th


University of Arkansas Community College at Hope (1st thru 6th grade) Application Deadline: April 29th


Ozark Natural Science Center “Family Camp” (6th grade and up, Family)


Arkansas State University Summer Scholars (Ages 4-8 and 9-12)

Arkansas State Summer Camp Academy “Mad Scientist” (3rd thru 6th grade)

Little Rock

Museum of Discovery “Discovery Camps” (Ages 6-8)

Summer Science Discovery Program (Ages 6-12)


 *eSTEMA Summer Enrichment Academy @ Southern Arkansas University (4th grade and parents) 


APRIL-The Unoffical Month Long Celebration of Science and Innovation in Arkansas

I was talking with a colleague earlier this month when he remarked to me that we should try to get the Governor to declare day or week as Science Week in Arkansas.  I thought about that for awhile before I realized, Arkansas has already embraced an entire month as its celebration of inquiry, innovation and exploration.

Every year I brace for impact because the end of spring break heralds the coming of April, when all the scientists and engineers come out from their labs to share their research findings with the masses.  We began this celebration with the Arkansas Academy of Science meeting at Harding University (Searcy, Arkansas) on April 4-5, 2014.  This 97-year old society publishes a journal that presents undergraduate researchers in Arkansas the opportunity to engage in the full practice of scholarship early in their careers.  This year’s keynote speaker was Amber Straughn, PhD.  A native of Bee Branch, Arkansas, Dr. Straughn shared her experience of working for NASA as an astrophysicist.


Students and faculty line up around the corner to get into the 2014 AAS meeting at Harding University.

At the same time to the south in Little Rock, the Arkansas Wing Civil Air Patrol hosted their 2014 annual conference in Little Rock.  This group of civilian volunteers has 11 squadrons in Arkansas all working to help promote aviation education outreach.

If that weren’t enough, about 2 miles up the road in downtown Little Rock, high school students from across Arkansas were gathered from April 4-6 for the first ever High School Startup Weekend at the Clinton School for Public Service.  The weekend was full of hands on experiences where 15 teams of aspiring student entrepreneurs explored startup ideas.  This event was the first of its kind the national Startup Weekend HQ has sanctioned that was high school focused.


Second place winners from eSTEM charter school in Little Rock @ Arkansas HS Startup Weekend.

And while these budding entrepreneurs were hard at work in the Capital City, the Southwestern Energy Arkansas Science & Engineering Fair was taking place in Conway, Arkansas, 30-miles north.  This event is hosted annually on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas and showcases the finalists from each of Arkansas’s regional science fair champions.


Central Arkansas Regional Science & Engineering Fair Winners 2014

There was no rest for the weary on Monday, April 7th because it was time for the Arkansas Space Grant Consortium to host its annual Symposium at the Hot Springs Convention Center.  Retired NASA Astronaut Duane “Digger” Carey delivered the keynote address sharing his experience as a member of the Hubble Space Telescope STS-109 crew, the last mission on Space Shuttle Columbia to safely return to Earth.


Astronaut Duane “Digger” Carey talks to students and signs autographs during ASGC Symposium 2014.

On April 10th Arkansas State University hosted its The fourth annual Create @ STATE: A Symposium of Research, Scholarship & Creativity in the Student Union.  Create @ STATE to provide opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to make oral, poster, creative, and artistic presentations in a professional and supportive setting.



Meanwhile back in Little Rock, April 11th welcomed the 2014 Arkansas Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation participants to share the fruits of their lab findings during their two day annual conference.  Featured on page 23 of ASSETs of Arkansas Spring 2014 Edition (Publication Date: April 29, 2014), Ark-LSAMP is a federal-state partnership that provides funds to support a statewide STEM alliance dedicated to increasing the number of underrepresented minority students in STEM majors and graduates from campuses that have developed a collaborative plan with a shared vision to increase the number of underrepresented minority STEM professionals.

On Monday, April 14th, Social and Environmental Science was not to be outdone in this month long celebration.  Hendrix College (Conway) in partnership with the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation played host to “New Urbanism: Classic Concepts for New Communities in Worsham Student Performance Hall in the Student Life and Technology Center.  The panel discussion centered around how to create more livable, sustainable, and eco-friendly cities.  Participants were invited to take a tour of The Village at Hendrix to illustrate the principles of New Urbanism.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock showcased the talent of undergraduate and graduate students during the 2014 Research and Creative Works Expo in Little Rock.

Former GREEN Student Researcher Anthony Keener featured during the 2013 Research and Creative Works Expo @UALR.
Former GREEN Student Researcher Anthony Keener featured during the 2013 Research and Creative Works Expo @UALR.

Tuesday, April 22nd took a techie turn as AUTIS held its annual meeting at the Wyndam in North Little Rock.  The Arkansas Users of Telecommunications and Information Systems is a nonprofit that provides technology grants that support the community and advance the use of Telecommunications and IT in Arkansas.

photoReuben Canada of the @EASTinitiative shares an update about the impact of past year award from AUTIS.

Bringing the month to a memorable close was the 2014 Arkansas Undergraduate Research Conference hosted by Henderson State University (Arkadelphia), April 25-26.


And these are just the events that I know about!  Needless to say, Arkansas has got a lot going on when it comes to research and innovation.  See something you like?  Well, I suggestion you jump on in and get involved because there’s plenty of neat stuff to get into for the young and the young at heart.

To learn more about Science and Technology opportunities in Arkansas check out the Arkansas Science & Technology Authority at or follow us on Facebook at or follow us on LinkedIn.

GET IN THE GAME! ASSET Initiative 2015 Solar Design Competition Rules Are Out!

The annual Solar Design Competition is a STEM outreach activity that provides K-12 students an opportunity to learn about solar energy and how it helps to power our world.

Who hasn’t heard Heidi Klum’s catch phrase, “…you’re either in, or you’re out”? While fashion design can be a VERY competitive field, engineering design can be equally intense. This year we are flipping the ASSET Initiative Solar Design Competition on its head to bring you our spin on Project Runway – Tech Edition. This is one EAST competition you won’t want to miss!

Each team will submit designs for building a solar-powered device that can benefit the community and potentially be launched as a new commercial product. Teams MUST submit 3D-model designs using software applications like Google Sketch Up or AutoCAD. A panel of judges will review all of the designs submitted and select the top three as the competition semi-finalists.

Two EAST students from each semi-finalist team will receive a travel stipend to attend the 2015 EAST Conference in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and will have one day to build their designs, with a little help from our onsite engineers, in our very own workshop.

So, if you want to earn your seat at Conference and have fun doing it, put on your thinking caps, jump on the web and start researching the community problem that you are going to fix with your new solar-powered device. In the words of Tim Gunn, “Designers, it’s up to you to make it work”!

For the full list of contest rules and to see past ASSET Initiative Solar Design Competition winners, check out or email Applications for this competition will be due on October 31, 2014.

The Arkansas ASSET Initiative is a National Science Foundation EPSCoR project administered by the Arkansas Science & Technology Authority. The annual Solar Design Competition is an outreach activity that provides K-12 students an opportunity to learn about solar energy and how it helps to power our world. For more information on the ASSET Initiative visit or email

ASSET Initiative 2015 Solar Design Competition Rules

Competition Description:
• Design a functional, model project and explain how the design can benefit a community and is solar powered. 
• BLENDER or similar computer program must be used for the design element of this competition. 
• Incorporation of recycled and/or renewable materials in the design phase is strongly encouraged.
• The top three team designs will win a spot at Conference to construct their models during the 2015 EAST Conference.

Please complete the following application in full and email it as an attachment (subject line should be the competition name) to by Friday, October 31, 2014.

I. Submission / Contact Information
• Project Title: 
• School Name: 
• Facilitator’s Name:
• Facilitator’s Email:
• Lead Student Name:
• Lead Student Email:
• Names & Grades of All Project Team Members:

II. Design Requirements
• List the program (BLENDER or equivalent) used in the project.
• List any other software used in the project

III. Project Summary and Community Benefit
Please provide a complete project summary incorporating these elements:
• The situation which the project addresses – what you are trying to do?
• Who in the community will benefit from this project and to what degree?
• The procedures followed to explore the situation or solve the problem (including general project operation, data gathering, and analyses conducted).
• What is next for this project?
• Any other important information about the project or procedures.

IV. Supporting Documentation & Images
Submit documentation and visual evidence to support your summary of how the application was used (experiments, functional analysis, images, screenshots, etc.). Graphics should be in PDF, PNG, TIF, or JPG format, and should be attached to your email along with this application.

V. PowerPoint Slide
Submit one PowerPoint Slide that will be used to identify the team finalists on stage during the Opening Plenary at Conference. Include the following items:
• Submission title
• Team name and group picture
• School name, city and state
• Brief description of the submission (large enough print so that it is easy to read) or an image or screenshot

Final Check
Creating a “complete picture” with relevant details betters your chances to be a finalist in the application showcase. Before you submit your entry, double-check to be sure you have all five components: submission/contact information, software used, project summary, supporting documentation & images, and PowerPoint slide. Late entries or entries lacking a component will not be considered for this competition. Good luck!