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SciTech Festival fuels Arizona’s STEM workforce

SciTech Festival fuels Arizona’s STEM workforce submitted

AZ Inno

When Freya Abraham reflects on her experiences attending the Arizona SciTech Festival, she finds inspiration.

As a young student, Abraham was drawn to the hands-on demonstrations and welcoming environments the festival brought to her hometown of Maricopa. Years later, Abraham has decided to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and became a mentor to younger generations interested in exploring a similar path.

As a young student, Abraham was drawn to the hands-on demonstrations and welcoming environments the festival brought to her hometown of Maricopa.

“Watching other students fall in love with different pathways under the same umbrella, from coding to space to medicine, has made me even more passionate about being a mentor for students with an itch for STEM,” Abraham said.

The now 20-year-old student at the University of Arizona is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree and is applying to medical school while balancing university health and research positions.

Founded over a decade ago, the Arizona SciTech Festival is a statewide celebration of STEM. Through a series of expos, workshops, conversations, exhibitions and tours held in diverse neighborhoods throughout the state, the festival connects Arizonans of all ages with the state’s vibrant STEM ecosystem.

This year’s festival, which ran from January to April, included an estimated 500,000 participants taking part in more than 3,000 STEM programs in more than 80 communities.

In Oracle, high school students participated in a “space settlement” design competition at Biosphere 2. In Peoria, students at Desert Harbor Elementary participated in stargazing and drone flight exhibits. At the Verde Valley SciTech Festival, students engaged in hands-on activities related to sustainability, waste reduction and habitat restoration. And at Arizona’s famous Kartchner Caverns State Park in Cochise County, local scientists explained the science of caves and led tours of the pristine underground world.

Anchored at the Arizona Commerce Authority, the festival features partners such as The SciTech Institute, Arizona Technology Council Foundation, Arizona Science Center, Arizona State University, University of Arizona and the Arizona Board of Regents.

Abraham’s story is just one of many demonstrating the festival’s long-lasting impact.

The festival has grown into the third-largest science festival in the U.S. and is a reflection of Arizona’s pioneering workforce development approach.

According to the Arizona Technology Council, the Grand Canyon State is home to nearly 215,000 tech industry jobs, with wages totaling nearly $24 billion. Initiatives like the festival help lay the foundation for sustainable tech growth in Arizona while sparking imaginations and developing a robust education-workforce pathway in high-tech fields.

“It’s been an incredible year,” said Dr. Jeremy Babendure, executive director of the SciTech Institute, which launched the festival idea 12 years ago. “We’ve gotten more educators to host SciTech events, or STEM hands-on learning nights, than ever before.”

The Arizona SciTech Festival prioritizes providing foundational learning opportunities for underserved and rural communities in Arizona.

“We really like showing that STEM is culturally relevant and something that everyone can do,’’ Babendure added. “If we’re really looking to change the tide of economics and socioeconomic status, bridging youth into STEM fields is critical.”

Boosting STEM interest in Arizona complements the state’s fast-growing technology sector. Recent data from CompTIA’s State of the Tech Workforce report projects a 24% increase in tech sector jobs in Arizona over the next decade, the sixth fastest in the nation.

Arizona has become synonymous with advanced industries such as semiconductors, batteries, aerospace, medical technology and renewable energy.

“Cox Communications understands the importance of furthering the growth of our STEM culture in Arizona and encourages STEM-based education for students of all ages,” said Susan Anable, Cox’s Phoenix market vice president and long-time sponsor of the event. “By investing in efforts like the SciTech Festival, we can inspire students to explore STEM careers, and help create a brighter future for our communities.”

Stacie Wylie, corporate responsibility analyst for festival sponsor State Farm said her company is proud to support the event with funding and volunteers who assisted with events such as the Buckeye Air Fest and the January kickoff at Barrett Jackson Auction Company in Scottsdale.

“State Farm recognizes that introducing youth to engaging, diverse STEM activities at a young age ignites a passion and interest in STEM developments and career paths” Wylie said.

Find more information about the SciTech Institute and Arizona SciTech Festival at


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