Arizona Students Develop Roles as STEM Advocates

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By Marisa Ostos
By Marisa Ostos

On July 18, 150 elected Chief Science Officers from across the state – ranging in age from 10 to 18 – stepped onto the Grand Canyon University campus for the Chief Science Officer Summer Institute. These students are some of the very first of the nation’s Chief Science Officers (CSOs) – students who have been chosen by their peers to serve as the “voice” of their school through a passion and advocacy for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), both on and off campus.

During this three-day Institute, the CSOs attended over 20 sessions, facilitated by professional leaders from statewide businesses and organizations, including StateFarm, Intel, ITSA/PerfOpt, Honeywell, and Freeport-McMoRan Inc. Every one of these sessions helped to prepare the students for their roles as Chief Science Officers by allowing them the chance to foster and expand their STEM knowledge, while being given the opportunity to develop their professional workplace skills and learn how to become leaders and advocates of STEM for their school and community in the upcoming school year.

Second Year CSOs Served as Mentors and Leaders to First Year CSOsEach day, the CSOs were given a keynote presentation by top-notch business leaders. Trina Helquist of Orbital ATK, for example, gave the CSOs a first-hand look into the world of public relations, followed by an inspirational story of how each student held the ability to change someone’s life. Every business professional who attended the Summer Institute, whether as a keynote speaker, a session facilitator, or even a “Jedi Mentor” (a mentor of the CSOs for this upcoming school year), inspired and moved the students to truly take hold of what being a Chief Science Officer means.
CSOs Pose with Megan Smith copy-resizeThe CSOs also had another special opportunity at the Summer Institute. Back in May, six of the CSOs were granted the chance to fly to Washington, D.C. and voice their thoughts for change in STEM education to leaders in the White House. Megan Smith, the Chief Technology Officer of the United States, is one of these leaders who spoke with the CSOs, sending their opinions and words of advice about STEM straight to President Obama. Smith also flew down to Arizona to observe the 150 CSOs in action at their Summer Institute, visiting their sessions and engaging with them first-hand (pictured above).

CSO Jaiden, an 8th grade student of Sierra Verde STEM Academy, sums up perfectly the problem that each Chief Science Officer will be working to solve both this year and beyond: “Becoming a CSO isn’t an easy job. So many of us wish to improve STEM in our communities, but the real question is, ‘How?’ How will we inspire kids? How will we show the greatness of STEM?”

The CSOs will be searching for the answer to these questions in their pursuit of being stewards of the next generation.

For more information on the Chief Science Officer program, visit

Marisa Ostos is festival assistant director for the Arizona SciTech Festival.

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