AZ Technology & Innovation: Arizona SciTech Festival Kickoff Conference

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Hundreds of the state’s business, science and education leaders will gather in Scottsdale for the Second Annual Arizona SciTech Festival Kickoff Conference on September 4. The conference will include 16 panel discussions, a keynote address and roughly 50 interactive stations to help those participating in the 2014 Arizona SciTech Festival make the most of their planning. Jeremy Babendure, Executive Director of the Arizona SciTech Festival, and Jeanine Jerkovic, Glendale’s Economic Development Administrator, will discuss the conference and the SciTech Festival.

Ted Simons: Hundreds of the state's business, science and education leaders will gather next week in Scottsdale for the second annual Arizona SciTech festival kickoff conference. It's designed to help plan for the 2014 festival set for next spring. Joining me now is Jeremy Babendure, executive director of the Arizona SciTech festival, and Jeanine Jerkovic, economic administrator for the City of Glendale. Good to have you here, thank you for joining us.
Jeremy Babendure: Thank you.
Ted Simons: Before we get to the planning thing, what's the conference all about?
Jeremy Babendure: The idea is the gathering, we have hundreds that put this all together. What's the opportunity for them to share their best practices, what they have done. This conference is a way to bring them together and get them to communicate what they did the prior year, but talk about what they might do for the future, as well.
Ted Simons: Talk about the festival itself.
Jeremy Babendure: It's a statewide celebration of science and technology, over 400 events that occur at 250 venues statewide. Collaborators really work science and technology into everything they do.
Ted Simons: Sounds like cities are getting more involved. Why?
Jeanine Jerkovic: It's important to cities from so many perspectives. Our committee found it's a great way to engage with businesses. It's a great way to reach out to citizens and wonderful way to consider ways to build a workforce pipeline, which is extremely important to us.
Ted Simons: I would think it would help brand a city or a region, correct?
Jeanine Jerkovic: That is correct. We want to be known as communities that are innovative and welcoming and communities that understand their objectives. From that perspective it's been very positive for Glendale and for the State of Arizona.
Ted Simons: As far as the festival itself, last go-around, how many events were there, where were they held? And give us an example of what was going on.
Jeremy Babendure: For example, take Glendale, there was the science of chocolate at their chocolate affair, we had groups from Midwestern University doing experiments on white chocolate, dark chocolate, what's best for you. There was the night of the open door, they had about 15,000, people. U of A had science city, part of the festival that drew over 100,000, people for a couple of days.
Ted Simons: So chocolate, and I think we talked about a baseball exhibit, as well?
Jeremy Babendure: That's been done in Scottsdale a couple of times. Last year we had this great professor at ASU did a talk on the relationship between pitchers and batters. He was able to compare to it biological curves, as well.
Ted Simons: When the city sees the festival, do you think they say I'd like to do that, or I've got a great new idea, what do you think?
Jeanine Jerkovic: Well, obviously we want to do what works. We want to reflect the character of our community. So for example, we did a chocolate, science of chocolate event. We also did a science of hockey event. So these were things we thought really reflected key industries in our community, aviation, health care, etc. I think a lot of communities are doing that.
Ted Simons: What kind of input are you getting from the businesses in your community?
Jeanine Jerkovic: From the businesses' perspective, it is very exciting for them. They are able to reach the community and let people know that education is important and there are choices in the community for them. Midwestern has the largest medical school in Arizona, ASU West is there and GCC has 33,000 students. For companies and citizens alike it's a great way to learn all about of the educational choices out there.
Ted Simons: And talk more about that. You have to have cooperation from businesses. ASU, NAU and U of A cooperate, as well. Everything from municipalities to businesses to everything in between, that's a lot of place to juggle there. How do you get it done?
Jeremy Babendure: I think the festival is almost a representation of the community itself. So you know, there's economic development, it's basically like a continuum from education all the way to the economy. You've got community colleges, Universities, businesses, nonprofits. Everybody has a role. You can say to a bank, let's do the mathematics of, you know, finance. You could do mathematics of insurance. There's almost a link of science and technology everywhere. Everyone could have a role just to get the word out and promote it.
Ted Simons: As far as the events are concerned, what is the goal of the event? Say I want to do my plate-spinning analogy. I want to do plate-spinning, the theory of it, whatever. Do I go to you?
Jeremy Babendure: We've been trying to connect with local cities and towns. We say, how does this link to the character of that community. Usually it ties in with their business relative to the community. We've had a business that's been a science of the community in downtown. In Tucson they had about small businesses showcase the science of what they do. Anywhere from the science of ice cream to the science of music in a music shop. It helps to draw people to downtown and get people into the shops.
Ted Simons: From the city's perspective, do you have to parse some ideas? How do you figure out that A works and B doesn't?
Jeanine Jerkovic: You know, it's a fun trial and error. As a community we designed our values. We wanted to make the festival as accessible as possible to the public. We timed it very strategically. We were careful to have free of cost events, which is something the festival itself likes to do. We did a no excuses approach. Every community does it differently. We all figure out what way works best.
Ted Simons: With that in mind, what are some of the challenges here? I'm hearing a lot of gung ho things, but there have to be some challenges out there, as well.
Jeanine Jerkovic: I think the only challenge is really finding a way to channel all of the excitement. Ultimately there are ideas that come up at the last minute that you're not going to be able to execute so you put them on the table for next year. For us, even the challenges are great opportunities.
Ted Simons: What do you see as challenges you were part of starting a similar festival in San Diego. You guys have passed San Diego by here, correct?
Jeremy Babendure: Yes.
Ted Simons: Kind of alert for mistakes, you've got some ideas here, challenge us.
Jeremy Babendure: I think one place we've taken a different approach is to not be the event planners but partner with organizations and groups that want to create their own events for the purpose. The challenge that we had in San Diego was a lot of people loved the event but then they expected to us plan and do the event. The win went to the festival organization as opposed to the groups that might want to do their own events. It really helps to solve many challenges, and one of which is sustainability. A lot of communities are creating their own events connected with the broader umbrella of the SciTech fast value, but they are doing it for the right reasons their own community and sharing that risk and win in terms of the successful event.
Ted Simons: What are you looking forward to at the planning conference? What do you want to get out of this?
Jeanine Jerkovic: It's always an opportunity to network. I've met the greatest contacts at this kick-off conference. Last year was no exception, so it was a matter of finding resources, figuring out what over people were putting their events together and collaborating together.
Ted Simons: That is what you're looking for, as well?
Jeremy Babendure: We love people and we would them to consider coming to this conference, it's free. If you don't know about the festival, this is the best way to learn about it and get engaged.
Ted Simons: Now we've got the website up there. It was quite the to-do last time, the event itself. I'm getting even more this time, huh?
Jeremy Babendure: At this point over 800 people have registered on the site. And there are 16 panels, totally diverse as to what the conversations will be.
Ted Simons: Well, good luck to you both. That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons, thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Jeremy Babendure:Executive Director, Arizona SciTech Festival;Jeanine Jerkovic:Glendale's Economic Development Administrator;

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