November 13, 2013
Host: Ted Simons
AZ Technology and Innovation: Arizona Science Center Exhibit
- The Arizona Science Center has a new exhibit that’s all about designing, creating and inventing. “Imaginate” is a completely hands-on exhibit that encourages kids to test out their ideas and theories. The 8,000 square-foot exhibit features a paper plane making station, a wind tunnel, dance room and stop-motion filmmaking. The exhibit runs through January 5th. We’ll give you a video tour.
| Keywords: exhibit
, arizona science center
Ted Simons: Tonight's focus on Arizona technology and innovation looks at an Arizona science center exhibit that may create a new generation of scientists and inventors. Producer Shana Fischer and photographer Steve Snow show us how a little bit of imagination is going long way.
Shana Fischer: Inside the Arizona science center, the next great invention may be born. Imagining the newest exhibit invites visitors to use their imaginations and dream big.
RaeAnn Fox: The exhibit is all about exploration, kids being able to see themselves as innovators.
Shana Fischer: RaeAnn Fox is the educational director for the center. And says that the exhibit is unlike anything that they have ever had before. Imaginate puts the students in the driver's seat and allows them to control what they do and how they do it. The exhibit is made up of five different themes. Each one designed to encourage imagination, critical thinking, and risk-taking.
RaeAnn Fox: So the goal here is for kids to explore how they become engineers, and how they become innovators. The paper plane section, kids create their own planes. It sounds easy, but when the planes are ready for their first flight, they are not always successful. Through trial and error, the kids figure out the best design to make the planes soar farther. It's here kids learn one of the biggest factors behind innovation, is the motivation to make something better. Fox says it's an important lesson. That the best designs evolve over time.
RaeAnn Fox: In working with kids one of the things we don't always tell them is how they can become innovators or engineers themselves. This allows them to see how simple modifications make something completely different. How they can improve their world by a simple modification, as opposed to having to create some brand new.
Shana Fischer: Technology teacher Cole Stewart agrees.
Cole Stewart: I think it's like a different viewpoint for them. If they start working on things and realize wow, I can make something.
Shana Fischer: Dozens of exhibits fill the 8,000 square foot gallery but the biggest buzz is for the wind tunnel. A plastic tube that simulates a wind turbine. Kids can create mini planes or use objects like feathers and sponges. They are able to control the speed inside the tube, to see which design flies through the tube the fastest or just hovers in space.
RaeAnn Fox: Kids are having a ball. You hear screaming in the background, and they are like, oh, I just did this, and isn't this great? And that's friction, and we start talking to them about that, and they get really excited.
Shana Fischer: Seventh grader Blake Bradshaw wants to be marine biologist, and says field trips like this one spark her interest in learning more.
Blake Bradshaw: It's really fun. It's a great thing to do, it's cool to learn about the different things that you can go into, all the sciences that there are and stuff like that. It's really interesting and fun.
Shana Fischer: If the necessity is the mother of invention, perseverance is the father. Learning that inventions take time and involve a great deal of trying, is part of the experience at the stop motion camera.
Guest: Well, I have quite enjoyed this.
Shana Fischer: Kids use toy animals to create their stop motion movie. They arrange the toys to tell a story, and then shift the animals slightly and capture a single frame on the camera. They can capture as many frames as they want. The more frames, the longer the movie. Stewart is grateful his seventh grade students are getting a chance to enjoy Imaginate. Showing them how the concepts they learn in the classroom exist in the real world is just one benefit.
Cole Stewart: So many people are hands-on learners. They’re not always audio learners or necessarily visual learners. The fact that they can come here and hold parts and put things together. It gives them a different spin on learning.
Shana Fischer: While Imaginate is about having fun, the exhibit works hand in hand with Arizona schools stem curriculum. The science center provides teachers with worksheets to get the kids thinking before then even step foot inside the exhibit.
RaeAnn Fox: I really want them to be able to take away the idea that we are constantly innovating, we are capable of great things, and that our kids are capable great things.
Ted Simons: Imaginate runs until January 5th. For more information, you can check the science center's website at azscience.org.
Ted Simons: Thursday on "Arizona Horizon," an update from a local navigator helping people sign up for insurance under the affordable care act. And we'll find out how million in new state arts funding will be allocated. That's at and on the next "Arizona Horizon." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you very much for joining us. You have a great evening.
Net Metering Hearings
- The Arizona Corporation Commission will have two days of hearings on a proposal by Arizona Public Service to cut incentives for those looking to install rooftop solar panels on their homes. Arizona Capitol Times reporter Luige del Puerto will talk about the issue.
- Luige del Puerto - Reporter, Arizona Capitol Times
| Keywords: energy
, solar panels
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. The Arizona Corporation Commission began hearings today on an APS proposal to reduce incentives to residential solar power customers. Arizona Capitol Times reporter Luige Del Puerto is covering the hearings. He joins us now. Good to see you. Real quickly, we talked about this so much but what are we talking about?
Luige del Puerto: We are talking about a system that allows those who have rooftop solar panels installed, to sell that excess electricity, the ones that they are not using, back to the grid. And right now, APS is paying a purchasing, essentially, that of electricity, and aps is saying the rate that they are purchasing that excess energy, is too high, and fair to non-solar customers.
Ted Simons: And basically, you sell the excess energy back to the grid, and offsetting the energy used, and basically, they are saying it's not fair if you have the solar and you are selling it back, good for you, not good for me if I don't have solar because I got to pick up your costs.
Luige del Puerto: The way to explain it, the non-solar customers are picking up the cost because everybody is using the electric grid, and whenever, if I were a solar user, and if I'm using the grid to sell back that energy, I am accessing that infrastructure, and at the same time, I'm not really paying for it, and that's what the argument is, that in the end, it's the non-solar customers that end up paying to maintain the cost of the electric grid.
Ted Simons: And I guess, those who are on the side of the rooftop solar people, they are saying, well, yeah, but you have less to worry about now, and you have less power to worry about, and maybe not, you don't need a new plant or the excess infrastructure.
Luige del Puerto: They’re saying that the current system is working. It's working because you are producing clean and local energy, and because you are producing clean and local energy, you are also easing the burden off the grid. The solar, the utilities don't have to produce that much energy and in which they consider to be not as clean energy, and therefore, assist them, they think that we should be cultivating, instead of, you know, adopting A.P. as the proposal, which is to, drastically cut the incentives their savings, essentially, by roughly half.
Ted Simons: And I heard to 30-60%, somewhere along those lines, and what- talk about the hearings today, what happened there and was heard?
Luige del Puerto: Today the commission formally began its hearings on this proposal, the aps. They will probably, most likely decide this issue tomorrow. Today, what we heard is a bunch of people who have installed solar rooftops panels. And they are very concerned, very weary, and they have asked the commission to, essentially maintain the status quo. What's really interesting for me to see, basically, is the absence of those customers, or the defenders of the aps proposal. They have not really showed up today. And maybe they will show up tomorrow. But for the last five hours or so, the commissioners have heard nothing but an outpouring of sentiment against the aps proposal.
Ted Simons: Did the folks who have already put the rooftop solar panels in, they are ok, correct? It's just if you plan on putting them in, in the future, then you have got to worry.
Luige del Puerto: Those who have the panels right now, they will be grandfathered in, and those new ones, would not be. To the solar companies, that's a problem because they want to keep growing. They also want to keep earning, and if they can't entice customers to get a lease to purchase the system, then it basically kills the industry. To their mind, that's what it ultimately wants to do, which is to kill the solar rooftop industry in Arizona.
Ted Simons: And we should mention, it sounds like what they want to do is have these customers selling this excess energy back to the grid at a retail rate instead of what is the whole sale rate?
Luige del Puerto: Yes, they are selling it or purchasing it at 13 cents or something like that, per kila-power. APS wants to up that. So basically, APS is saying that that's not enough- what you are paying right now, is not enough for you to pay your share of maintaining the infrastructure that we have now, which by the way, you are also accessing.
Ted Simons: And what is ruco, and they have a proposal, and what is that?
Luige del Puerto: The residential utility customers office, the consumers office, is a unit under the Governor's office. All they do is basically defend or advocate for the interest of rate payers right now. They have a proposal that basically says yes, we believe that there is a cost shift that non-solar customers are paying for infrastructure. And those that have solar rooftop panels are avoiding it, but they are saying we should not charge them by the same amount that aps is seeking. So what their proposal does is offer for the Corporation Commission to charge solar rooftop users with a smaller amount than what aps is seeking.
Ted Simons: A middle ground there so to speak.
Luige del Puerto: Correct. It's about $7 to $8 per month that they are asking for, and that would increase over time.
Ted Simons: And the A.P. special is $70 to $80 a month, something along those lines?
Luige del Puerto: That would be the savings that would be cut if you have a solar rooftop.
Ted Simons: So we got two days of hearings, by tomorrow, we should know something, huh?
Luige del Puerto: They should decide tomorrow, at least that's what we are hearing.
Ted Simons: And it I understand that the staff actually says maybe don't consider this thing until next year? Or the year after?
Luige del Puerto: The staff of the Corporation Commission filed a report, and they looked into the proposals that were offered. They basically said keep the status quo.
Ted Simons: All right which may wind up being something that we talk about at a later date. With that in mind, before we let you go, we have to talk about what's happening over in the Philippines. That's your homeland and it's obviously something on your mind. Talk to us about the typhoon, how is your family, how is your home, and how are you doing?
Luige del Puerto: I am - it's hard for me to watch the images because I'm so far away and I'm sitting in the comfort my home, or in the comfort of my office, knowing the anguish that they are experiencing over in the Philippines. Fortunately, my mom and my siblings are fine. They live in parts of the country that have been spared from the devastation. My mom and my other siblings live in the northern part. Two of my brothers live in the southern part of the country. But, the typhoon had hit the central islands. Those islands face the Pacific Ocean and so they get hit every year by these storms.
Ted Simons: And you lived through, when you were reporting over there, you reported on these storms. These, obviously not to this level, but they get a lot of storms over there.
Luige del Puerto: Yes, growing up in the Philippines, every child experiences this cycle of a storm coming and going. And I experienced some of the storms. I remember very starkly a storm in 1991, what we had to go through and the devastation that my town was whipped by that storm. Not as bad as in other places. As a reporter, I often covered these disasters. So I can mention it's hard for me to watch these images and to know what's going on. Having been there, and also being so far away, feeling so helpless about it.
Ted Simons: The impact on the Arizona Filipino community, what's happening out there? Any organizing efforts going on? What are you seeing or hearing?
Luige del Puerto: There are efforts to contribute help, send donations, and our church is collecting donations this Sunday. I know that there are other organizations, nonprofits, that have hunkered down and trying to help. The country needs help right away, and it needs help later on, also, when the media spotlight is gone. The rebuilding will take years and hopefully, within those years when we rebuild, the country is not hit by a storm with the same level that we have seen.
Ted Simons: Real quickly from what you understand, regarding the storms, from what you understand about the country. Socio political impact, could there be some sort of unrest fallout, changes, what do you think?
Luige del Puerto: It's tough to say at this point. I know that the Philippine Government is defending its actions- the fact that they have not been able to get help as soon as possible. Part of that is that the infrastructure was wiped out in this particular town. The airports were also closed; I understand some are open now, so it's hard to get help to them. Fortunately, the United States had been a very close ally country and helping and is now helping, also.
Ted Simons: A remarkable story, by the way, in the capitol times. Certainly recommended reading. We feel for you. And we hope that everything works out for the best for all of your loved ones and everyone concerned. Thank you so much for joining us tonight on "Arizona Horizon."
Luige del Puerto: Thank you.
- The Arizona Board of Regents is the governing board for Arizona’s three universities. Board President Eileen Klein will give a State-of-the-University address Wednesday, November 13, and will appear on Arizona Horizon to talk about the state of Arizona’s three universities.
- Eileen Klein - President, Arizona Board of Regents
| Keywords: education
Ted Simons: The Arizona Board of Regents is the governing board for Arizona's three public universities. Board President Eileen Klein gave a state of the University address today at ASU. She joins us now on "Arizona Horizon." Good to see again.
Eileen Klein: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Ted Simons: What is the State of Arizona's universities?
Eileen Klein: Generally, quite good. So despite suffering through the downturn like many other entities of the state, we actually have come through stronger. So just like businesses that came through the downturn, I think that we are stronger as a result. And really now well positioned to serve the state going forward.
Ted Simons: How stronger?
Eileen Klein: In a couple of ways. First of all, while it has encourage us to go out, form new partnerships and find new ways of doing business. I think being more connected to our students and thinking about how we can be more efficient getting our students through school, and really being more focused on how we deploy technology, so to what extent we change our operational model? All those things came about largely in response to the downturn that was coupled with a terrific uptick in the number of students who were seeking our services.
Ted Simons: Indeed, that's an interesting dynamic there. Talk about Arizona and the Universities. It seemed like we were going certain direction, hit the rough spot there. How do we compare with the University's nation-wide? What's going on here compared to elsewhere?
Eileen Klein: So, with our peers we do have well. So Arizona’s universities, I am proud to report, are really still a terrific bargain overall. Despite concerns about tuition, but also the quality is increasing. I really think it's attributable to the fact that the leadership of the state and the regents, in particular several years back, recognized that we could not afford for multiple reasons to continue to try to replicate the same types universities in every location in the state. So, they began a pursuit to differentiate the universities, and as a result today, we really have a compliment of higher education services in the state that are delivered from three platforms. I think that will serve us well going forward.
Ted Simons: And you mentioned tuition, instate up 70% up since 2008. That's tops in the country and out of state is up 28%, and that's 11th, and the U.S. average is 11%, those are the numbers. A lot of increase and a lot of folks understand why that tuition had to increase. What is that doing getting kids to school and out of school.
Eileen Klein: We don't want them to think that they are priced out of an educational experience. But it is related to the fact that our University system faced some of the largest cuts, among all public universities in the country. Having said that, even though we had to turn more to families during the downturn, particularly a tough time to ask for them for more support, we are still really quite competitive with our peers in terms of our pricing. Importantly, we have increased the amount of aid to families, so that really where before we might have been low tuition state and have low aid, today we have a moderate tuition state and we have more aid available to families than before.
Ted Simons: You mentioned the budget problems and what we have gone through, and reported on here on "Arizona Horizon". Legislative priorities now. What are you seeing out there? You are looking for a budget increase and also looking for bonding. We can get into the particulars there. You’ve got a legislature as you are well aware and that, that isn't all that free with the money these days, and hasn't been for a while. How are you going to get this money through?
Eileen Klein: To be sure, the legislature is rightly concerned that we want to be sure that the general fund returns to a healthy state. Our point is simply this- we think that universities are a very important part, and have an important role to play in the state’s continued recovery. We think that we can be a big part that, in terms of producing a higher educated workforce and in terms of the research investment that we know spurs economic investment and economic development. So our point is simply this- as the state recovers and given the courageous decision that they made to find a support for Medicaid, in particular, we're hoping that as moneys are free up as a result of this condition, that they will recommit to higher education. So that we can help to keep control on the tuition increases, and be able to advance as we know that we need to, to meet the state's needs long-term.
Ted Simons: When talk about the impact at the universities on the state's economy, and what kind examples do show? How do say, look, here's where it's working, here's what it does. And what kind of reaction are you getting?
Eileen Klein: Overall positive. It's been very clear in a number of the most recent job announcements that many of those companies chose to invest because they wanted to be near a University. And not just because they’re quality graduates are ready to go to work. But because they want to be next to the centers discovery, so they want to be right there to really capture new ideas and to be able to move those into the marketplace, and commercialize them. Our universities have become more adept at that, and as a result, we're seeing a number of companies who want to be here specifically be close to our resources.
Ted Simons: Critics will say that's a wonderful idea and thing, but the universities are there for an elevated three R’s. Get these undergraduates through, get the degrees out there, and let them do their business and their whole business on the side. How do respond to those who say the universities shouldn't be involved in this research? This kind of business development?
Eileen Klein: Well, here's the truth. We know that first of all, two-thirds of our jobs by 2018 are going to require some sort of higher education. And these same companies are the ones who are clamoring for more skilled labor. And not just technical skills, but really people who are really rounded, who can be flexible, creative, adaptive, and really help to drive and grow the business. So, in addition we're not necessarily talking about equity positions or any of the things that in the past have made the legislators concerned about University involvement in economic development. But, we're talking about just sheer numbers in terms of the volume and research capacity, all the technological development, and really the top research talent that we know that we need to spur innovation. That's what companies are really wanting to be near.
Ted Simons: And that's what companies want to be near, is that what lawmakers want to hear?
Eileen Klein: Well, I think that lawmakers are making more of a connection now between the need to advance our educational attainment rates in the state for individual prosperity certainly, but also, to help make this connection to jobs. I think that they are seeing more and more that there is this connection between higher education and all of the investments that are made in research that, in turn, helps to spur economic development.
Ted Simons: It looks like the legislative priorities for the board, 15% budget hike requests there, wish lists here but we can enlist them. Nearly 100 million for the universities, and the state, can the state afford 800, 900 million dollars? We have heard in the past the state can't afford that kind of thing. Can the state now afford that?
Eileen Klein: So, we think that it's time for the state, that they are able to afford to recommit, and that it's time for them to recommit. So the state has set very aggressive goals for what they want to see in terms of the graduates, and research capabilities by 2020. So, we have to start the resource commitment now to be able to make sure that we're ready to achieve those goals. In terms of the return to the state. it's truly one of the best investments that can be made. Lawmakers hear this quite a bit, if you spend money on me, we'll return the investment. But the reality is this, and nothing pays off more for individuals in terms of the long-term ability to earn a living, and be successful, than being able to get a higher education degree. We estimate that if, for instance, we had just the same level of educational attainment as our neighbors state, Colorado- one state over, we would have probably $9 billion to the state's economy. So to us, it's well worth the tradeoff, and also an opportunity to decrease people with dependency on the state for the same resources.
Ted Simons: How do you balance this dynamic, what you are doing, with what's happening K-12? That siphons up to you, and that funnels up to you, if that's not happening, you are not happening.
Eileen Klein: Our universities and regents, in particular today, we just released a data set that really shows exactly this conundrum that we need more students able to go to college, and they need to be prepared to go to college. Sadly, we don't have enough them, and of all the schools we have, not enough get students ready enough. Likewise, we need to make sure that we're doing a good job with all the students that we do get, moving them all the way through to getting a degree. So, really, these things are connected. We need our schools to be able to get more students with higher skills to our doorstep, and then we need to be able to get them through. So we're part of a continuum. The truth is that the state has been very focused on K-12. They may not have been able to invest the dollars that they have wanted, but we created a statewide reform plan for K-12. What we're asking for now is let's make sure that we turn our attention to higher Ed and not leave them behind.
Ted Simons: You came from the Governor's office to the Board of Regents. Talk about the view. The previous job and what you are seeing now on this job.
Eileen Klein: So, I will say that I might have been one several years back to think, can we really afford to do these things? I know that when I left the Governor's office, I specifically left to take on this role because I felt that it was so important to our state's future. I couldn't think of something more important to apply myself to, and to try to rally the state around than improving our higher education system because of the benefits it brings individuals and our overall state. We're going to be the corridor for growth. Not just for the western United States, but probably the entire United States. To get there we need our universities to be strong and successful.
Ted Simons: All right. Very good. Good to have you here.
Eileen Klein: Thank you. Thank you very much.