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Tuesday, 02 January 2018 19:33

AZ Science Center Aims to Inspire Future Auto Experts

As Valley businesses see a skills gap in specialized training for jobs that do not require a four-year college degree---specifically in the automotive and diesel industry---Arizona Science Center and TechForce Foundation are proposing a solution.

In September, the two organizations launched “CREATE U: TechForce Transportation Challenge,” an after-school program that introduces urban youth from grades seven through nine to the many job opportunities across the automotive, diesel and collision industry and technical trade fields.


The 12-week program kicked off when student teams (and teachers) from Estrella Middle School submitted a proposed project for an innovative automotive or transportation component that would strive to address real-world industry challenges posed directly by experts in the field. Teams then spent two hours each week at CREATE at Arizona Science Center®, where they learned how to bring their automotive or transportation prototypes to life through creating, using laser cutters, 3D printers and equipment within the wood shop. Industry experts attended each session to provide real-world insight and training for the students.

“It is so amazing to see these students come together to work as teams to solve these very challenging tasks,” said Jennifer Maher, TechForce CEO/Executive Director. “From lessons on structural engineering and material compatibility to the chemistry of atmospheric air and how it affects an engine, these are projects that would not be available in a traditional classroom setting. We applaud Arizona Science Center for providing a space like CREATE to provide the tools and resources for these talented and creative students to complete these challenges.”

On Friday, Dec. 15, teams from Estrella Middle School showcased their progress on the three challenge concepts: a crash test in which the team was tasked with engineering a two-axle vehicle that would protect an egg in the event of a frontal impact; the engineering of a working turbocharger for the compression of intake air into an internal combustion engine; and the building of a planetary gear set utilizing a fixed speed electric motor to move a fixed weight a certain distance.

Even in the program’s first year, the community and automotive industry are taking notice. Local guests included Ryan Anderson, principal at Estrella Middle School, and Cynthia Spell Tweh from the City of Phoenix AZ@WORK. Representatives from across the industry included: Maher; Michael Medalla, Toyota Foundation; Brian Abraham, AutoZone; Randy Walton, Bridgestone; Tom Bradley, Advance Auto Parts; Mike Romano, Universal Technical Institute; Chris Walters, Swift Transportation; and Larry Cox, Sunstate Equipment Company.

“Every child needs a meaningful touch point to envision what their future career could be---and Arizona Science Center’s CREATE U Program aims to fill that role,” said Chevy Humphrey, the Hazel A. Hare President and CEO of the Arizona Science Center. “We are thrilled to work alongside TechForce Foundation to provide the hands-on learning opportunities that every child needs to fulfill their vision, where they can gain critical, 21st century skills and comprise the high-skill workforce that Arizona needs.”

By working with business, industry and workforce leaders across the state, such as TechForce Foundation, Arizona Science Center can both identify and address the existing skills gap in STEM and other specialized fields in the Valley. 

For more information on Arizona Science Center’s CREATE U Program and the TechForce Transportation Challenge, please email

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