Real World STEAM: SoCal Industry and Educators Unite at SXSWedu 2015

KDR PR & STEAMConnect are going to be at SXSWedu this year in Austin, Texas!

On March 11 from 2:00-4:00 PM, we are teaming up with David Delgado, Designer from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Saura Naderi, Career Development Specialist from Qualcomm, to facilitate a STEAM Session highlighting projects and programs that have progressed the STEAM movement in Southern California. #SoCalSTEAM

Here is the official session description from the SXSWedu website:

Southern California is taking STEAM education to a new level – the real world. This session will move beyond dialogue and provide new and inspiring hands-on experiences from a few of the brightest minds in SoCal. Each speaker represents how industry can creatively unite with educators and community, and will have 25 minutes to showcase his or her implementation of STEAM, providing interactive demonstrations, sharing how impact is measured and how to replicate in other regions.

The objectives of the session are to:

  1. Cement the role of industry in STEAM education and sphere of impact in a region.
  2. Relay replicable examples of high quality STEAM programs that link to student experiences in the real world.
  3. Inspire new program ideas and industry partnership opportunities.

Our very own Kim Richards will be setting up the session and providing context for #SoCalSteam, speaking on the elements that tie David and Saura’s work together. It’s about making the unseen tangible by tapping into imagination, curiosity and creativity, breaking down walls and allowing kids to be open, vulnerable and take risks. At the end of the session, Kim will moderate a Q&A session that will get the audience involved in the conversation.

We are honored to be a part of such an amazing gathering of influential and inspiring professionals and policy makers in the education field!

For more information visit: Hope to see you there!

Divergent Thinking: UCLA SciArt Nanolab

Never before have I experienced anything like the SciArt Nanolab at UCLA. Going into this institute, I had no idea what to expect. All through my life, I have been asked “do you like the arts or sciences?” Most people were surprised when I told them that I had a passion for both.

At the SciArt Nanolab, I was surrounded by students and instructors who feel the same way that I do. Rather than conforming to the notion that these two subjects can never be intertwined, we explored various ways to incorporate both of these areas into our work.

As I searched for summer programs, many of the institutes available focus on very narrow subjects or practices. Because this course is so open, it attracted a very eclectic group of students. There were many future-engineers and biologists like myself, as well as some very talented artists! We were exposed to many different fields of work, and this helped me to realize some of my strengths and interests. I now know that engineering is not my forte, but I’ve discovered a new passion for environmental biology and computer science. As a creative person, I was very skeptical about computer science, but I had a great time experimenting with designs and programs.

Many guest speakers gave lectures on their work throughout the two weeks, such as Noa Kaplan, who is an artist who sculpts objects that she views through microscopes. We also completed daily hands-on workshops, like building our own microscopes from webcams and designing our own circuit for clothing. Our instructors led us on visits to five different labs and museums, and we also had plenty of time to get to know each other as well.

Besides the educational aspect, the incredible support from the faculty truly made this experience unforgettable. With their help, us students completed a final project under the guidelines of “imagine the impossible.” My peers all came up with unimaginable ideas, including memory retrieval, compatibility monitors, and ozone-cleaners. My group and I developed a plan for “self-cleaning teeth,” and our final project website and video can be viewed at

I highly recommend this program to any student who has interdisciplinary interests, or one who simply wants to explore various subjects! As I head into my senior year and begin applying to colleges, I will continue to explore the new perspectives and interests that I have developed through this program, as well as through my internship with KDR PR.

-By Melanie Farfel, KDR PR summer 2014 intern & senior at Canyon Crest Academy where she is also president of ASB and a member of the Envision Conservatory for the Humanities

My journey through Art of Science Learning

On July 24, I was surrounded by sunshine, music, and the enthusiastic voices of hundreds of innovators in art and science filling the Plaza de Panama and the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa. There, educators, parents, children and passersby gathered to share ideas and learn from each other at the Play Day for Educators hosted by the Art of Science Learning (AoSL).

Incubator for Innovation:

At the heart of Play Day, teams from AoSL’s San Diego Incubator for Innovation presented their projects in progress and received feedback and support from the community. All nine teams will present their final projects on October 18th. Stay tuned for details!

Here are a few conversations that stood out to me:

  • Waterstock: Many attendees considered the question “What would you do with the last water balloon?” giving answers like, “Drink it!” “Definitely feed it to my gold fish,” “I’d find a way to make more with it,” and “Use it to water a fruit tree.”
  • Aqua Diao: After describing a prototype that converts the humidity in the air into drinking water using electrical currents, a 12-year-old enthralled by the prototype and the battery it works from asked, “Does that help steady the voltage?” and “How does that sensor work?” and other technical questions.
  • Trash to Paradise: After walking through the plans and a mini prototype for filtration system made from recycled plastics and wetland plants to locally convert black water into gray water at a Tijuana church site a young woman echoed, “So you’re filtering water with plastics and soil instead of heavy machinery? That’s fantastic!”


In addition to the San Diego Incubator Teams, schools and organizations from around the county provided mini workshops to showcase the benefits of applying art to STEM education for even the earliest learners. Here’s what I heard:

  • Feaster STEAM Charter: as Kim Richards, co-founder of STEAMConnect, struggled to make a pyramid from 4 pieces of connected circles, the Feaster engineering teacher pointed out, “I saw a kid earlier today solve the puzzle in one move from where you have it right now.” With a look of surprise and one twist, Kim solved the puzzle exclaiming, “I didn’t even see it at first!” Another Feaster team member chimed in, “Kids have an easier time with this the younger they are. As we get older we get so set in our ways, it’s hard to let go and imagine possibilities.”
  • BuildTopia: Children used basic engineering design handbooks and recycled materials to model their own utopia. One little boy grabbed my hand and said excitedly, “I made it look like leaves fell out of the tree!” as he showed me his eco-friendly utopia complete with elevator tree house and duck pond.
  • Rokenbok: Attracting by far the most and smallest kids, the Kid*Spark by Rokenbok play area held cars and lego-like bridges and buildings. A father watching his children guide Rokenbok cars over bridges mumbled to his wife, “This is fascinating. They’re all so calm.” As a little boy was being pulled away from a dump truck, he asked his mother disappointedly, “We need to go?”

    Meanwhile young-at-heart adults marveled over 3D printed pieces that interfaced perfectly with Rokenbok’s.

  • CRMSE: While creating a 3D drawing, anamorphic projection, a 4th and 5th grade math teacher shook his head saying, “There’s not enough art in math, my students would probably love something like this.” Pausing a moment, he asked the representative from the USD Theoretical Math extension, “Do you think fourth or fifth graders could handle this?” who replied “I do this with preschoolers and adults. They’ll do great!”

-By Romy Beigel, KDR PR summer 2014 intern & president of Team Paradox, the FIRST Robotics team at San Dieguito Academy

Launching the first STEAM Conference in San Diego March 28

We announced yesterday that STEAMConnect, an organization co-founded by KDR PR and UCSD Extension, will be holding its first-ever STEAM Conference on Friday, March 28 at the Irwin M. Jacobs Qualcomm Hall in San Diego. We are looking forward to partnering with our STEAM Site Sponsor Qualcomm on this exciting event!

This conference will bring together dynamic speakers, engaging entertainment, exemplary STEAM programs and inspiring STEAM students to discuss hot topics around STEAM, forge new partnerships and pinpoint key action items to help turn STEAM ideas into reality.

Purchase your tickets now at and visit for regular program updates. You can also follow our conference updates on Twitter @STEAMConnect via #STEAMconf14.

Takeaways from WISE 2013

My first time at the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) was eye opening. I was surrounded by more than 1,200 education leaders from 100 countries and with a wide range of perspectives on what’s working and what’s not. I captured dozens of snippets from the sessions I attended at @KimberleeSD, but here are a few standout highlights that really stuck with me:

  • STEM gives us “a sense of wonder, the same effect as music, art and literature do.” She likens STEM to seeing a flower and its beauty as others do, but also seeing its inner beauty. “There’s science behind the beauty.” – Maggie Aderin-Pocock, an English space scientist.
  • “We should be teaching an appreciation of science, not just trying to get more researchers.” – Claudia Dreifus, Columbia University and New York Times science writer
  • “There are currently 6,000 languages in the world. 3,000 will be gone by the end of the century. We need to be sensitive to cultural and linguistic diversity.” – UNESCO
  • “We need to teach the capacity to deal with the uncertainties of our daily lives. We don’t know where the future will take us.” – Edgar Morin, French philosopher and sociologist


We are clearly in a major transition period in education with a lot of work still to be done, but let’s take some time to step back and reflect on all of the positive steps individuals and organizations are taking forward all over the world. The WISE crowd alone is making leaps and bounds.

While soaking in the thought-provoking sessions, I also had the chance to immerse myself in more cultural activities in Doha like the famous Souq Waqif market, dune bashing and a camel ride, as well as camel races and a trip to Dukhan beach. I return to my life in San Diego with new perspectives, great new friends and an excitement for what the future holds connecting STEAMConnect with the world.

I’ll close with this: We experience life differently depending on where we sit in the world, but there is an underlying commonality between all of us. As Dr. Pai Obanya, Chairman of the Board of the West African Examinations Council said, “it’s our ‘humanware’ that is most important.” Well said.

When in Doha

Wow, what a week! This was my first time to the Middle East, and it gave me a whole new perspective on education at a global scale. Over a series of blog posts this week I’m going to capture the incredible journey I had “when in Doha."

Before diving into our two-day STEAM meeting, we had the chance to explore Doha with 20 school leaders from the U.S., Qatar and Brazil who held a similar meeting in parallel to ours. Our group of business and education leaders came together to enjoy an entertaining guided tour at the Museum of Islamic Art followed by a Dhow cruise along the Gulf with views of the sparkling skyline.

Day 1: From a former astronaut, the South African National Research Foundation and the Smithsonian, to Sesame Workshop, Boston Arts Academy, GameDesk and the Supreme Education Council among others, I was blown away by depth of experience in STEM, arts and education. We spent most of the day working through what STEAM means to us, concerns about its messaging alongside STEM and overall barriers for schools adopting STEAM. It was a challenging day trying to negotiate different perspectives in the room, but by the end of the day we had a sheets of poster paper and a wall of sticky notes filled with great ideas.

Ainissa Ramirez, materials scientist and author of Save Our Science – “All children have an inner scientist, we need to put memory back into the system.”

Day 2: With a fresh eye on STEAM after some much needed rest, the group powered through the morning fine-tuning their definitions of STEAM and hashing out questions around school support, funding and scalability, curriculum and assessment, and what students can learn from a STEAM program.

By lunch everyone was energized and excited to dig into mini STEAM project plans. We heard four different project pitches and the group dispersed based on interest. We now have actionable concepts including the STEAM card game, science music videos, a STEAM program for Qatari schools, and a creative, space-related mashup of two participants’ existing work.

“The future never just happened, it was created.” – Mae Jemison, former NASA astronaut

At the close of the two-day meeting, we went around the room sharing reflections on the experience. Everyone agreed it was incredibly productive, it opened up minds to the potential for STEAM, it gave the group actionable STEAM projects to move forward with, and that this is just the beginning of the great work we can do together across the world.

Reflections on the Plane to Doha and Excitement for What’s Ahead

As I sit on the plane on my way to Doha, Qatar, I’m getting excited about the adventure ahead. Since starting with UCSD Extension in early 2012, the momentum around STE+aM (science, technology, engineering, +arts, math) education has grown tremendously.

From San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles and San Francisco to Portland, Oregon and Chicago, to Texas and Rhode Island, the push to integrate arts with STEM education is stronger than ever. The discussion is also happening all over the world, which is the impetus for my current travel overseas.

I was invited to co-facilitate a meeting on Oct. 27-28 in Doha hosted by the Qatar Foundation International (QFI) and New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) called STEAM: Powering Creativity & Collaboration. Meghan Groome, executive director of education and public programs at NYAS, is my partner in facilitation. I’m looking forward to getting to know all about her work and how we may be able to partner to link NYAS to the STEAMConnect network of 700 teachers, nonprofits, community members and business leaders.

In addition to co-facilitating, I also have the opportunity to make a short presentation on what STEAMConnect is and what the network is up to, particularly in southern California. We’re a hotbed for STE+aM! I’ll provide access to the slides by Oct. 28. Others participating in the meeting include Charlotte Cole, SVP of global education for Sesame Workshop; Dr. Mae Jemison, a former NASA astronaut; Vijay Kumar, MIT; Roger Mandle, Qatar Museum Authority; Stephanie Norby, Smithsonian Center for Education, and several more. For a copy of the brochure with the agenda and full participant list and bios, contact Ann Marie Price at

This STE+aM event is an official pre-event for the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), which I’ll be participating in from Oct. 29-31. It’ll be an incredible opportunity to learn from and share with forward-thinking education leaders from 100 different countries around the world.

Keep an eye on for periodic blog posts, and @KimberleeSD for regular event updates and photos. I welcome your questions and suggested topics to address during the events as well, which you can share via social media or to me directly at More soon!

Bon Voyage Kim: T-Minus Six Weeks to Qatar!

Our very own Kim Richards is heading off to Doha, Qatar this October for a STEAM Roundtable to discuss the importance and impact of integrating the arts into STEM curricula.

Qatar Foundation International (QFI) in collaboration with The New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) is bringing together 25 STEAM and school leaders from around the world to participate in a unique two-day roundtable from Oct. 27-28 to discuss and explore STEAM in practice and to help enhance understanding and adoption of STEAM by teachers and schools globally. Out of the 17 representatives from the U.S., only two are from California, one of which being Kim.

“I’m honored to join QFI in their mission to put STEAM into practice to change the face of education in Qatar and throughout the world,” said Kim. “The work that I’ve done building STEAMConnect with UCSD Extension has shown me just how transformative STEAM can be.”

Taking with her the knowledge and experience gained from working with STEAMConnect, Kim will have the thrilling opportunity to exchange ideas and knowledge with other STEAM experts from Qatar, U.S. and Brazil. Not only will she learn from other uniquely creative STEAM minds, but also be able to represent the great work being done in San Diego and southern California.

The STEAM roundtable will include presentations from the participants about how they define STEAM, how they are incorporating the “A” effectively in STEAM, examples of what is happening in STEAM and other concepts used to help push the STEAM movement forward.

“I’m eager to share what we’re doing in San Diego, to learn what others are doing around the world, and to find ways to collaborate and shift the movement to a global one,” said Kim.

Immediately following the STEAM roundtable, Kim will also attend the 2013 WISE Summit in Doha from Oct. 29-31 where more than 1,000 prominent education, corporate, political and social leaders from more than 100 countries will come together to explore innovation in education and to inspire collaborative solutions to education challenges.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates and live posts from Kim’s trip and stay tuned for a recap complete with photos and video from her travels as well as the STEAM roundtable and WISE Summit.

TED Talk: 3 Rules to Spark Learning

In this TED talk, chemistry teacher Ramsey Musallam reflects on the moment he transformed his teaching style. When faced with a life threatening condition, an unexpected exchange with his surgeon inspired Musallam to create the following rules for his classroom:

  1. Curiosity comes first. Questions can be windows to great instruction, not the other way around.
  2. Embrace the mess. Learning is ugly.
  3. Practice reflection. What we do is important. It deserves our care, but it also deserves our revision.

These rules are exactly what we talk about in STE+aM. We have the opportunity to spark curiosity, inquiry and imagination in any subject matter, it boils down to perspective and intention vs. following a standard lesson plan. Musallam asks in his closing, “can we be the surgeons of our classrooms?” I say yes. What do you say?

Math + Art = Match Made in Heaven

I was never much of a math person. Well, I thought I was until I hit pre-calculus in college. Nothing seemed to resonate with me, so I gave it up…academically. I use math every single day of my life and yet somehow I feel completely resistant to it. That is until I attended a brown bag lecture called “When Mathematical Instruments Become Art Instruments” at CRMSE, the Center for Research in Math and Science Education at San Diego State University, a new client of KDR PR.

I was inspired by the creative potential in both teaching and learning math. The professors seek reflection and a more in depth understanding of the concepts from the students, and the students as a result are expressive and able to apply the learnings to their own lives.

Here are a couple of examples:

  1. Making math creative. Students use a math instrument called Alberti’s Window to peer through an eyehole through a vertical drawing pane to an object on the other side. Then they draw projected images of what they see on the pane, their “projective sketch,” an exercise inprojectivegeometry. The shape and size will vary depending on the angle they’re looking from and which side of the glass the object is on. Students are asked to use their imagination to figure out the shape and size before starting.
  2. Making math beautiful. Students are then asked to create a cluster of shapes using math software called Geometer’s Sketchpad based on their projective sketch. The resulting shapes are cut into stencils and then airbrushed into beautiful art pieces. One student who is a dancer wanted to create spirals because it reminded her of dance, so she found a creative way to use a projection to create another one to get the effect she wanted. Reflecting on her piece, she said she had never thought of her dance from a math perspective, and is now opening up her creativity in new ways and incorporating math elements into her dance.

What I loved hearing in the student testimonials is that art is no longer intimidating to them. That we’re all artists and mathematicians, we just may not have uncovered it yet. I say we all step back for a moment to figure out what we “think” we can’t do and then go try it out. It’ll be fun!