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Maricopa Science City

A rocket takes flight at Maricopa Wells Middle School during the Maricopa Rocket Challenge. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

By Michelle Chance

The 2017 Maricopa Science City at the Salsa Festival will not only be spicy, but STEAM-y as well.

Six hundred students will participate in the event that promotes STEAM education. More specifically, it provides students access to exhibits based on subjects in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math.

Local businesses and organizations will offer hands-on demonstrations at the event, which will take place on March 25 at Copper Sky from 2 to 8 p.m.

David Noble with the City of Maricopa said the event is part of an initiative by the Arizona Commerce Authority called the Arizona SciTech Festival.

Maricopa Science City is “a science-at-work exhibit where businesses or organizations come and present some science-based aspect of what they do,” Noble said.

This year, Harrah’s Ak-Chin will return to the event to show students the science behind making ice cream. Other local exhibitors like Central Arizona College and Maricopa Outdoor Adventures will also be on-hand.

Returning technological exhibitor, Microsoft, will give students and attendees the opportunity to look through virtual reality goggles.

Come early for the Rocket Challenge

New to Maricopa Science City this year will be the Rocket Challenge, which will start at 11 a.m. in the soccer fields south of the festival. It will feature 300 middle school students firing off rockets they built themselves.

The two portions of the competition include level-one students who compete in an altitude test to see how high their rockets can fly. The second level students attach an egg on their rocket and are challenged to bring the egg back down to earth intact.Rockets2

Councilmember Nancy Smith has spearheaded the rocket challenge for the past three years and said having the event included at Maricopa Science City this year will allow students more exposure to opportunities in STEAM.

“Any time you can engage children in learning more about science, math, art and engineering – and those more technical aspects — you have the ability to interest them in those career fields as well,” Smith said.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment in STEM occupations (the report did not include the arts), will grow 9 million jobs between 2012 and 2022.

City officials said events like the Maricopa Science City are designed to align students with opportunities in these growling fields.

“I think the focus is ensuring that our students are properly qualified to enter the workforce and to interest them in STEAM education, and STEAM related employment down the road,” Noble said.


Maricopa hosted the 12th annual Salsa Festival at Copper Sky Regional Park on March 19.

The Salsa Festival on March 19 will include food, entertainment and Maricopa Science City.

Salsa meets science again this month in Maricopa.

The 12th annual Maricopa Salsa Festival is March 19, 2-8 p.m., at Copper Sky Regional Park. As always, expect a diverse array of salsas to taste and entertainment all day. Maricopa Science City will have a display of how science impacts modern lives, and watch out for the Rattlers.

Judging of the salsas will be a little different this year, Special Events Manager Niesha Whitman said. The city will have a new mobile app allowing salsa fans to register their votes electronically. Organizers also want to re-work the weight of the judging. Instead of the “celebrity judges” determining the top prize, that Best Overall $1,000 reward probably will be determined by the “People’s Choice” vote.

Category winners will get $500, and the judges’ prize winner will get $250.

The Little Pepper Zone will have kids’ activities, and adults can imbibe in the beer garden. There will also be a food and vendor village.

Consumption of beer will no longer be confined to the Beer Garden.

The entertainment begins at 2 p.m. with a full variety of performances.  Copper Sky instructors will lead Zumba and Salsa dance lessons. Fiesta Mexican performs twice, bookending Danzarte Danza Folklorica.

Maricopa’s Laura Walsh will headline the entertainment. She takes the stage at 7 p.m.

Performing before Walsh will be Maricopa teen Jiselle Diaz, whom Whitman described as having the “voice of an angel.”

Maricopa Science City will be set up at the north entrance with its exhibits by local professionals showing the fun side of science. See nitrogen-frozen ice cream, the science of baseball, the science of color, new police technology and much more.

This year, Science City includes a science fair. Students attending elementary, middle school or high school are invited to register their science projects and compete for scholarship money and a trophy. Check out robots and other student engineering feats.

Arizona’s own Arena Football team, the Rattlers, will conduct a public scrimmage at 12:30 p.m. and lasting into the early part of the festival. This year, the team is having its training camp at Copper Sky.

Admission to the Salsa Festival is free. There is a $5 charge for the Little Pepper Zone. Salsa voting packets are $1 each. Parking at Copper Sky is $5 and free for vehicles with ADA hangtags or plates.

The city is again providing shuttles on a continuous loop to free parking at Santa Rosa Elementary School, Santa Cruz Elementary School, Maricopa Wells Middle School, Maricopa Elementary School, Saddleback Elementary School, Butterfield Elementary School and ACE Hardware (ADA access).

This story appeared in the March issue of InMaricopa News.