Time and money are tight, so an investment in either one had better bring results. For visitors and collaborators of this year’s Arizona SciTech Festival, the numbers are in and they indicate each group gained the return it expected.
The third annual SciTech Festival held Feb. 1 through March 29 was a statewide celebration of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). As in previous years, the goal was to help create awareness about STEM (or, when art was included, STEAM) and its importance for Arizona residents as well as support the state’s education, economic and workforce needs related to STEM.
The festival was coordinated by the Arizona Commerce Authority, Arizona Technology Council Foundation, Arizona Science Center, Arizona Board of Regents, Arizona State University and The University of Arizona in collaboration with hundreds of organizations statewide.
But it seemed that the entire state was behind this year’s successful festival. “I am continually impressed how organizations and communities have so quickly embraced the concept of the Arizona SciTech festival and made it their own,” says Jeremy Babendure, the festival’s executive director. “This year we saw a 125-percent increase in the number of communities that embraced the Festivals as a regional initiative.”
To gather feedback, the primary evaluation methods were in-person surveys with online follow-up surveys. The initial “short” visitor survey was distributed during or after an event to participants. A total of 1,109 visitors were initially surveyed or provided email addresses for follow-ups. Results were reported to festival organizers by Arizona Evaluation & Research Associates.
People attending the events came from a cross-section of the population. Closest to the topics offered were the 13 percent who had occupations or were studying for careers related to STEM. The majority (45 percent) of visitors indicated their professions were in education (school system or college/university) or Arizona municipalities (22 percent). On the other end of the spectrum, 10 percent were from businesses and 11 percent were from cultural organizations.
As might be guessed with such a professional mix, many visitors (47 percent) reported having postsecondary degrees. They were highly interested in the variety of activities, with 52 percent attending multiple events. And a reflection of the festival’s family atmosphere was 43 indicating they attended with one or more children aged 5 to 16.
In fact, children appeared to be key drivers for getting people to participate in an event. The most highly cited reason (39 percent) for attending was to support the learning experience of children or others. (Worth noting is, 98 percent of those surveyed indicated learning as a family is important.) It was followed by 13 percent who said they were out with family and/or friends when they stopped at an event. General interest in science, specific interest related to professions or hobby, and “it seemed like a fun thing to do” were the reasons cited by each of three groups representing 9 percent of the respondents.
All in all, how were their experiences? Ninety-two percent of the visitors surveyed indicated the event they attended met their expectations. In fact,99 percent said they would recommend the event to a friend. When it came to promoting science- and technology-related learning,96 percent indicated the festival event was successful at doing just that.
Involved in the demonstrations and exhibits were more than 300 partners or collaborating organizations. They represented industry, academia, arts, civic organizations, community groups and K-12 schools and districts. A good sign that they expected a good experience was that 75 percent indicated they participated in the 2013 festival.
The collaborators’ involvement varied. The majority (61 percent) of respondents stated they helped by presenting an event or activity. Fifty-four percent of the collaborators indicated they helped get the word out about the festival while 46 percent hosted an activity or event. Additionally, 17 percent were sponsors and 16 percent provided volunteers or event hosts. An overwhelming majority (92 percent) reported they also attended their own organization’s events.
- Why did they get involved? The reasons were varied. Some of the more noteworthy comments were:
- Being able to network and gain support from other STEM organizations
- Promote economic growth in Arizona
- Promote the businesses in our town and the role that STEM plays in their activities.
- Closer connection with our community
- Providing possible career/college options in STEM
- Giving people the pride and joy that comes from living somewhere driven by thinkers and doers
For return on investment, 95 percent of the collaborators felt satisfied with theirs. Separately, 93 percent of respondents indicated their expectations were met. Broken down further, 73 percent found opportunities for new partnerships while 72 percent felt the festival increased public awareness about their organizations.
Overall, the outlook for what the 2015 festival will bring is positive. That was apparent with 88 percent of respondents indicating their organizations planned to participate next year.
By the Numbers
- 320,000+ total attendance
- 99% of visitors recommend SciTech Fest
- 52% of visitors attended multiple events
- 500+ events statewide
- 300+ venues
- 65 sponsors
- 40 Arizona cities and towns with events
- 164,245 visitors of AZSciTechfest.org
- 12% statewide awareness of SciTech Fest
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