Conference Excitement from the Leadership Team

Matt Dozier, EAST Initiative President and CEO

Matt Dozier, EAST Initiative President and CEO

I hope everyone is as excited about the EAST Conference as we are! We are within a month of the big event and our Leadership Retreat will soon be in full swing. The Leadership Team is integral to the success of the Conference and has developed over the years from a handful of true volunteers (students with a few minutes or just a desire to help out) to an interconnected team of over 40 students from across the EAST universe who provide an undergirding of support that sets the event apart….and makes it AMAZING!

The Leadership Team is comprised of four groups: the Ambassador Team, the Speaker Team, the Technical Support Team and the Documentation Team. Each has a specific set of tasks at Conference but taken together they are the “secret sauce” that makes the whole thing work.

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We asked the team leaders to introduce themselves and share about their teams.

First is our Ambassador Team co-leaders Elise Fry and Caitlin Cothern.

From Caitlin:

My name is Caitlin Cothern, I am a senior at Jonesboro High School. I have been in EAST for six years, attended Conference five times, have been on the Ambassador team for five years, and this year I am one of the co-leaders for the Ambassador Team. I am so excited about Conference and my team this year because I get the opportunity to lead such a great group of students. Everyone is so smart and outgoing, and we all share the same love for EAST. My team is like a family to me; we laugh, we cry and we survive Conference together. I cannot wait for all the memories this Conference will create.

From Elise:

My name is Elise Fry and I am a senior at Batesville High School. I am so honored to serve with Caitlin as your Ambassador Team Leaders for EAST Conference 2015. The team this year includes 25 of some of the best EAST students, all of whom are extremely excited to help out and be a vital part of this your Conference experience. The 2015 Ambassador Team is dedicated to making Conference the best one yet by making sure all aspects of the event run smoothly. I know I speak on behalf of the entire team when I say one of our favorite parts of Conference is meeting our fellow students and learning their EAST story. Talk to us! Tell us about how you started in EAST and how you have grown. Visit with us about applying for Ambassador Team next year, it is an amazing opportunity and we would love share more about it. I look forward to seeing you all soon in Hot Springs!

Victoria Burton, a Senior from Springdale Har-Ber High, is leading our Speaker Team of four students who are the emcees for our large presentation events.

From Victoria:

I am beyond excited about EAST Conference this year and my Leadership Team because of the new bonds I will have the privilege of creating with different EAST students. I have been in EAST for three years and through this class I have developed relationships that will last a life time. I can already tell this Conference is going to be incredible because of the dedication and passion I have personally seen in the other leaders. Having the opportunity to work with students who share the same love for EAST as I do makes this experience so much more memorable. EAST Conference 2015 will definitely be one to remember

Rather than a student leader, the Documentation Team has professional mentors to make sure our video, photography, social media and other efforts are planned and executed.

The Technical Support Team also has co-leaders. This 10-member team gets a crash course in technical planning, implementation and trouble shooting. They also get a first-hand look at running in circles putting out fires and doing something I call “Whack-a-Mole Level 52.”

Returning this year is California Burmeister, a Senior at Jonesboro High School. Cali has helped to significantly enhance this team as a leader the past two years.

From Cali:

I am so excited for EAST Conference 2015! The Technical Support Team this year is going to be our best one yet. From talking to my teammates, I can tell they are going to be awesome. Conference is my favorite time of year because I get to put together and manage a team with my wonderful co-leader Justin. So much hard work and time is spent before Conference. Seeing everything run smoothly is the best reward for it all. The best part of being leader is seeing every members’ strengths and helping meld those strengths into one unit. We have got a smart bunch and we will be prepared for anything! 

Cali’s co-leader this year is Justin Martin from Cedarville High School.

From Justin:

I am excited for Conference and my team because every EAST conference I have attended has been better than the previous year. When you start out with an awesome Conference, improving every year is more than a good thing. I cannot wait to see old friends, meet new people, and make new connections. I am excited to see everyone’s projects, booths and ideas. This will also be a great year for the Tech Team. I am excited to work with Cali and the rest of the team. I believe the 2015 Conference will be the best Conference ever!


So, while you are reading most of the team is hiding deep in the woods of Ferndale, Arkansas, working through logistics, training and preparing for the thousands of Conference guests and attendees.

On behalf of the Leadership Team, the EAST staff,and the thousands of students preparing for the EAST Conference, let me extend an invitation to see the fruits of all that labor. We really hope to see you there.

Until then, I’m Matt and that’s that…


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Innovation Hub gaining STEAM

In 2014, the EAST Initiative began an exciting partnership with the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub. We were proud to be part of the beginning of this effort as the Hub is exciting and techy and such a great place for students (of all ages). It has an energy that we are SO familiar with….and it’s cool! Today’s guest blogger is Errin Dean, Programming, Events and Membership Director at the Hub, and this is just another step in the story of how good people working together can create opportunities none of us could do individually.

Errin Dean Innovation Hub

Errin Dean
Innovation Hub

The Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub is excited to announce our platforms for education, school field trip schedule, after school workshops, summer camp opportunities and membership levels.

The Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub’s Launch Pad houses a Community Resource Learning Laboratory. We provide tools, infrastructure, knowledgeable mentors, facility and time to learn. Our mission is focused on open-ended and hands-on learning based on the concept of platform education. Our platforms support a variety of disciplines and skills that apply to real world challenges. Nurturing and inspiring curiosity will always result in knowledge. We believe curiosity is the most important tool for learning.

Our mission statement is to be the bridge that connects schools, museums, libraries and ar hubindustries. Schools are the gardens of our population, museums are the fountain of inspiration, libraries are the seeds of information, industry is the support of generations and we are the tools of application. We can work together to grow the future of our world.

The Hub has some wonderful after school workshops available starting in February. They are offered from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons for ages 10-17.

Tuesdays  – “All About Electricity”
An open-ended exploration of electricity, electronics and complex circuits. Learn the rules and components required to repair, design and build electronics. After learning the basics, get hands-on with projects from simple switches to radio controlled aircraft.

Wednesdays – “Computer Tech”
Everything in the 21st century begins with computers. From coding and programming to exploring space, you can do it all from behind a computer terminal. Video games, computer aided design, networking, video/music editing; computer skills are powerful tools for discovering and exploring the world.

Thursdays – “Fab Lab”
Take the skills you learn in electronics and computing and make things. 3D printing, computer controlled laser cutters, sewing machines, screws, glue and thread. Materials combine with one another to create the inventions that you design. From fashion to function, learn to make the things you dream.


Innovation Hub Field Trips
Field trips may be scheduled Tuesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Our workshops are customizable according to age and curriculum and are built on our four main platforms: Electricity, Computers, Additive and Subtractive Manufacturing and Fabrication. We believe understanding a concept begins with understanding each component of that concept. There is no better way to learn than hands-on application. Our tools and equipment bring concepts to life. Our laboratory is your classroom, from mathematics to physics and simple machines to computers. Please contact me for more information at

Picture2Summer in the Hub will be filled with young makers (ages 8-10), makers (ages 11-13) and the crucible teens (ages 14-16). We are so excited to offer camps focusing on our four major platforms. Please visit our website for more information on dates and pricing

Come see us at the Hub! We are happy to give you a tour and discuss membership opportunities. Our levels cover a variety of options including senior, student, business and weekend options. We look forward to seeing you and having fun with innovation!

Thanks Errin. I know the Hub is getting ready to shine bright and I encourage anyone interested to take advantage of the opportunities to learn and network with like-minded, exciting people.

EAST is honored to be a part of the Hub. They’re cool, cool kids!

Until next time….

I’m Matt and that’s that.

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The Present and the Future: CES 2015

Last week EAST sent Mr. Jerry Prince to Las Vegas to explore the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Recently, you might have read or seen news stories on CES where all of the big “next” things are introduced. Jerry got to see the future…and the present.

Jerry Prince, EAST Senior Director of Program Services

Jerry Prince, EAST Senior Director of Program Services

I have heard of CES (Consumer Electronic Show) for years. For those somewhat familiar, this event showcases some of the latest consumer gadgets in hopes that visiting buyers will take a liking and make some deals.

And now I have experienced CES first-hand. Wow! My purpose was to track down some new technology that might be good for the EASTdom. I registered many months back giving me ample opportunity to plan and create some logistical strategy. After spending countless hours of staring at exhibit hall layouts and schedules, it was show time!

When I arrived I thought best to survey the exhibit hall prior to opening to get my feel of the land and how to navigate – sort of like staring at the monster while he sleeps. This event is rather difficult to comprehend. Several convention centers give over two-million square feet of exhibit space. (For perspective the average size of a Walmart shopping center is just over 100,000 square feet – so imagine 20 Walmart buildings.)


There were over 3,000 vendors visited by over 150,000 attendees representing more than 140 countries. What did I see? Cell phones, tablets, computers (only very few though), cases, chargers, cables, massage chairs, fitness devices, sensors, watches and other wearables, robots large and small, a belt that automatically adjust, a clothes de-wrinkler and freshener, headphones and earbuds, kitchens, washing machines, drones, cameras, cell phone cases followed by more cell phone cases, Bluetooth gadgetry like portable speakers, virtual and augmented reality (get an appointment to get hands on), 3D printers (including one that printed food – kind of), scooters and Segway-like contraptions, video game systems, batteries, home security and monitoring, concept vehicles, apps, car stereos that really go boom!, switches, wireless everything, monster TV’s, and the list goes on and on and on.

IMG_20150106_103458760_HDR“Overwhelming” would best fit my experience at CES. First is the extent some go in order to show off their gadgets. The amount of time, money and energy that some put toward booth space and design was yes, overwhelming. The sheer volume was overwhelming too, both noise level and amount of technology. For instance, interested in 3D printers? There were more booths than I could count. One could have spent an entire day just learning about the 3D printers on the market.

The amount of visual stimulation was also a plenty. I had to take a mental break at least twice a day from mental fatigue. And of a similar note was the physical component of walking 10-14 miles per day in the halls.IMG_20150108_131351527

Something overwhelming that I did not prepare for was perhaps the biggest take-away of all. The American Dream is alive and well. And there is a long line of those with hope. While some companies were bragging, others were just trying to get a nibble. I was overwhelmed again in being reminded of just how fortunate I was to experience CES first hand. And fortunate to have opportunity to already have experienced much of what was presented at CES 2015. Wow indeed!

We’re lucky to have Jerry on staff because he’s brave enough to tackle projects like CES. His reconnaissance mission last week will pay dividends as we configure our new EAST classrooms.

Until next time…I’m Matt, and that’s that!

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A Conversation with Change the Equation

Matt Dozier, EAST Initiative President and CEO

Matt Dozier, EAST Initiative President & CEO

The EAST Initiative President and CEO Matt Dozier visits with Change the Equation on our involvement with STEMworks and being part of the Change the Equation database. 

Click here to view the guest blog at Change the Equation.

How has being in STEMworks changed the way your program works?
Our inclusion has helped us give external validity to what we have seen with our own eyes, that the EAST model powerfully engages students in applied STEM learning. Being a part of STEMworks has also given us the responsibility to maintain the quality of our program so we can continue to be a good example of what STEM learning can look like.

What kind of impact has your program been able to make?
The EAST model was piloted in the 1995-1996 school year and has grown from one classroom teacher and 20 students to a network of more than 220 schools with nearly 300 facilitators and 25,000 students actively using STEM skills to solve problems and tackle projects in their communities. We have an alumni base of nearly 150,000 students who have participated in the program and as they move into college and the workplace, we see they are poised to be the innovative leaders our nation so desperately needs.

How has being in STEMworks connected you to Corporate America?
Over the past year we have seen an increase in corporate engagement as well. [Change the Equation members] AT&T, HP, and Verizon have continued to support the work EAST is doing as we prepare their workforce.

How is your program planning to bring itself to scale?
As the overall economy improves, it is our hope we can get back to scaling EAST at a more robust pace. We are working in our home state on some policies and legislation that would solidify a baseline of growth so we can better leverage our efforts with other areas of philanthropy. We are also looking at freshening our research and honing our storytelling so that others can better understand the capacity EAST has for transformative education in STEM areas.

Are you partnering with other organizations or programs to deepen and expand your reach and impact?
We have developed a dynamic partnership with the state’s STEM Coalition and the UTeach programs that are growing in our Universities. The most exciting partnership we have entered into in the past year is with the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub in the Argenta community of North Little Rock, Arkansas. This partnership is allowing us to take our EAST model outside the traditional school day (and the classroom) and work in a community-based setting to help build community engagement and STEM capacity in students of all ages.

What’s one piece of advice for other STEM programs?
The best advice I can give is to stay focused on authentic experiences. We aren’t going to make students excited about STEM by telling them about it. They’ve got to do it. And they don’t need to do simulations or practice with hypothetical situations. They need real life experiences. The most fun I’ve ever had in STEM is when things aren’t working and I needed to figure out why. That’s what builds passion and creates the next wave of innovators.

Matt Dozier is President and CEO of the EAST Initiative. The EAST Initiative is proud to be included in STEMworks. We are especially proud of being among the first programs added and for being recognized in all four areas of the STEM fields.

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EAST 2014 and Beyond

Matt DozierPres./CEO - EAST Initiative

Matt Dozier
Pres./CEO – EAST Initiative

It’s the season when traditionally all the media and online outlets look back and assess the “year in review.” I’ve done it myself on this very blog before. And, to be fair 2014 was a good one for EAST.

We were named a finalist for Nonprofit of the year in our home state of Arkansas, we added 17 new programs; we got tons of great press, and we saw EAST students and alumni achieve at incredible levels.

This year, EAST students launched projects into space and lost projects in Kentucky. They became models of urban agriculture and 10480086_10153286979733438_399747737882768128_oproved to have provided incalculable service in the face of terrible disasters. EAST
students keynoted to an audience of over 15,000. 2014 was the year that an elementary program took home the Founders Award. It was also the year that we formalized a partnership to move the EAST model into a community center setting.

To quote the late, great Francis Albert Sinatra, it was “a very good year.”

But 2014 pales in comparison to what we expect for 2015 and that’s what I really want to talk about. Not what’s behind us but what is in front of us.

For starters, 2015 will open with the Initiative in a new role, that of landowner. We will start the year right in our brand new training facility and the staff is beyond excited. This new facility will boast some of the most exciting training in the country and will do so in spaces designed specifically for that training.

We look forward to continuing the growth of our training offerings. In the months to come look for some new trainings to be announced that will focus on the continuing professional development needs of our facilitators.

We look forward to our annual conference where we are lining up incredible speakers and trainers (and preparing for an even more incredible turnout–217 schools so far).9e73d8f11fb0196e4cec9d82a110c158

We look forward to new programs and other new opportunities that we haven’t even found yet (we’re sending Mr. Jerry Prince to CES in a week to go find the next big things in technology).

We look forward to working with people and organizations that share our passion for providing students the opportunity to combine technology and purpose in ways that benefit the students learning and their communities. In a world that is increasingly asking for opportunities for students to get real world experience in technologies like coding and GIS, EAST stands as a proven model with a strong network and track record.

Speaking of track record, 2015 has me excited because come August EAST will reach a milestone that seems almost inconceivable (if that word means what I think it means). This August, our “big idea” fueled by passionate educators and eager students will turn 20. That’s two decades of helping to build students and communities. It hardly seems possible.

So we’ll look back later. Right now we’re boldly stepping into the future. I can’t wait to see you there.

Until next time, I’m Matt and that’s that.



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Requiem for an EAST Leader

Matt DozierPres./CEO - EAST Initiative

Matt Dozier
Pres./CEO – EAST Initiative

Sometimes words fail you. Many times they aren’t enough. I’m facing such a time today; I’m having to say goodbye to someone that I shouldn’t even be contemplating saying goodbye to. I’m having to say goodbye to someone that, by all rights, I should never have really known in the first place…but, you see that just wasn’t the way she operated.

Lindsey Parker wasn’t Lindsey Parker when I met her; she was just Lindsey Ball and a member of the Harrisburg Middle School EAST program. You remember your middle school years, right? Gawky, socially awkward, confused….yeah, Lindsey was none of those things. She was composed, mature and effervescent. Shiny, she was shiny. Full of enthusiasm and eager to make you feel as excited as she was about whatever it was she was excited about that day.

"This means Space Needle"

“This means Space Needle”

I participated in a few presentations that the Harrisburg students were also involved in and came to realize that her natural habitat was spreading cheer and energy about EAST to whomever would listen. And that’s how Lindsey took over EAST (kind of). She traveled far and wide for her school and for the Initiative in general and presented at every opportunity she found. We went as far as Seattle, Washington, to a big national conference where the EAST presentation was a breakfast session that the participants had to pay extra for. We filled the room and after the presentation Lindsey and her “partner in crime,” Morgan, got a taste of full on mini-celebrity. They were sought out by conference-goers everywhere they went—they were followed into the bathroom by one overzealous teacher—they were recognized at the airport…they were probably impossible to deal with at school the next week.16- T+L

east08 (3)Lindsey basically invented the current EAST Conference Ambassador Team Leader position. One of my fondest memories is her leading an impromptu call and response cheer for our “This is My EAST” Conference (2009). Two thousand people in the stands and she had them eating out of the palm of her hand. No big surprise, really, considering she had completely taken charge of the Governor’s appearance at banquet the night before. She was so organized and responsible that when her senior year came, she personally recruited and trained her “replacement” and I’ll be doggoned if she wasn’t an excellent judge of talent because her mini-me was a great pick and also did a great job.

Conference 2009 (4)Lindsey stayed home to go to college. She graduated from Arkansas State University and began teaching in her local schools. She was a small-town girl at heart. She married her high school sweetheart and they had an impossibly cute boy in 2014. My hope was that she would become an EAST facilitator (something we talked about and I know she wanted to do), or go for school administration and bring change and heart to a whole school or district or…..the sky was the limit.

Seattle T+L (36)Unfortunately, we’ll never get to see her do those things. On the morning of December 9, 2014, Lindsey had an accident on her way to her classroom and we lost her. It didn’t take long until my phone was ringing off the hook from friends and colleagues; a circle of people that appreciated her and loved her as much as I did. She leaves behind a family that loved her dearly and more friends and admirers than can be counted.

I was fortunate to watch her grow and become a young professional. I was fortunate to sit in the overflowing church at her wedding. I was fortunate to spend some quiet time in the bleachers at the EAST Conference in a secret ritual we started when Lindsey was Team leader.

The last time Lindsey presented for EAST (at least for me) was at our Summer Seminar in Jonesboro. She stole that audience’s heart, but then EAST facilitators are easy marks. I have to carry her in my broken heart now and be sad that so many people won’t get the opportunity to learn from her or be led by her. They won’t know the incredible woman she was becoming.Summer Seminar 12 (8)

Our world is poorer today because she’s not in it. My heart is full of sadness. I am thankful she was a surrogate student of mine and I’m proud to say I knew her.

I’ve written this entire rambling remembrance because she was someone who helped build EAST and I don’t know how else to express my grief. I could keep writing for days because I have so many stories and memories. I’ve written it because I feel like the goodbye just isn’t enough. Unfortunately, it’s all that is left.

Rest in peace, Lindsey Ball Parker. You were special and shiny. EAST is better because of you and I will miss you terribly. Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.


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#GivingTuesday 2014

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Happy #GivingTuesday! Today’s guest blogger is our very own Communications Coordinator, Blake Welch. Blake has a special perspective on giving back and how EAST is making the world better.

Blake Welch EAST Initiative Communications Coordinator

Blake Welch
EAST Initiative
Communications Coordinator

Those first frenzied shopping days of the Christmas season are now behind us for 2014 and your cards have probably been swiped and entered online more times in the past few days than all of November.

Our culture has a way of emphasizing the need for giving stuff…clothes, electronics, knickknacks that look good on a shelf or trendy must-haves to make our lives even more convenient than they already are. Folks, we are beyond fortunate in America.

Today, though, we have an opportunity to focus our time and resources on giving. #GivingTuesday is in its third year and jumps on the caboose of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. It’s all about giving back.

The EAST Initiative joins thousands of other nonprofit organizations today on this #GivingTuesday, asking friends and family to learn more about what we do and encourage you to share your time and resources in helping EAST meet its mission of providing the best opportunities for students to learn and grow.

By supporting EAST on #GivingTuesday, you will help us expand the most exciting and beneficial education model in the country that equips students with not only the best technology around but also with skills and talents to jumpstart their abilities to change the world, one community at a time.IMG_1670

With your help, we can implement the EAST program in more schools to serve more communities, offer more technical trainings for students and provide vital professional development opportunities for EAST facilitators and EAST Core teachers.

I love what #GivingTuesday is and the message it communicates. I love to give more than I like to receive. I spent years living and working in east and southern Africa and tended to some of the great needs there, causing the worldview and perspective I had always known to come crashing down. Stuff does not matter, people do. And we should want to help others, not because it is the right thing to do but because we should have hearts of compassion, driven to meet the needs of others. That is what EAST does: students identify needs in their communities and they work to alleviate them.

My personal hope is anchored solely in one who gave everything and because of that hope, I believe we can follow an example of ultimate, sacrificial giving and send a thoughtful message on #GivingTuesday by giving money and our time to help worthy causes like EAST.

I invite you to visit and consider making a tax-deductible donation to support innovative education. And hashtag all over your social media that you gave! #GivingTuesday #GivingTuesdayAR #SupportEAST

Many blessings,

Blake Welch
Communications Coordinator
The EAST Initiative

Thank you Blake. I would like to echo his call. Please consider supporting EAST. Over 170,000 students have benefited from it already, imagine if we could bring it to all students.

I’m Matt, and that’s that…

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