Sharing My EAST as #ArkansasGives


David Moody
Chair, EAST Initiative
Board of Directors

When my friend Dr. Kelly Lyon asked me to consider joining the EAST Initiative Board of Directors in 2010, I didn’t even know what the acronym stood for.  Kelly described EAST in terms that I found compelling: project learning, technology, entrepreneurship and community service. I own a business consulting firm, blog about entrepreneurship, am invested in dozens of tech firms, and I’ve been volunteering with nonprofits for many years. EAST seemed like a perfect fit and an organization to which I could contribute. Almost seven years after joining the board, and currently serving as its chair, I’d like to share a few thoughts with you about why I support EAST — and why the organization continues to surprise me.

I’ve supported EAST with my time and treasure for years and still find myself surprised and amazed at the organization’s accomplishments. The members of the board are smart and well connected, as one might expect, but I’ve never met board members who are more dedicated and involved than EAST board members. Second, the staff and facilitators are very talented and incredibly passionate about what they do. Third, EAST students are amazing!


Across nearly 240 EAST classrooms in Arkansas and in four other states, EAST students vary widely regarding their age, race, socioeconomic background, interests, IQs, and dreams. Yet, they all seem to have one thing in common. When we give them access to some cool technology and challenge them with problems that need solving in their school and community, they respond. No matter what the challenge, they rise to the occasion. With the guidance of facilitators who truly care, students acquire not only tech skills, but knowledge and experience that will help them be successful in life such as teamwork, leadership, project management, problem solving and compassion. The real final product of the EAST program, our EAST alumni, always amaze me.

Joe_Hall_7Finally, the thing that has surprised me most about EAST is the impact that EAST programs and students have on their schools and communities. Sometimes the impact is quantifiable, such as when EAST students do things like redesigning drainage systems in flood prone areas or when students map the location of fire hydrants or dangerous structures thereby improving the fire protection and security in their town. Other impacts are less tangible but still incredibly valuable. EAST students have designed a 3D printed, flexible prosthetic for a classmate who was born with only one hand. Our students routinely build websites for local nonprofit organizations calling greater attention to their causes and helping them raise money. Several EAST classes have taken on projects to honor the veterans in their communities by producing video interviews of their war experiences and planning special Veteran’s Day events. Those impacts, my friends, are priceless.

Surprises are enjoyed more when they are shared with others, so I’d like to share my EAST with you. Many of us donate our hard earned money and volunteer our time to noble causes, but never get to see the impact of our charity. Please consider EAST for your next charitable investment. Since there is likely an EAST program in a school near you, you won’t have to wonder about the impact. You’ll get to see it first-hand. Just try it. Like me, I think you will be amazed and very pleasantly surprised again and again.

email_boardEditor’s Note: On April 6, 2017, donors can offer support to EAST through the Arkansas Gives campaign, which offers matching funds and bonus dollars added to those donations courtesy of the Arkansas Community Foundation. From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. this Thursday, your donation can be augmented if offered through Alternatively, you can contribute at any time through

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The Next Level


Matt Dozier
President and CEO
The EAST Initiative

Are you ready for the EAST Conference? Truth be told, we’re really not either. But we’re soooo close! We’ve hit that part of Conference preparation where the things to do are the “last minute things,” but somehow, like a chemistry experiment gone horribly awry, they just keep growing and growing…

Nevertheless, come Tuesday morning, March 14, the Hot Springs Convention Center will unlock its doors and the EAST universe will begin the move-in process that, a scant three days later, will reveal all of the power and majesty of giving students the opportunity to serve their communities by solving problems.

Save The Date_revised (1)

EAST Conference 2016 (8)

Conference 2016

It seems like every year, this event has grown in scope and scale, and 2017 promises to maintain that tradition. If you’ve been keeping up with announcements and planning on the website (, you’ve seen some of that growth. We’ve had to rethink many things logistically and worked on finding ways to involve more students, more partners, more exhibitors, and more excitement. Without giving anything away, let me just say that there are some things planned for the Conference that we’ve never tried before, and we have some surprises in store for the participants and guests.

EAST Conference 2012 (1)

Conference 2012

Of course, I have something of a unique perspective. I was part of the planning for the very first conference back in 2000. Like most things EAST, the conference grew out of some educational intentionality and some practical need.

EAST Conference 2000

Conference 2000

In the earliest days of EAST we participated in someone else’s event. It was a good way to do two things: 1) expose our students to what the professionals were doing and 2) show some of our corporate supporters how their support was impacting our students. Everyone had a splendid time. Unfortunately, our group grew from one school bus load of participants to one charter bus load of participants to three charter buses to being told that this was not a “kid thing.” Ouch! But… yay!

EAST Confernce 2009 (2)

Conference 2009

Yay because we realized how powerful it was to gather everyone together and share the work that was going on throughout EAST to learn from each other at scale. So, with all of the naïve idealism that had gotten us that far, we determined to make an event of our own.

And look at us now! This year we expect roughly 3,000 students and over 500 adults to attend in one form or another. We’ll host more than 60 breakout sessions on topics ranging from using Unreal Engine to texture and light animations to coding in several languages to college and career readiness to robotics. Our UA Little Rock Tinker Space will feature cybersecurity challenges, 3D printing and mechanical troubleshooting at very high levels. Our Fusion and STEM Challenges will combine a party with problem solving. Our Technical Support Olympiad will showcase some of the most technically proficient students in the country competing in a challenge that is at once awe-inspiring and devilishly crafted to be maddening to those of us who are not as savvy in the world of bits and bytes. You can see the solution to the 2015 Conference TSO final puzzle on page 22 here to get a sense of what I mean.

EAST Confernce 2009 (3)

Conference 2009

Let’s not forget we also will host three large-scale events, including our Awards Gala. If you’re interested in these, you can tune in even if you can’t attend the conference. We’ll be live streaming them. Learn more about that at

We’ve come a long way from that first conference, and this year will be just one more brief stop on the timeline of EAST.

EAST Confernce 2009 (1)

Tim Stephenson, Lindsey Parker and Matt Dozier, Conference 2009

The EAST Conference is a great opportunity to share the work of the Initiative, the schools that participate, and the students in its programs. It is also educational accountability at its highest. There is no better way for students to demonstrate their growth and mastery of the core EAST principles of self-directed learning, sophisticated technology integrated into community service projects, and collaborative efforts between students and their community clients. It is proof that EAST succeeds in its mission of providing all learners the opportunity to have relevant, individualized, life-changing educational experiences.

I hope you have the chance to see it.


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The ‘Whoas’ of 2016

Note from Matt: Today we’re turning over the EASTWord to the “man behind the curtain,” Spencer Watson. Spencer is our Communications Manager and my editor-in-residence (not an easy job). Spencer wanted to apply his super power to the blog. I’ll visit with you again on the other side of 2017, but until then….


Spencer Watson, Communications Manager
The EAST Initiative

As a former journalist (with residual journalistic tendencies), I feel comfortable offering some insight into one of the tricks of the trade. At this time of year, it sometimes can be really hard to get stories done. Schools and offices are closed. People are on vacation to visit family. Reporting is a challenge. Hence, the year-in -review. The newspaper still has to go out, so it’s a quick fix to simply look back at what happened by scouring the archives. No outside reporting needed!

Of course, it’s also instructive. I have little doubt you’ll see many year-in-review pieces this year in particular. Between all the notable losses in the pop culture world and the, ahem, unusual year of politics, these pieces will be commonplace.

If social media is any indication, quite a few folks are ready to see 2016 out the door, and I won’t quibble with looking forward — or mourning our losses. But, I gotta say, at EAST it’s been a great year!

ar hubFor many, January began with fireworks and toasts, and for us those continued after the wee hours of New Year’s Day. In the middle of the month, EAST celebrated the anniversary of a one-year partnership with the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub in downtown North Little Rock. With help from the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and AT&T, EAST and the Hub celebrated the success of the unique learning environment that is the STEAM Lab.

Though March was still early in 2016, it was nearing the end of the school year, and EAST was as busy as it ever gets with #EASTcon16. Themed to commemorate 20 years of EAST in the classroom, we gathered thousands of students and educators throughout EAST and celebrated the work they had been doing since the prior August (or even earlier). That celebration culminated with the naming of Harrison Junior high School as the winners of the Timothy R. Stephenson Founder’s Award at Conference.


2016 Founder’s Award Winner
Harrison Junior High School

1559In April, the awards continued. Mary Beth Hatch, facilitator at the aforementioned Harrison Junior High School, was named a digital innovator in Arkansas by PBS, a pair of students from Springdale’s Helen Tyson Middle School won statewide accolades for a project submitted to the Girls of Promise Tech contest, and a former EAST student finishing off his undergraduate degree at the University of Arkansas won a full scholarship to work on a master’s at Cambridge. What a month!

In May, when most students are thinking about the year winding down, at EAST we were thinking about the year winding up. We announced 12 new schools being added to the family for the 2016-2017 school year, bringing us up to 236.

_mg_9367Summer brought us Tech Camp and Summer Seminar in Harrison, where facilitators were engaged in three days of professional development exploring new technology, talking about best practices and networking with colleagues throughout EAST.

August brought us a new school year, as well as a new feature to the EAST website. The new Project Page launched to show off the amazing work students are doing.


Come September, we bid a bittersweet farewell to EAST Founder Tim Stephenson, who officially retired from the organization. Meanwhile, we also grew with the addition of new staff in site support, and then grew again in November by adding a new Director of Information Technology.

_mg_0135In the meantime, EAST welcomed the world into our headquarters for Encounter EAST, a chance to learn about the Initiative and the work staff, students and facilitators do every day. Within a couple weeks, schools throughout EAST were also opening their doors and showing off their projects as EAST Night Out was underway.


img_0162By the end of October, we were preparing to travel out to California to be honored by the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, which named the EAST Initiative an innovator in education. EAST was one of only four such organizations recognized and the only one outside of California to be honored. Needless to say, we were excited.

Which brings us to December and more exciting news. EAST received a grant from the Delta Regional Authority to strengthen the workforce pipeline by establishing three new programs in the Arkansas Delta during the 2017-2018 school year.


Given all that, it’s fair to say we’re ready to bid 2016 farewell, just as a lot of people are. But our motivation is that we’re looking forward to what 2017 will bring. If it’s anything like the last year, it’s hard to say we’ll have much to complain about.

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Exceptional Exemplars

NOTE: You can find this blog entry and more stories from around the Initiative in the upcoming issue of EAST Quarterly, available Dec. 1 at



Matt Dozier, CEO and President
The EAST Initiative

In 2009 we quietly started a special program to recognize outstanding EAST students who might not necessarily get recognized in very public ways. We call them Exemplars, and the recognition is pretty straightforward. Exemplar is a 10-cent word that means “a person serving as an excellent model.” So, when a staff member or member of EAST’s Board of Directors sees an outstanding EAST student out in the field — in school or at a public presentation — they take them aside and present them with a special coin to acknowledge the great job they are doing. We think it’s a nice way to show our appreciation to students who are modeling the very best of EAST in the real world.


The times I’ve been privileged to recognize an Exemplar I have told them, “This is a small token of appreciation and a tradition we started a few years back. As an old English teacher, I’m going to ask you to look up the word ‘exemplar’ because you are one. I’m also going to tell you that I want you to hold on to this, and every time you see it I want you to remember that you impressed a lot of people today, and I can’t wait to see where you go from here.”

dsc_0676I’m always delighted by this little exchange because of the reaction I see in students. Invariably they respond with a mixture of confusion (“what is going on here, exactly?”), pride (“I know I did something special”), and excitement (“this is pretty cool!”). Not only do I get this reaction, but I’ve witnessed it from across the room seeing one of these rare coins being awarded. Like I said, it’s a quiet, special kind of thing that makes for a very good day.

This is not an everyday occurrence, though. Students must set themselves apart in order to earn this recognition, and that’s a challenge when there are so many impressive students in EAST. Becoming an Exemplar means clearing a high bar, which is why we only recently handed out the 100th coin. That means that, in last seven years, we’ve awarded fewer than 15 each year on average among thousands of EAST students.



Many of our Exemplars have gone on to college or the workforce. Some of those we’ve kept up with through the EAST Alumni Association; others have yet to let us know where they’ve landed. And of course, a few are still working their way toward high school graduation. Regardless, they all share one special thing in common: on the day they received their Exemplar coin, they were one of the best students in the world, not just in EAST. They deserve congratulations, so you’ll find all of them listed below.

_MG_0540.JPGNow, given the fact that we’ve been at this for years and dozens of people have been involved in awarding and recording Exemplar recognitions, there’s a chance we may have missed some of these outstanding students. That would be a shame. So, if that’s happened, we want to correct it. If you know a name that should be on this list but isn’t, please let me know. If you have stories to share about some of these very special students, please share those with me, too. We love this tradition and look forward to meeting the next hundred EAST Exemplars.

Student Name School Year Awarded
1 Ethan Abel Hot Springs Intermediate School 2016
2 Avery Alpe Wilson Intermediate School (Malvern) 2011
3 Kellie Armstrong Cross County High School 2012
4 Henry Beard III North Pulaski High School 2010
5 Sam Bennett Mann Magnet Middle School 2009
6 John Berkshire Bryant High School 2013
7 Eric Beza Bryant High School 2013
8 Audrye Blankenship Kiamichi Technology Centers – Talihina 2011
9 Sawyer Boone North Little Rock High School – East Campus 2011
10 Seth Britney Vilonia High School 2012
11 Tayler Broach Wickes High School 2009
12 Joey Brodnax White Hall High School 2012
13 Carter Brown Russellville High School 2009
14 John Caldwell Arkadelphia High School 2012
15 Riley Carraway Batesville Middle School 2011
16 Trenton Cason Greenwood High School 2013
17 Madeleine Chrisman Ozark Middle School 2011
18 Logan Clairborne Beebe Jr. High School 2011
19 Caitlin Cothern Annie Camp Jr. High (Jonesboro) 2010
20 Chase Cray North Little Rock High School – East Campus 2013
21 Whitney Crouch Ozark Middle School 2011
22 Savi Davidson Harrison Jr. High School 2016
23 Lacy Diston Greenbrier High School 2010
24 Lucas Dorrough Dardanelle High School 2011
25 Sara Earnhart Greenwood High School 2013
26 Tyler Elmore Jacksonville Middle School 2012
27 Filaberto Escamilla Monticello High School 2010
28 Jake Flood Batesville Middle School 2011
29 Asher Franke The University of Arkansas at Little Rock 2015
30 Mackenzie Frederick Robinson Middle School (Pulaski County School District) 2015
31 Anslynn Garner Greenwood High School 2011
32 Abby Gates Clinton High School 2009
33 Lola George MacArthur Middle School (Jonesboro) 2012
34 Sean Gilden Vilonia High School 2012
35 Kaley Harlson Harrisburg High School 2009
36 Kaylyn Harrison Dumas High School 2009
37 David Harrison Fountain Lake High School 2011
38 Anna Heringer Batesville High School 2013
39 Kennedy Hill MacArthur Middle School (Jonesboro) 2012
40 Noah Holt North Little Rock High School – East Campus 2013
41 Hailie Jackson Bald Knob Schools 2013
42 Darius Jarrett Bryant High School 2013
43 Daniel Johnson Sylvan Hills High School 2009
44 Kate Jones MacArthur Middle School (Jonesboro) 2012
45 Tyler Jones Jacksonville Middle School 2013
46 Blane Keen North Little Rock High School – East Campus 2013
47 Austin Kelley Malvern Jr. High School 2011
48 Kassandra King Ozark Middle School 2011
49 Kye Kocher Harrisburg Middle School 2015
50 DeLena Lattimore North Little Rock High School – East Campus 2013
51 Jessica Lavin Har-Ber High School (Springdale) 2009
52 Michael Leiterman Forrest Heights Middle School 2011
53 Kristin Long Harrisburg High School 2010
54 Mackenzie Mallett Greenbrier High School 2010
55 Aaron Maxey Sylvan Hills High School 2009
56 Christina McAllister North Little Rock High School – West Campus 2013
57 Kylie Miller Sonora Elementary School (Springdale) 2014
58 Remington Miller Robinson High School (Pulaski County School District) 2014
59 Shanoa Miller The University of Arkansas at Little Rock 2010
60 CJ Morgan Dumas High School 2009
61 Kaliah Morton North Little Rock High School – West Campus 2013
62 Hayden Nix Rison High School 2010
63 Aaron Osborn Northeast Technology Center – Claremore 2011
64 Ann Paul Malvern High School 2012
65 Parker Payne Beebe Middle School 2011
66 Elea Pulliam MacArthur Middle School 2012
67 Elmore Quist Bauxite Schools 2012
68 Rodrigo Ramirez Dumas High School 2009
69 Nathan Rappold Vilonia High School 2012
70 Erin Richards Vilonia High School 2012
71 Chase Robinson Greenbrier High School 2016
72 Sierra Rohauer Beebe Middle School 2011
73 Kelsey Rood Malvern Jr. High 2011
74 Jessica Roy England High School 2012
75 Brenden Ryan Vilonia High School 2012
76 Zainab Shah Brinkley MIddle School 2014
77 Caleb Shatser North Little Rock High School 2012
78 Gabrielle Sisk Ozark Middle School 2011
79 Alyssa Smith College Hill IB Elementary (Texarkana) 2009
80 Brenna Smith Fordyce High School 2016
81 Brandon Stephenson Kiamichi Technology Centers – Talihina 2013
82 Micah Thomas Russellville High School 2009
83 Christopher Toller Clinton High School 2016
84 Kristen Torres Bald Knob Schools 2013
85 Rikki Vaughn Sonora Elementary School (Springdale) 2014
86 Kevin Walker Conway High School 2013
87 Jordan Washburn Conway High School 2013
88 Elizabeth Washington Brinkley Middle School 2014
89 Emily Watkins Beebe Jr. High School 2011
90 Imani Watson Brinkley High School 2014
91 Leann Westbrook Blevins High School 2011
92 Clayton Weyl Prairie Grove Middle School 2013
93 Frednesha Whiting North Little Rock High School – West Campus 2013
94 Spencer Whitley Centerpointe High School 2009
95 Layne Wilson Robinson Middle School (Pulaski County School District) 2015
96 Kaitlyn Witt Conway High School 2013
97 Kaitlyn Woodward North Little Rock High School – East Campus 2011
98 Krista Woodward Bryant High School 2013
99 Katie Wright Clinton High School 2016
100 Amma Yates Robinson Middle School (Pulaski County School District) 2015
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EAST in the Valley of Innovation



Matt Dozier, CEO and President
The EAST Initiative

Nov. 10, 2016 – What a week this was! As I write this, a team representing the EAST Initiative is on a plane heading home from Silicon Valley after very little sleep but so much engagement and excitement. Last night the Initiative was recognized by the Silicon Valley Education Foundation as a STEM Innovator at their 2016 Pioneers and Purpose Reception and Banquet. EAST was one of four recipients of this recognition, but the only recipient not from the state of California. We shared this honor with the MK Level Playing Field Institute, the Girl Scouts of Northern California, and the Abraham Lincoln High School’s (San Jose Unified School District) Computer Science Program. The evening also saw recognition of John Haynes, an inspiring teacher at Kennedy Middle School in Redwood City, as the SVEF Elevate Teacher of the Year and of Dianne Greene, Senior Vice President of Google, as the SVEF Pioneer Business Leader of the Year.

14956475_1665278553763606_8372218569067127694_nThe banquet hall was filled to capacity with people that have been instrumental in building the companies that we all recognize and know (and with whose tech we interact every day). At Table 30 was our small contingent from far away: three EAST staff members, the EAST Board Chair, and the facilitator and two students from the 2016 Founder’s Award winning school, Harrison Junior High School. Wow! I’m proud to report that the work we are doing was met with unbridled enthusiasm by everyone we visited with (and I think we talked to everyone there), and when the moment came, EAST was the only honoree to put a student on the stage to accept on behalf of the Initiative.

Prior to the banquet, we learned that this award has grown from a small recognition of innovative programs in the Silicon Valley area to a national recognition that is chosen in a blind evaluation by volunteer judges (from some very recognizable companies). We also learned that EAST is one of the few programs not based in the Valley, or California in general, to ever receive this award and that over the years it has only become more and more competitive. So much so, in fact,  the SVEF staff said that this year was the most competitive year they had seen. And here we were, being held up as an Innovator and an example in the epicenter of Innovation!


Frankly, it was humbling. I was visiting with some of the guests at the reception and an executive at a technology company in the Valley made the point to me that it is often when you get further from home that you realize just how special the work you do is. He noted that, since you’re surrounded by your work, you get used to it and can assume that it just “is,” but after hearing about EAST and our story he assured me that the work our students are doing is amazingly special. After visiting with our students, he came up to me at the end of the banquet and told me, “Matt, I misspoke earlier, it’s not special, it’s extraordinary! And oh, so special. Please thank them again for me for everything they are doing and remind them that, when the time comes, we hope that we can talk to them about their career goals….” Pretty darn cool, if you ask me.

Now we didn’t just travel 3,300 miles to mingle at a reception and pick up an award. We used this opportunity to visit with people in the area about the work of EAST. We had the pleasure of sharing tacos with a VR specialist that has seen her career move from Hollywood to Oculus to Facebook to her own private work in developing Virtual Content for a variety of uses. She was equal parts fascinated and intrigued by our work and gave us insight into the future of this technology and advice on how to continue to build on the work that the Initiative is doing. We met with staff at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (the largest Community Foundation in the country) and stopped by SVEF ahead of the big show to meet with their founder and staff.  

14991833_10208873780615946_317742378447436340_nNot wanting to waste the opportunity to provide our Harrison team with some adventure, we ventured into San Francisco on election night to have dinner at one of the best restaurants in Chinatown. The honey-glazed prawns and walnuts were a huge hit, the eel was met with mixed reviews, and only two of us thought the jellyfish was tasty. Through a series of misadventures we found one of the best ice cream shops on the planet, but you wouldn’t know it by the neighborhood or the storefront, but (and take it from someone who knows these things) it was AMAZING even if it was sweet potato or popcorn based.


15042041_1665722823719179_6521700486189436207_oWe also spent some time at the Tech Museum in San Jose. I serve on the Arkansas Discovery Network (ADN) advisory board, so I love to see how others are creating experiences that transform museums from places to see things to places to do things. The “Tech” was incredible! Totally immersive and hands-on, and they even wired us up with wearable technology that captured our personal experience in the various exhibit and work areas. At the banquet, I was fortunate enough to meet and visit with Tim Ritchie, CEO of the Tech, and discovered that we were both members of the Sam Dean fan club. Sam is a friend of EAST that runs the Amazeum in Bentonville, a member of ADN that is a “must-do” when you’re in that part of the world.

15055616_10208881230122179_1073776515733090646_nOh, and we got a private tour of a company that’s headquartered near Stanford University that you may have heard of: Google. Our team took the Googleplex by storm and learned so much about the unique culture of “can do” that makes Google so innovative. I visited with one of their recruiters and she assured me that EAST is helping to provide that STEM pipeline that they value so much. I didn’t get to pick the Doodle, and they wouldn’t let us talk to the people working on the Space Elevator, but we were on campus surrounded by 50,000 of the smartest, hardest working people in the world. I came away realizing that when you step onto campus at the Googleplex you actually walk through a time machine and are living 3-18 months in the future.


When all of the going and seeing and meeting was done, we changed into our “go to a banquet” clothes at the San Jose Convention Center and went to the event. EAST was recognized (with actual fanfare), and we got to meet so many amazing people. The aforementioned Dr. Greene was easily the most fascinating. An engineer with experience in marine engineering, she was also the driving force behind some of the early efforts at Virtualization (she led VMware until it was acquired). She was someone who helped create the world we live in and continues to do so. She’s as passionate about sailing and windsurfing as she is about technology, and she caught the bug in high school when she was given the opportunity to… (wait for it)… tackle projects. Sound familiar?

When the event was over, we headed back to our hotel for not enough sleep before a California commute to the airport at “Oh No” o’clock. I was able to derive the following conclusions:

  1. EAST can stand up to any other model anywhere as a way to approach learning that is innovative and powerful. I long for the day when I can change that statement and say that EAST is the norm. All students, everywhere, should have the opportunity to do what EAST students do — to be innovative, themselves — every day.
  2. We are blessed to be able to share our successes with people who understand what success looks like and why the work that our students are doing is critical to the continuation of real innovation. EAST students will build the future using STEM skills, using their civic commitment, using their exemplary teamwork, collaboration, problem-solving, and communication skills. I’m especially thankful to the staff at the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, the Tech, and Google for being so gracious with their time.
  3. You don’t have to be in Silicon Valley to build that future. We’re doing it in Harrison and Springdale and Star City and Caddo Parrish Louisiana and Bucks County Pennsylvania and beyond. I hope that EAST can find a place in the Valley (and know some of our students will), but there is opportunity everywhere, and I am so thrilled to watch it blossom.

It was a special time. Not just because we won an award, but because we also got to spend time sharing our story and learning from others. We may land in Little Rock bone-weary, but it’s the best kind of tired. The kind that comes from working hard and doing a good job.

cw3vmvnukaedlw3I want to thank the hundreds of facilitators and the thousands of EAST students (the hundreds of thousands over the years) that led us to this point. I want to thank Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the faculty at the Clinton School for Public Service Center on Community Philanthropy for agreeing to be references for us. And I want to thank you and all of the people that support the work of the Initiative and our students. We have something very special. They see it in Silicon Valley. I see it every day. I hope you see it too.

Until next time.


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Summit Summit Disrupt Summit


Matt Dozier, CEO and President
The EAST Initiative

I promised last time that I would report back on what I learned during my sojourn up into the Boston Mountains, but I’m not sure that I can relate it all in a single blog post. Over the course of two days my brain got filled and refilled with information, inspiration, and moments of absolute puzzlement (because I met some super smart people that know things). It was enough to make my head spin — but in a really good way.

To an extent, my time in Northwest Arkansas was an interesting call and response. The first summit was the Arkansas STEM Coalition’s. This full-day meeting focused on identifying the issues that our communities are facing in cultivating and sustaining the ecosystem that fosters growth of the critical skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and demonstrating what is being done to address this.

I’m not going to lie to you; there are some pretty significant gaps between perception and reality, between preaching and practice, and between deciding on a solution and actually acting on it. Keep in my mind, these are observations from my eyes; they are not the opinions of any sanctioned body (or necessarily even right). But I see teachers and students every day (inside and outside of EAST) that are doing great things; using technology and tools in innovative and exciting ways and building their capacity to think and create and all the things that people talk about schools needing to foster. The real gaps I see are that they are not done in a coordinated fashion and that we are not doing what we need to do institutionally to make sure that everyone knows what these things are.


Courtesy: Arkansas STEM Coalition on Twitter

But, my favorite part of the STEM Coalition meeting (because I’m biased) was the presentation over lunch by the students and administration from Springdale’s School of Innovation. Dr. Jim Rollins, Springdale’s Superintendent, talked about his drive to make sure that students have the opportunities to realize their potential using technology both as a tool for learning and as a springboard to learning. To prove his point, two of the School of Innovation’s students presented their work. One is prototyping a drone that can swim in the stormwater system and relay video in real time so that trash can be monitored and dealt with. He and his team are working with the University of Arkansas and the Tobacco Free Coalition to refine their ideas and model. Another student presented how she and her team were developing some sophisticated hydroponic and aquaponics systems so that the school can have an agricultural program that is as progressive as the rest of the school. The School of Innovation’s principal and the district’s EAST coordinator then tied all of the presentation up by explaining how the things the students were doing fit into a continuum in their education in ways that tied them to educational goals across the curriculum and to real world experiences working with local industry. It was really powerful, and I encourage you to learn more about the work that they’re doing. They’re onto something.


Scenes of STEM

Other cool things: The team at the Amazeum are, in fact, pretty amazing and they understand what my good friend Ms. Lavita Wills-Hale preaches every day, “the learning shouldn’t stop because the formal learning institutions do.” They also understand that some of the best learning happens in the gaps between being given a task and being asked to present your finished product. If you’re anywhere close and need to recharge your energy, enthusiasm, and creativity, I recommend that you do what my friend Sam Dean recommends: “put on your princess costume, don your eye goggles, and go take apart a van at the Amazeum.”

The STEM Coalition meeting was a great setup, then, to the Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit, which was held the very next day. This one-day meeting featured some insightful presentations and discussions. I would say they showed us the future, but most of what they showed us was already happening. So, in a lot of ways, they just made sure we got to see the now, or at least a fraction of it.


Dr. John Cohn

The Tech Summit kicked off with a real eye-opening presentation by Dr. John Cohn who is an IBM fellow and a self-professed “mad scientist.” He was unafraid to bring the Internet of Things right into the Grand Ballroom while he encouraged us to grow and evolve with the future. We see it becoming more and more present, but our things are getting more and more connected and what we’ve seen over the past six or seven years is just the beginning of the beginning. Soon every science fiction movie you’ve ever seen will seem quaint, as it has to when your bathroom mirror will do a personalized health diagnostic for you every morning.

From there we broke out into so many session on so many things that if I tried to tell you about all of it, this post would run in chapters. My favorites were the demonstration of some of the technologies Arkansas Children’s Hospital is using to fulfill their mission; an overview of where we are now with drones (the flying ones, not Springdale’s swimming ones) presented by the good folks at Garver; cybersecurity concepts presented by Metova, a company based in Northwest Arkansas; and an update on the Fayetteville Innovation Lab and Robotic Center (which is analogous to one of my favorite places near home, the Innovation Hub).


Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson

When you combine all of this with large group session where Max Oglesbee of Intersection showed us all how to retrofit a large metropolis’ infrastructure with web-enabled public access portal and our friends from the Amazeum (again) blowing things up and the Vice Chairman of Citadel, Mr. Kevin Turner, coming back to Northwest Arkansas (where he got his start) to let us know that “the future belongs to the fast” and encourage to do, do, do. Oh, and Gov. Asa Hutchinson spoke, too. What a day!

Now that I’ve had a few days to try to process all of the things I saw, I can report that there are some great things going on from the classroom, to the research center, to the makerspace, to the boardrooms of technical and technology-based organizations in the region. We are so lucky to have so much opportunity in front of us, and I am personally excited to know that EAST is helping to provide the pipeline that can keep this innovative thinking and development happening.

Until next time,


Posted in EAST®, Letters from the President/CEO, Matt Dozier, Northwest Arkansas, STEM | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Here’s What is Happening

Hello, It’s Good to Be Back



Matt Dozier, CEO and President
The EAST Initiative

Well, I know that it has been a while since we last met here on the blog, but we here at EAST have been busy “dreaming up” a more coordinated communications strategy and have spent quite a bit of time trying to make sure that all of the pieces fit together the way they need to so we can do the best job possible in telling our story. If you’ve been keeping up with us over the years, you know that’s it’s only one of the coolest stories ever: real students in real schools taking an active role in building stronger communities while learning the sorts of things that make them the captains of their own destiny and prepared to lead us all in the years to come. The more concise way to say that is, “Wow! That can be done?!?”




EAST Quarterly Summer 2016

Rather than flood your inboxes and overwhelm your newsfeeds, then, we’ve been carefully looking at how to share these stories in the best venues. We now have a website that is visited over 400,000 times a month, a digital magazine that reaches thousands across the globe, all the social media that’s fit to print, this blog, and other avenues to share the accomplishments happening every day in EAST. We’ve got the plan, and you’ll start seeing more and (hopefully) interesting information on this blog that you won’t get anywhere else. I hope you find it inspiring, thought provoking, and useful.



EAST is Happening!

Speaking of useful, EAST is happening and making a difference! We’ve settled into the new school year and our fall training is in full swing. It’s great when we have facilitators and students in our headquarters. We feed off their excitement and love watching them learn new things. This week it was Phase Training (Phase II) and Motion Graphics (with students as young as the fourth grade). Meanwhile at our Fayetteville Training Center, our good friends at CAST were leading a training session in Reality Capture technologies; cutting edge stuff. Our online trainings and classes are getting robust participation, too.

Last week, we opened our doors and invited the world to Encounter EAST! Over 300 guests stopped by to learn more about the work of the EAST Initiative and to see great examples of that work through the work of our students and facilitators. We are especially thankful to Harrison Junior High, Wynne High School, Greenbrier High School, North Little Rock Middle School and Pinnacle View Middle School for volunteering to share their work. And there was an ice cream truck…it was a blast.


EAST at North Little Rock Middle School students demonstrate a VR project at Encounter EAST.

Encounter EAST was the kickoff for our recruiting efforts and we’re pleased to announce that our Vision Building meetings have begun. We held the first one of the year this week and half of the schools that came to learn about EAST have applied for the Arkansas Department of Education grant already. If you know of a school that is interested in learning more about how to start an EAST classroom, the information for the next set of these is here.

Speaking of things to come…


Upcoming Activities and Northwest Arkansas Events


We are only a few weeks from EAST Night Out! Encounter EAST allowed the world to come into our headquarters and see the big picture of what we do; EAST Night Out is an opportunity for all our EAST schools to invite their community in and see the work they do at the local level. On behalf of our schools, we invite you to find an event near you and go see the amazing things happening in your area. The EAST Night Out website has gotten a fresh look. Feel free to admire it while you find an event near you (just click the link). We have more than 50 schools registered today with new ones being added almost daily. We’ll be on the road visiting as many as we can and hope to see you there, regardless of where “there” is.


We’ll also be traveling next week for the Arkansas STEM Coalition’s regional meeting Thursday in Rogers, which will be a think tank for business, education and community partnerships. Sounds right up our alley!

2016_nwatechFinally, we’ll finish out the week at the Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit. This looks to be an incredible opportunity to hear some phenomenal national leaders from the tech world—names like Microsoft and IBM. We can’t wait to hear them, and of course we’ll be sharing our vision of technology and education with attendees as well.

Check back here for a full report on these last two! We’ll have it to you very shortly after the events. We’re excited about the goings on going on and can’t wait to tell you all about them.


EAST…it’s what’s happening!

Posted in Central Arkansas, EAST®, Letters from the President/CEO, Matt Dozier, Northwest Arkansas, Open house, STEM, What is EAST? | Leave a comment