tech fest

PULASKI COUNTY, Ark. -- The Arkansas Department of Education Office of Computer Science is hosting the 2021 Arkansas #CSTechFest on Saturday, October 16. The free, hands-on event for families will take place at the University of Arkansas of Little Rock Engineering and Information Technology building and is designed for students in grades 6-12.

The event will allow students and families to explore various topics in computer science and STEM, such as game development, cybersecurity, and more.

"Participating in STEM events like #CSTechFest is critical to inspire student interest in STEM fields across a diversified population,” said PCSSD Director of STEM Dr. Justin Luttrell. “The world is rapidly growing in technological and scientific advancement and we’re excited to be a part of it.”

According to the Pew Research Center, employment in STEM occupations has grown 79 percent since 1990. Yet, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports only 18 percent of degrees are concentrated in the STEM fields. Additionally, the gap for underrepresented populations is still too wide. 

“The Arkansas Department of Education Office of Computer Science seeks to give students of all backgrounds access to specific areas of computer science, game development, and cybersecurity, while inspiring the generation to come to experience the innovation behind a STEM education and career,” Dr. Luttrell added.

Registration is limited to 200 participants and is required for admittance (no walk-ins). Registration is open until noon on Wednesday, October 13. Arkansas Department of Health/UALR COVID-19 protocols will be followed. The registration form is found at: 

Check in will begin at 7:30 a.m. for morning sessions, which begin at 8:30 a.m. and end at 11:30 a.m. Afternoon sessions start at 12:30 p.m. and end at 3:30 p.m. If you want to come in the afternoon or morning only, please indicate that on your registration form.

The following 3-hour sessions will be provided in the morning and again in the afternoon:

Snoof Coding - Each participant will design and build a Snoof puppet using provided materials.  Once you have designed your new friend, we will use the coding platform Makecode and the physical computing device Circuit Playgrounds to make them come to life with sounds, actions, and lights. This session will be led by Tammy Glass and Leslie Savell, Statewide Computer Science Specialists. No previous experience is required.

Introduction to the Arcade: Chromebook-friendly Game Development - Join us for a session where we talk about the basic concepts of game development, twist some old card games, and code our first game in Python on MakeCode Arcade. Participants are encouraged to bring a laptop or Chromebook! This session will be led by John Hart and Mark Barnes, Statewide Computer Science Specialists. No previous coding is required. Suitable for 6-8th grades.

Would you like some Pi with that? - An introduction to physical computing with the Raspberry Pi. This training will leverage the power of computer programming and Raspberry Pi computers. It will explore some programming language syntax and physical computing. This session will be led by Jim Furniss and Zack Spink, Statewide Computer Science Specialists. Come join us in making our programs come to life using LEDs, resistors, buttons, and wires. 

CSforAR Cybersecurity - In this session, participants will learn about cybersecurity and various aspects of hacking. Topics covered will be related to digital presence, safe technology use, and ethical hacking. Participants are encouraged to bring a laptop/Chromebook This session will be led by Eli McRae and Alex Moeller, Statewide Computer Science Specialists.

Drawing with Java - We will work through some cool and fun activities using the Java programming language.  Leveraging an online IDE called Replit, we will create graphics using conditionals, loops and methods. Participants are encouraged to bring a  laptop or Chromebook. No previous coding experience is needed; everyone is welcome! This session will be led by Lori Kagebein, Statewide Computer Science Specialist.

Introduction to Electronics and Breadboarding W/Arduino - Participants will explore various electronic concepts and components through virtualization and physical resources. Participants will build and program circuits that accomplish a variety of tasks while covering the components and concepts that make the circuits work. Participants will model a functional working circuit virtually and then build their project using physical components. No experience is necessary for this session, only a willingness to learn and have fun.  Participants are encouraged to bring a laptop or Chromebook. This session will be led by Kelly Griffin, Lead Statewide Computer Science Specialist.

 IoT Workout - Self-Driving Car - The Industrial IoT workout familiarizes students with the operation of devices over the Internet. Students experience IoT by watching it operate from a cloud application they control to a device in front of them. Then, students learn the effects of attacks on IoT devices by modifying the data going between the cloud and the device. This session will be led by Sandra Leiterman of UALR.

VEX Robotics - Participants will learn to program a VEX robot that is capable of maneuvering around the competition arena to complete fun challenges. Participants will utilize the engineering design process to problem solve, document, and suggest improvements to the robot and program. This session will be led by Sarah Burnett of Arkansas Tech University.

“Hamming” up Computer Science - What does amateur radio (ham radio) have to do with computer science and computing? Many of the engineering concepts within computer science can trace its roots back to the development of sending and receiving radio transmissions; after all Wi-Fi is the transmission of data over radio-wave frequencies. Knowledge of amateur radio concepts will assist all individuals in better understanding how so many items we use daily operate, but it is especially useful to individuals interested in computer science, networking, and computer engineering. This session is NOT designed to prepare a participant for an amateur radio license test (there is just not enough time), but it will provide the participant with a broad overview of amateur and broadcast radios and the technology behind their use. This session will be provided by Anthony Owen, the State Director of Computer Science, who is also an amateur radio operator with the call sign KD5NMZ. Members of the Central Arkansas Radio Emergency Net ( will be present to answer questions and demonstrate the technology.

Amateur Radio License Testing - Volunteer Examiners from the Central Arkansas Radio Emergency Net ( will be present to administer the test for Technician Level Amateur Radio Licenses for participants who are prepared. Please note, they will only be providing the testing opportunity; this is not a session to prepare individuals for the test, and participants interested in sitting for this test on this day must follow the directions found at by October 13. There is a $15.00 fee due the day of the exam required by the FCC to sit for this test.