Eight, Arizona PBS Nerd Walk spreads from New York to California

September 30, 2014

Eight, Arizona PBS invites all self-proclaimed nerds, geeks and enthusiasts to surge the streets of Tempe at the fourth annual PBS Nerd Walk, Nov. 1, at the Arizona State University Homecoming Block Party.

“We started this PBS Nerd movement here locally, but I’m constantly thrilled and amazed at how it’s received around the nation,” says Bob Beard, promotions and events coordinator and “Nerd-in-Chief” at Eight. WGVU PBS Nerd Walk in western Michigan Download Full Image

Eight, Arizona PBS pioneered the first Nerd Walk four years ago. Now, PBS stations across the U.S. are following suit. Stations in Michigan, Oklahoma, New York, Idaho, California and Florida have all organized Nerd activities.

“The excitement about the Nerd revolution that is spreading throughout PBS stations epitomizes what PBS stands for,” says Tim Eernisse, development and marketing manager at WGVU, western Michigan’s PBS station. WGVU held its inaugural Nerd Walk on Sept. 24. “Being able to take the best ideas from local stations, incubate them and have them spread to other communities signifies how important PBS is across America,” Eernisse says.

Eight’s strong community connections contribute to the Nerd Walk’s growing success. Eight made its first-ever appearance at Phoenix Comicon earlier this year as a contributor to the education track. Partnering with scholars from ASU, PBS Digital Studios and Webby Award-winning host Mike Rugnetta, Eight hosted panels on the intersection of digital learning models and popular culture that were some of the track’s highest attended sessions. Comic conventions across the country are now emulating this model and partnering with their local PBS stations.

Kelly McCullough Eight, Arizona PBS general manager, sees this as part of the promise that the station has made to serving the local community. “Culturally, we are curious. No other media enterprise more completely covers all the topics that inspire America’s brainiacs than PBS. A big reason this campaign is so successful is that Eight delivers what the passionate nerd culture seeks – the seriousness, credibility, variety and depth of content. It’s like a one-stop shop for nerds of all kinds to be better informed about whatever it is they’re into. Everyone’s a nerd for something, and our viewers know that their interests are taken seriously at PBS.”

Beard adds, “Our thought from the beginning was that ‘everyone is a nerd for something,’ and it’s incredible just how that message resonates. Whether your passion is robotics, French literature or amassing the world’s largest collection of rubber duckies, we’re all united by that process of inquiry – of wanting to know as much as we can about the thing that we love – and that’s amazing. The Nerd Walk stands for the celebration of niche interests. By encouraging individual passions, Nerd Walks promote intellectualism as a movement.”

Eight’s annual Nerd Walk started in 2011 as Eight’s contribution to ASU’s Homecoming Parade, and is now one of the largest individual entries. (Eight, Arizona PBS is a unit of Arizona State University, which co-owns the PBS broadcasting license). Nerd Walk organizers anticipate 500 participants this year.

Registration for the 2014 Nerd Walk is available online at http://www.azpbs.org/nerd/.

Support for the Arizona PBS Nerd Walk provided by Bookmans Entertainment Exchange and Wonka Nerds.

Eight, Arizona PBS is a member-supported community service of Arizona State University and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Renowned space and earth explorer joins ASU faculty

October 1, 2014

Scott Parazynski, a technology innovator, will engage students and develop research and programs to support human health in challenging environments

Arizona State University’s first designated University Explorer, Scott Parazynski, has scaled Everest, orbited the Earth at 17,500 miles an hour and invented devices for surgery, spacewalking and the consumer market. Scott Parazynski, ASU's first University Explorer Download Full Image

Parazynski joins the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and the School of Earth and Space Exploration in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as a professor of practice on Oct. 1.

He comes to ASU from the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Center for Polar Medical Operations, where he was director and chief medical officer. There, he oversaw health care and medical screening for the National Science Foundation's U.S. Antarctic Program, both on-the-ice care and medical screenings, including telemedicine.

“Dr. Parazynski is remarkable, as a physical explorer and former astronaut, and as an entrepreneur who navigates many different areas of endeavor,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “His experience and perspective can inform ASU’s space initiatives, help pioneer our high performance medicine partnerships with the Mayo Clinic and build bridges in the areas of bioengineering, earth and space sciences.”

Parazynski holds a doctor of medicine with deep expertise in the fields of space physiology, aviation, biotechnology and human adaptation to extreme environments. He says that while he wanted to help people, he also looked to the stars from an early age.

“My father worked on Apollo, and it was always a dream of mine to go to space,” said Parazynski. “However, it only became tangible when I began my medical training at Stanford Medical School. It was there that I realized, with NASA’s Ames Research Center just down the street, I could craft a career that combined my two life-long career aspirations: to be an explorer and physician.”

Over the course of 16 years, Parazynski was a mission specialist, physician, flight engineer and one of NASA’s most experienced spacewalkers. He flew on five Space Shuttle missions, including STS 66/Atlantis, STS 86/Atlantis to the Russian Space Station Mir, STS 95/Discovery and STS 100/Endeavour to the International Space Station. On his last mission, STS 120/Discovery, he led the unplanned repair of a live solar array, a $1 billion national asset that required new tools and technical development in less than 72 hours.

Parazynski is the recipient of two NASA Distinguished Service Medals, five NASA Space Flight Medals, the Randolph C. Lovelace Award from the Society of NASA Flight Surgeons, the Aviation Week Laureate Award and Lowell Thomas Award from the Explorer’s Club for his contributions.

Parazynski believes that his greatest skill set is creative problem-solving. As a technology innovator, he hopes to engage ASU students in clinical and laboratory environments, and develop research and technology programs to support human health in challenging environments. As a scientist, his unique perspectives can support ASU’s NASA and commercial space endeavors. And as an inventor, he believes that building multidisciplinary teams offers the power to navigate uncharted territories and engineer new approaches, from the challenges of deep space exploration to rural telemedicine, commercialization of inventions and STEM education.

“Young people are excited by the allure of invention, but often don’t understand the difficulties of taking an idea into the marketplace. Math and the sciences are the core languages of the future, even if pursuing careers outside of science,” said Parazynski, who received an R&D 100 Award from R&D Magazine for one of the top innovations in 2010. “Bringing together multidisciplinary teams, including engineering, scientific, legal, financial, marketing and other expertise, is often the missing link. Many new businesses fail because they get too enamored of their idea without thinking through all the other steps.

“ASU offers a remarkable environment in which to work and teach. It is a powerhouse for innovation, entrepreneurship and student training – with the incubator at Skysong, the rapid prototyping facility at the Polytechnic School, the Innovation Challenge efforts pursued in W. P. Carey School of Business, The Biodesign Institute and partnerships with the Mayo Clinic. If you get all the smart people in the room looking at a problem from all their different angles – you have a much stronger chance of success,” he said.

Parazynski was a young achiever. His first invention was a bike-powered lawnmower at age eight. Since then, he’s continued to invent, founded start-up ventures and been consultant to a myriad of commercial enterprises. An experienced diver, pilot and mountaineer, he’s climbed Everest and summited all 59 of Colorado’s peaks over 14,000 feet (called the “Colorado Grand Slam”).

“My bucket list is always full,” said Parazynski. “However, my biggest passion now is the inventive process, working with students and helping people bring out the best in themselves.”

Written by Margaret Coulombe, University Provost's Office

Media contact:

Sharon Keeler