SFAz commends Carl Hayden student & teachers with Innovation Heroes Awards

December 16, 2009

By Flinn Foundation

A Carl Hayden High School student and his two mentors are Science Foundation Arizona’s latest round of Innovation Heroes being honored for their outstanding efforts in robotics and engineering education.


The Innovation Heroes award program recognizes students and teachers who are using innovative approaches toward STEM academic excellence. The awards are co-sponsored by Freeport- McMoRan Copper & Gold, Intel Corporation, and the Rodel Charitable Foundation of Arizona.


Since 2006, Science Foundation Arizona’s K-12 education programs have helped educate over 54,000 students in critical math and science skills statewide.


The student, Jonathan Harris, was nominated by his teacher, Faridodin “Fredi” Lajvardi, a longtime robotics and engineering educator at Carl Hayden High School. Harris was selected by Science Foundation Arizona’s STEM Initiative (SFAz STEM) because of his contributions to the school’s Falcon Robotics Team and the construction of a three-dimensional (3D) viewing system allowing for better depth perception in monitoring robots’ tasks.


In addition, State Senator Debbie McCune Davis nominated Lajvardi and robotics adviser, Dr. Karen Suhm, for a second Innovation Heroes award. In her submission essay, McCune Davis noted that Lajvardi and Suhm incorporate advanced technology and complex scoring systems in their teaching methods that challenge students and encourage them to excel toward exciting careers in engineering and technology.


The Carl Hayden Falcons team bested 550 teams from around the world in 2008 to win the Robotics International Chairman’s Award and was runner-up twice for the international honor in previous years. Lajvardi and Suhm are heavily involved in mentoring and advising the team toward success.


As winners, Jonathan Harris will receive a $1000 savings bond for college, while Lajvardi and Suhm win a $500 gift card for supplies.  “I am incredibly impressed with the way Fredi and Karen lead students and encourage them to succeed,” said Senator McCune Davis. “It is clear these two have embraced the concept of STEM teaching and learning and are giving students every opportunity to use hands-on projects to apply STEM to robotics and their everyday lives. I was more than happy to nominate them for this award, and pleased they are being honored for their work.”


“We are encouraged to see students grasping scientific concepts and taking them to a level that will excite them to use their knowledge in college and careers,” said William C. Harris, Science Foundation Arizona president and CEO. “This is the type of success we support – students and teachers excelling in STEM that raise the bar for science education in Arizona.”


“Carl Hayden High School has always excelled in robotics, and the credit goes to the school, its educators and the students who engage in the program,” said Darcy Renfro, executive director of SFAz STEM. “The Falcons’ use of interactive and real-time technological data that enables students to analyze and troubleshoot problems in the robots they construct emphasizes the 21st century skill set necessary to compete for quality jobs in the global marketplace.”


“Most industries – including mining – will look for college graduates who can adapt easily to the knowledge-based workplace and have already built problem-solving skills through STEM education,” said Tracy Bame, Director of Social Responsibility and Community Development for Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold. “We commend these educators for inspiring their students through STEM teaching to think creatively.”


The Innovation Heroes program is ongoing and awards are made throughout the school year.


Nominations are sought for the next round of winners scheduled for January 2010. To learn more about the program and to nominate a student or teacher for outstanding achievements in STEM education, visit