Tech Park Arizona won the Metropolitan Education Commission’s (MEC) Crystal Apple Award for inspiring local youth to study the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics career paths.

UA Tech Park is a center for technology development that has operated for about 20 years. The facility houses more than 40 companies with almost 7,000 employees working in fields of aerospace, homeland security, manufacturing and mining.

Over the years, Tech Parks Arizona has collaborated with the Vail School District to develop innovative programs that give students the opportunity to have real-world business and technology experience, said Bruce Wright, vice president of Tech Parks Arizona.

Students learn through hands-on experience with internships, part-time employment, research projects and workshops with engineers and scientists working in the field.

“We use the park to excite young people about science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Wright said.

This year, Tech Park has partnered up with Sunnyside Unified School District's Career Technical Education Program to introduce students to the business field, Wright said. Through the program, students met business executives and sought internships with high tech companies at Tech Park.

“Students see the first hand application of book learning to the real world,” Wright said.

Tech Park Arizona is in the process of completing a second park, called UA Bio Park, which will facilitate bioscience and biotechnology companies, he said.

There is a shortage of scientists and engineers in the United States, Wright said, which he suspects may be because those fields could intimidate students. About 60 percent of the jobs offered at Tech Park do not require advanced degrees, Wright said.

“We have to find ways for young people to consider these careers,” Wright said. “This gives them an introduction.”