Loretta H. Cheeks, Co-Chair
Founder/CEO, Strong TIES

Arizona State University Computer Science Ph.D. Graduate Student


Revolutionary, outspoken, and dedicated, are all words that describe the essence of Loretta H. Cheeks.  Her devotion to advancing technology, STEM K-12 community interventions, and disability and women’s advocacy has been the driving force behind her passion for pursuing a PhD.  Loretta is a full-time Ph.D. graduate student as an Adobe Foundation GEM Fellow at Arizona State University, Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering in the Department of Computing, Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering.  She is Strong TIES STEM Programs Founder.


Her research focuses on news frames of conflict over dynamic complex problems and its’ migration path across online social networks: current complex problem being water insecurity in the Southwest region of the United States.  This problem is grounded in data mining, network theory and graph theory.  Her advisor is Professor Dr. Arunabha Sen.  Prior to starting a Ph.D. program, she enjoyed a rich  career as a principal engineer with roles as systems, software and project lead.  She has developed, deployed, and led various teams within the communications, radio, avionics, instrumentation & control and chemical industries for Fortune 500 corporations.  Loretta was selected as the 2014 GEM Fellow of the Year, an award that recognizes the significant contribution of a graduate student.


Loretta is a leader and active member of  her community and is deeply committed to programs aimed at increasing STEM student interest, particularly in communities that are under-served and under-represented.  Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Loretta earned a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degree in Computer Science from Southern University A&M and a Masters of Business Administration degree in Technology Management from the University of Phoenix.


Cynthia Peters, Co-Chair

Retired City of Phoenix Parks & Recreation

Phoenix College & ASU Adjunct Professor


Cynthia Peters was employed with the City of Phoenix until her retirement in October 2012, working in various capacities from coordinating and organizing programs for youth and teens, to working with Head Start families, to her last position: managing parks development projects and staff. She has also been a field instructor for the past 27 years for both BSW students at Arizona State University. During her tenure with the City of Phoenix she developed partnerships with several outside entities such as Maricopa County Juvenile Court, Arizona State University, Association of Arizona Food Banks, Boys and Girls Clubs, the Phoenix Union High School District to enhance the programming within the Parks and Recreation Department. For several years with both Parks and Recreation and the Human Services Department, she managed grant funded programs as well as sought out resources for partnerships and funding for the organization. In her last position with the City of Phoenix, Cynthia supervised and managed the project managers for parks development projects on a citywide basis that totaled over $85 million. Responsibilities included managing the tax-based program, bond funds and impact fees that provide resources to the community through the acquisition of land for preserves, and the development and renovation of community and neighborhood parks. Upon her retirement, she joined Arizona State University as a Faculty Associate teaching classes in the School of Social Work. She also serves as Field Instructor/Liaison following up with students involved internship activities throughout the City of Phoenix.


Cynthia has also served in various capacities on Boards of Directors for nonprofit agencies on a local and national level. She is currently serving as the Chairperson of the Board of the Phoenix Children’s Chorus which provides music educational opportunities for children throughout the Phoenix area. She has also served on committees through the National Recreation and Parks Association including the Program Committee, Ethic Minority Society, National Forum, Diversity Committee, Awards Committee, and the Revenue School.


Melissa Orquiza
Music Composer

Disney Studio


Melissa has worked in film music for the last 17 years. Currently, she worked on McFarland, USA, Minions, Jurassic World, Inside Out, Tomorrowland, Straight Out of Compton, and Batman versus Superman. Her past credits include the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Transformers: Age of Extinction, the Dark Knight Rises, Up and others. Melissa works for Booker White, head of Music Preparation at Disney, whose credits list over 300 movies.


Melissa is comfortable in classical music, hip hop, and pop. She has worked on America’s Next Top Model, commercials for Disneyland, The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, and advertising for Dreamworks, New Line Cinema, and Disney.


Melissa started playing piano at three and composed her first piece at six. She competed at state and national competitions in both piano performance and composition.  She was awarded a Deans Scholarship to the University of Southern California and studied Music Composition with an emphasis in Film Scoring.  She was awarded the Elaine Krown Klein Scholarship and earned a Masters in Arts in Music Composition from UCLA. She is working on symphonic transcriptions of native Filipino music for orchestra in the hopes that when symphonies program “Asian” or “Spanish” music, the

Philippines will be included.


As a firm believer in the power of education, Melissa firmly believes that music and mathematics are key components to the future. Music provides an emotional outlet, discipline, and the power of self worth- all building blocks for the components to understanding science and math, vital for our youth’s future.


LaMar "Mr. Que" Queen
Educator & Entrepreneur
MusicNotes, Los Angeles, CA

LaMar Queen, co-founder of Music Notes is an artist at heart. He wrote his first song when he was in 7th grade, but it wasn’t until he became a teacher that he found a way to combine his love of music with his passion for education. Answering a challenge given to him by his first group of students, LaMar wrote his first educational song, “Slope Intercept”, in 2007. Since then, he has worked tirelessly to provide his students and other students across the country with music that not only sounds good, but teaches as well.


LaMar earned his B.S. in Elementary Education from Grambling State University. He has over 9 years of teaching experience and is totally committed to getting students to love math!


BlackPoet Ventures

Group of Artist & Performers



We desired to make performance poetry more interesting and fresh, to fulfill the dreams and expectations of talented poets who desire to showcase their gifts with creative and artistic freedom, and to satisfy the demand for professional and quality performances and creative productions. So we set out to bring poetry and literature to the stage in theatrical and thematic contexts in order to take audiences beyond open mic and slam poetry arenas, and to welcome new audiences to experience poetry and spoken word.


Our motto is "See. Hear. Speak. Embrace The Oral Tradition." This tradition is expressed in a West Afrikan concept of sankofa, which translates to mean "it is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot." Throughout our journey in poetry and spoken word, we respect, reflect upon and reconnect with this tradition to keep poetry in motion and to move forward in a positive and productive manner.  BlackPoet Ventures is lead by Billy "Issim" Ramsey".


DJ UnKnown

CEO/Executive Director

Artist Auditions


Inspired by DJ Premier. DJ Jazzy Jeff. and DJ Grand Master Flash he began listening to mixtapes and CDs from early 90's Hip Hop and R&B artists as a youth.  Travis “DJ UnKnown” Williams, with roots in New York, by way of Memphis, Bay area. and Somalia, emerged on the scene in 2005. His love for music enhanced his knowledge of diverse music: African, Brazilian. Country, Hip Hop, Jazz. Latin, Progressive Hip Hop, Reggae. Soul, Top 40, etc.


Recognized as one of a select few who specializes in Progressive Hip Hop, he possess a strong aptitude for business.  The Rochester born entrepreneur established ArtistAudltlons.com which assists in booking Celebrity Artists and unsigned artists on national shows.


UnKnown is an accomplished international DJ.  His largest career booking was artist. Lil Wayne in September 2011.  He resides in Arizona and has been the official concert DJ for OMX. KRS One. Keith Da Sneak. YC. Kirko Bangz, Keith Murray, Cormega, and Junior Reid.


Travis is a proud graduate of Tuskegee University where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering.  This major was a practical way to merge his love for music and allowed him to invest in his passion for technology.  He is an engineer by day and DJ by night.


Dr. Danielle Cummings

Computer Systems Researcher

Department of Defense


Dr. Cummings is a Computer Systems Researcher for the Department of Defense. She is also the founder and committee chair of Black Women in Computing, a community focused on increasing the number of black women and other minorities in computing-related fields. She is a former instructor for Girls Who Code, and frequently hosts and participates in various STEM-based educational programs targeting minority youth. Danielle holds a B.A. in ComputerScience and a B.A. in Art from The Ohio State University, an M.S. in Software Engineering from the University of Houston, Clear Lake, and a Ph.D. in ComputerScience from Texas A&M University.



Rosario Robinson

Director of ABI Communities

Anita Borg Institute


Rose Robinson has more than 20+ years in technology industry providing technical and consulting services to clients in the telecommunications wireless and cable, geographic information systems, and DoD and Intelligence community. She's also directed large multi-million dollar software implementations in global markets including North and South America, Asia and Europe with various clients as Nextel International, T-Mobile, Morgan Stanley and US military to name a few.  Currently, Rose is Director of ABI Communities at the Anita Borg Institute working on gender diversity and inclusion in the tech industry along with managing ABI dot Local initiative. Additionally, works closely with CMD-IT on racial diversity on several programs including the ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing.  She manages Systers open source programs including Systers Google Summer of Code and works hard to increase underrepresented minorities participation in open source.


Fun Fact: Rose was driving down infamous California Highway 1 and realized she was afraid of heights. She doesn't like to be afraid of anything, so to tackle her fear, she got a few girlfriends together ranging from 18-50 and they all went skydiving.

However, ....she's still afraid of heights.


Errol King

Experience Manager



Errol King was born and raised in the Bronx, NY. He is a self taught creative technologist, game designer and social entrepreneur. His career started in communications and tech strategy for social justice movements. He later became the Director of Online Organizing & New Media at 1199SEIU, the largest local union in the US. In this role, he used tech to improve the lives of 400,000 low wage healthcare workers across five states.


Inspired by maker culture, he left this work to pursue his passion for education and technology. He co-founded Hidden Level Games, an indie gaming studio focused on transforming players into creators. Over the last two years, he designed and developed a virtual world where students can build and share games via the cloud. He is also the co-author of CodePop, a tweet-sized game programming language. Using this platform he has toured the world teaching design thinking and game programming to youth.


Errol was named a Tech Week Top 100 most influential people in New York for 2014. He is now at Google working on a team focused on cultivating the next generation of awe-inspiring leaders in computer science from Black and Latino communities.


Chris Moody

Software Engineer and Gaming Platform Developer

Hidden Levels Game


Christopher Moody is a software engineer based out of the Greater New York City area. He primarily works in advertising, building websites, applications, and convention panels for clients like Pfizer, Mercedes Benz, and Marriott International. An 80's baby with a nostalgic passion for video games, Chris is committed to showing our youth that computer science is about more than logic, math, and code. There's plenty of room for creativity and fun as well!




Marie Torres


MRM Construction Services


Marie Torres was born and raised in South Phoenix. She attended Rose Linda Elementary School and South Mountain High School. She received an academic scholarship to ASU and received her Bachelor of Science in Engineering in 1980. Ms. Torres has been working in the construction industry since then and is well known and recognized in the Valley for her knowledge and expertise in construction.


Ms. Torres founded MRM Construction Services in March 2002. She had been working for a large construction company for over 17 years as Quality Technical Services Manager until her department was downsized.


MRM started marketing itself from the different contacts established from Marie being in the Industry for over 20 years.  As Marie started looking at ways to grow the business, she decided that it was necessary to diversify from the inspection and testing services MRM provided.  In December of 2003, MRM received its General Engineering A Contractors License from the Registrar of Contractors.  This allowed MRM to pursue construction work  in addition to Technical Services. The gamete covered by MRM Construction’s experience extends from “Sidewalks to Runways”.   MRM has gone from 3 employees in 2002 to 60 in 2016 and gross revenue has grown from $350,000  at the start to 23 million in 2015.


Dr. Yinong Chen
Senior Lecturer, Computing, Informatics, Decision Systems Engineering
Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ


Yinong Chen received a doctoral degree from the University of Karlsruhe (KIT), Germany, in 1993. He did postdoctoral research at the University of Karlsruhe and at LAAS-CNRS in France. From 1994 to 2000, he was a lecturer and senior lecturer in the School of Computer Science at Wits University, Johannesburg, South Africa, and was the founding director of the Wits Research Program for Highly Dependable Systems. Chen joined ASU in 2001 and is an Honors Faculty and a senior lecturer in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering. Chen received the Teacher of the Year Award of the school in 2007-2008 and in 2008-2009 school years. Chen’s primary research interests are in service-oriented computing, distributed systems, embedded systems, robotics, and computer science education. He has (co-) authored 10 books and more than 150 research papers.


Carl A. Davenport
Director, Silicon Operations (SiOPs) & Product Development Engineering (PDE)
Platform Engineering & Development (PED) / Internet of Things Group (IOTG)
Intel Corporation, Chandler, AZ


Carl manages a diverse PDE team across four countries that develops unique Intel® Core™ and Intel® Xeon™ family product derivatives for IoT, Communications, Industrial, Automotive and general purpose applications. Carl’s SiOPs team works with Intel’s global factory network to support and sustain the IOTG Long-Life product roadmap ensuring product availability for IOT lifetimes.


Carl received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Southern University. Carl has been with Intel for 30 of his 34 years of industry experience.


Dr. Arlisa Richardson

Physics Faculty

Chandler-Gilbert Community College


Arlisa L. Richardson is a residential Physics faculty member at Chandler-Gilbert Community College.  Prior to joining Chandler-Gilbert, she served as the Director of Learning Support Services at Estrella Mountain Community College, where she worked collaboratively with faculty and staff to implement and support effective pedagogies in the Learning Support Centers.


Arlisa earned a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Grambling State University, a Masters of Science in Physics from the University of Texas at Dallas and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction specializing in Science Education from Arizona State University. Her research examined the impact of team interactions and gender on Freshman Engineering design teams. Her dissertation won the American Society of Engineering Education 2008 Best Paper Award in the PICIII division.


Arlisa has ten years experience as an engineer and more than ten years experience within the Maricopa Community College district.  She is committed to teaching, student success and improving the educational experience for all students.


Marisa Ostos

Web Master

Arizona SciTech Festival


Marisa has been a part of the Arizona SciTech Festival for one year, having started out as a student-intern through Arizona State University (ASU). She holds her Bachelor of Science Degree from ASU in “Interdisciplinary Studies” with an emphasis in History and Psychology. Being the Festival’s Web Site Event Manager and a STREET Team Lead, she enjoys being able to promote and bring S.T.E.M. to the Arizona community. Alongside working for the Festival, Marisa is a middle school Special Education Instructional Assistant, an annual Festival Manager for both the national Albuquerque and Tucson Tango Festivals, an active choir member, and an avid 7-year Argentine Tango dancer.