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Science and Engineering Festival

October 26, 2010
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USA Science Engineering Festival Logo

USA Science Engineering Festival Logo

I’d like to take a pause from the shirt design-cartoon-poem schedule and thank all the people who put together the USA Science & Engineering Festival that took place in Washington, DC this past weekend. Surely I’ll sound like a big geek when I say this: the festival was loads of fun. Einstein would’ve partied ’til his hair went all askew. And you know that man loved his hair askew.

This festival had tons of talks, performances, and hands-on activities — more so than the other festivals I’ve been to on the Washington Mall, such as the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the Cherry Blossom Festival.

My daughters and I went to the Science & Engineering Festival on Saturday and didn’t see half of the exhibits. There were just so many things to do, and we dove into many activities. Some of the stuff we enjoyed and learned from:

  • Amazing Nano Brothers Juggling Show: these two guys amazed the audience with juggling skillz and taught us about the nano world, atoms, and molecules. Dan Foley and Joel Harris normally perform at The Museum of Science, Boston, but they amazed Washingtonians at this festival. You don’t have to travel to Boston to enjoy their show: check it out on YouTube. This video is 1 of 5, so you can start there and click through to the others.
  • Candy Experiments: With all the Halloween loot that the kids are going to bring home this Sunday, why eat all of it when you can do experiments? The Candy Experiments sign brought crowds of kids to their booth like the candyman can, then the staffers led the kiddos through experiments with the sugary goodness. For example, mashing marshmellows to increase their density so that they sink. Check out their website for fun ideas on how to experiment with candy.
  • Fossil Hunting: Kids searched through rocks to find fossils (fake, but fun nevertheless). Brought to the festival by The Museum of the Earth in Ithaca, NY, and these guys wore my favorite t-shirts of the day: a dinosaur silhouette. Simple and cool.
  • Bird Feeder Making: Slap some shortening on a half bagel, dip it in bird seed, and bam! you’ve got a neato bandito bird feeder. The bird fun was at the PBS Kids booth.
  • Robot Soccer: Kids could control robots in a small arena with the hope of pushing whiffle balls into goals. Usually, the robots zipped around as if they were dizzy and seasick. But fun was still had — brought to the festival by US First.
  • Catapults: Kids love controlling robots — and storming castles. And all kids know that catapults are fantastic for bustin’ down castle walls. (Catapults and trebuchets are also good at chunkin’ punkins.) Kids made catapults from two paint stirrers, a wooden spool, small paper cup, and loads of duct tape (which is an ingredient in anything good). They flung small ping pong balls at a cardboard castle. Thankfully, no royalty was hurt. Unfortunately, I don’t remember which organization had this activity at its booth, and I couldn’t find it on the festival’s website. I think it was an association of engineers.

All of these organizations did a wonderful job showing kids how science can be fun — as did many, many others to make this festival happen. This was the first Science & Engineering Festival in DC, and here’s hoping there are lots more.

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