The Virginia Tech Science Festival returns to campus Saturday with free events and activities available to showcase unique ways science is the center of dozens of topics, from history and economics to geology, stars, medicine, and chemistry.
Events will be held in the Moss Arts Center, Carol M. Newman Library, Torgersen Hall, and along Alumni Mall. Parking on campus will be free during event hours. The day kicks off at 10 a.m., with the main festival closing at 4 p.m., but later evening events offered for audiences interested in all things science.
This year’s event will be the fourth annual festival. Last year, more than 6,000 people from all areas of Virginia attended the festival. For the second year in a row, festival organizers are providing transportation to selected school groups from around Virginia to attend, giving them the same chance to enjoy the STEM-focused event as local school children.
Many exhibitors from previous years will be returning, including 3-D printing, robotics, library sciences, the science of music, meteorology, paleontology, a teddy bear clinic provided by Carilion, crowd favorites like the Storm Troopers from the “Stars Wars” films, and more. The exhibits will provide hands-on, minds-on experiences for all ages, along with highlighting the expansive applications of science.
“The goals of the festival are to inspire learners to love science and to celebrate science as a way of knowing,” said Phyllis Newbill, festival chair and outreach and engagement coordinator with Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT). “I hope participants, volunteers, exhibitors, and teachers will leave the festival feeling excited about science and the opportunities it gives us for making the world a better place.”
This year’s event will also feature exhibits that are autism-friendly, with festival organizers coordinating with the Virginia Tech Center for Autism Research, based in the College of Science. Numerous festival exhibitors and volunteers have been trained how to work with youth with sensory issues such as loud noises or crowds, and their families. The effort is part of the center’s SAFE: Supporting Autism Friendly Environments program and a mission to reach as many youth as possible by the festival organizers.
Following the Festival Expo, the Center for Communicating Science will present the 2nd annual Nutshell Games, a contest in which Virginia Tech graduate students are given 90 seconds to present their research, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Moss Arts Center. The center will be awarding $500 to the three graduate researchers who explain their work with the most clarity, as determined by a panel of judges.
At 7 p.m. also at the Moss Arts, Christopher Emdin will be giving the free talk “STEM Education and Empowerment for the Rest of Y’all.” Emdin is an associate professor in the Department of Mathematics Science and Technology at Columbia University’s Teachers College, where he also serves as director of Science Education at the Center for Health Equity and Urban Science Education, and associate director of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education. He also serves as Minorities in Energy Ambassador for the U.S. Department of Energy and the STEAM Ambassador for the U.S. Department of State.
“The festival brings together thousands of people to experience the joy of science,” said Ben Knapp, director of ICAT. “Whether you come as a school field trip, scout group, college student, lifelong learner, or family, we hope the festival inspires you to see science as accessible and relevant to you.”