By USA Science & Engineering Festival Founder Larry Bock
"Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known." - Carl Sagan
The excitement, the rigors and the risk of scientific discovery: Sagan loved and shared these emotions more effectively and openly with us than perhaps any other contemporary scientist. And in the process he helped catapult "science outreach" into the public lexicon.
Today more than ever, if we are to inspire the next generation of innovators and better inform the public about science, we, with Sagan-like boldness, need to rethink science outreach, especially how it can be extended beyond its traditional confines of the classroom and laboratory to more creative venues where the wonders and promise of technology can be shared with all.
In short, it's time to take discovery in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to the streets of America.
The good news: This voice for a science outreach renaissance is finding a welcome home in the burgeoning phenomenon of Science Festivals, where high-profile, inspiring professionals in STEM are "taking science to the people" through exciting, engaging presentations with students and others. The venues for these gatherings may surprise you: cafes, theatres, arenas, clubs, museums, convention and science centers, libraries, college campuses and other locations -- places where festivals are today enjoying large, enthusiastic and diverse crowds.
I should know. As founder and chief organizer of the USA Science and Engineering Festival (the nation's largest celebration of science and engineering), I am well aware of the impact these events are having on inspiring students, teachers and others through hands-on interaction with some of the most innovative minds in STEM today -- including Nobel Laureates, space exploration heroes, bio-tech start up innovators, and science celebrities in TV and film, such as what my festival features.
So convinced am I that science festivals are an effective, dynamic way to reinvigorate enthusiasm and passion for science among today's students and the general public that I strongly encourage you and your community to host a science festival of your own. Or join us in participating in the USA Science and Engineering Festival for 2014 by sponsoring an Affiliate or Satellite festival in conjunction with our Festival, and get your Affiliate event placed on our Global Map!
Just what are science festivals? They're public celebrations of science and technology that usually span anywhere from several days to several weeks, and generally involve many differ hands-on interactive events including exhibits and demonstrations, spectacles, contests, lectures, workshops, and science-related stage performances by musicians, magicians, artists, comedians and actors.
What's more, students and the public are hungry for such interaction. Since the time that my team and I organized the first Science Festival on the west coast in 2009, and in 2010 the country's first national science festival, I have seen the attendance, enthusiasm and impact of these gatherings grow exponentially.
For example, our Festival's three-day weekend Expo finale in Washington, D.C. last year alone attracted more than 200,000 visitors and participants (including students and teachers from 800 participating schools).
So, if you cannot join us personally for our Festival activities in April 2014 -- including the Expo celebration in Washington on April 26-27, 2014 -- we invite you to put on your own celebration of science or engineering the same month (or even earlier) to link with our event. Whether you are an outreach organization, research university, K-12 school, student club, museum, community organization or company in the U.S. or overseas -- you're invited!
Our goal is to have hundreds of Satellite Events and Affiliate Festivals throughout the country and around the world anchored to the USA Science & Engineering Festival and Expo. We encourage you to sign up soon and get your Affiliate event on our Global Map.
To host a Satellite Event (these events take place during the month of April 2014 and are typically smaller in nature): http://www.usasciencefestival.org/affiliate-events/host-a-satellite-event.html.
To become an Affiliate Festival (these festivals take place any time of year and are larger, multi-day festivals with a regional emphasis):
Join us next year as we take another unforgettable experience in science discovery to the streets to inspire tomorrow's innovators! http://www.usasciencefestival.org/