Atlanta Science Festival offers formula for fascinating fun

By Carol Clark | Emory Report | March 17, 2015

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Doug Mulford, senior lecturer in the Department of Chemistry, gets kids fired up for science during a demonstration at last year’s Atlanta Science Festival. Emory Photo/Video

Start with a beaker as big as metro Atlanta. Add scientists, artists, music, dance, robots, games, movies, lab tours and chances to try new technology and conduct fun experiments. Throw in some liquid nitrogen ice cream, giant soap bubbles and Tibetan momos. Now mix with hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers and thousands of curious people of all ages. Finally, jump in yourself.

The Atlanta Science Festival is back, March 21-28, with its ever-evolving formula for fascination and fun. The eight-day celebration of local science and technology encompasses more than 120 events at 70 venues throughout Atlanta, including many on the Emory campus. The festival culminates in the Exploration Expo at Centennial Park on Saturday, March 28.

“We want to help our community become proud of the resources, research and discoveries happening here, and all the opportunities for careers,” says Jordan Rose, co-director of the festival and associate director of the Emory College Center for Science Education. “The more we can connect people to local scientists and their innovations, the more people can get excited about science in general.”

Last year, 30,000 people attended the week-long inaugural Atlanta Science Festival, including 16,000 who came to the Exploration Expo, which was chaired by Emory chemist Monya Ruffin.

"It’s hard to predict attendance this year for all of the events over eight days, but we’re expecting at least 20,000 people for the Expo alone,” Rose says. “It’s going to be a busy day at the park.”

About 20 booths at the Expo will feature Emory science faculty and students. ChEmory, for example — the outreach group made up of Emory chemistry undergraduates — will return with its popular dance pit. Kids can kick their shoes off and experience moving to music through a non-Newtonian fluid.

Full slate of campus events

Several events are scheduled on the Emory campus on Saturday, March 21, targeting both adults and children.

For the “Global Health Map-a-thon,” led by Rollins School of Public Health, participants can learn how to use open-source software, satellite imagery and geographic information involved in the ongoing public health response to the Ebola outbreak. The project is especially seeking participants who have knowledge of West African languages and sites.

“The Outbreak Game” is a chance to investigate a mock disease outbreak. Participating teams will receive face masks, lab coats and gloves, and biohazard disposal bags, then proceed to follow clues that lead them through sampling the environment, performing a lab test and interviewing mock patients to solve the mystery.

“Science at Emory: The Lab Changing the World” will bring TED-style talks around the theme of light, art installations and chemistry demonstrations to White Hall. Meanwhile, “PhysicsLive” will turn the Math and Science Center into one big party, including giant soap bubbles, liquid nitrogen ice cream, physics demonstrations, lab tours and planetarium shows.

Later in the week, a Tibetan tent will go up near Cox Hall bridge on Wednesday, March 25, as Emory researchers demonstrate research measuring the indoor air quality of Tibetan nomadic pastoralists who use yak dung to fuel their stoves, and how that practice may be impacting their health and well-being. The all-day tent demonstration will be followed by a “Discovery Dialogue” panel in the evening, and Tibetan momos (dumplings) will be served at the reception after the panel event.

On Thursday, March 26, the Emory chapter of Association of Women in Science will host a panel discussion on STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics] careers at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), followed by a workshop on CDC’s mobile app, “Solve the Outbreak!”

Many off-campus festival events will also feature Emory faculty, including screenings of “Jurassic Park” and “Cancer: Emperor of All Maladies”; and discussions of “Science of Sports Safety,” which promotes concussion awareness, and “Science of Beer.”

Click here for more details of Emory events.

The Atlanta Science Festival was initiated last year by Emory staff, including Rose; Sarah Peterson, assistant director for student development in the Laney Graduate School; and Meisa Salaita, who has since left the University and serves as co-director of the festival. Emory is a founding sponsor of the festival, along with Georgia Tech and the Metro Atlanta Chamber.

The festival now has dozens of sponsors and partners throughout metro Atlanta, and involves the work of more than 400 volunteers.