A celebration of science will once again take metro Atlanta by storm with the return of the Atlanta Science Festival, set for March 12-26. More than 100 activities, planned throughout the city, invite families to experience the thrills of discovery, from nature walks to expert talks and hands-on STEM learning opportunities.
“The festival offers ways for people of all ages to learn something new and to spark a new interest,” says Meisa Salaita, the executive co-director of Science ATL, the non-profit organization that produces the Atlanta Science Festival. “You may not realize that your child has a secret knack for chemistry, or that you enjoy birdwatching, until getting immersed in it.”
The Atlanta Science Festival, now in its ninth year, was co-founded by Emory, Georgia Tech and the Metro Atlanta Chamber.
Many of the events will be outdoors, and indoor events will be limited in size and observe COVID-19 safety protocol as appropriate for each venue.
Emory science faculty and students will be out in force, bringing back many favorites and launching a new event, “11 Alive Stormtrackers: The Science Behind Tracking Thunderstorms,” set for Emory’s Math and Science Center on Saturday, March 19, from 2-3:30 pm. Tickets are required in advance for the event, and available spots are expected to go quickly. A waiting list will strive to accommodate as many as possible.
Melissa Nord, a meteorologist at 11 Alive, teamed with Emory meteorologist Shaunna Donaher and her students in the Department of Environmental Sciences to develop and host the event, geared for children in elementary and middle school.
Visual demonstrations will include a cloud in a jar and a tornado in a box. Interactive games — created and led by Emory students — will also engage participants in the science of weather. Children will learn how to stay safe during extreme weather events and get a first-hand look at how forecasters cover weather from the field through a tour of the 11 Alive Stormtrackers Thundertruck.
As a young child growing up just north of Atlanta, Nord feared storms. “I used to go sit in the basement when it thundered,” she recalls. “When winds from Hurricane Opal came through in 1995, I remember looking out the basement windows at the young pine trees in our yard bending sideways.”
Nord’s fear turned to fascination when she learned more about the science of storms. She went on to study earth and atmospheric sciences at Georgia Tech before joining 11 Alive’s Stormtracker team.
“The weather impacts everybody,” Nord says. “I want to inspire kids to get interested in it, see that it’s cool, and learn weather safety.”
“Science is all around us,” Donaher adds. “We will introduce kids to the science behind some of the wonders that they experience every day. And we hope that a behind-the-scenes look at how people study weather will help them to see meteorology as a career path.”
Following are some of the other festival highlights featuring the Emory community.
“Conversations in Creativity” will kick off the festival at 3 pm on Saturday, March 12, at Emory’s new Science Gallery, an arts and science venue located in Pullman Yards. WABE’s Emil Moffat will host a conversation between Atlanta-based artist and architect Amy Landesberg and Georgia Tech mathematician/physicist Elisabetta Matsumoto. They will discuss how artists and scientists leverage the intersection of art and science to take on global challenges.
“Hack the Earth: People Focused, Earth Centered,” begins on Friday, March 18, at 5 pm, hosted online by lab members of Eri Saikawa, Emory associate professor of environmental sciences. Emory students will brief teams of middle school and high school students on key environmental health problems in Atlanta and invite them to provide solutions. The teams will present their ideas for an innovative public policy or a product solution in a virtual showcase on the evening of Sunday, March 20.
“HealthHacks 2022,” to begin on Saturday, March 19, is hosted online by Citizen Science HD and Emory University. Emory students will teach middle-school and high-school girls how to code and coach them as they create projects to address local and global health problems. Workshop themes this year include nutrition and food insecurity in Atlanta and the health of immigrant children.
“Drive-in Demos: Chemistry from Your Car,” is back by popular demand on Saturday, March 19. Emory chemist Doug Mulford and his students present a live-action chemistry show in a drive-in movie format. Families can watch from the safety of their vehicles as the students generate a 30-foot nitrogen cloud and other dramatic displays of chemistry, while also explaing the science behind the phenomena. Hour-long shows, set in the parking lot of First Christian Church in Decatur, will be held throughout the afternoon and fill up fast.
“Exploration Expo,” a day-long, free carnival of science set in Piedmont Park on Saturday, March 26, is the culminating event of the festival. The more than 100 hands-on activities will include many booths featuring Emory faculty and students. They’ll engage crowds with activities like learning how vaccines protect against pathogens and the always popular non-Newtonian fluid dance pit and ping pong Big Bang presented by Emory chemistry students.
The Atlanta Science Festival is powered by Science ATL and more than 50 community partners, with major support from Emory, Georgia Tech and the Metro Atlanta Chamber, and from sponsors Delta Air Lines, NCR Foundation, UPS, International Paper and more.