Monday, November 7, 2011

Austin Science and Engineering Festival

Over seventy businesses, colleges, and government agencies provided two full days of hands-on activities and stage demonstrations, to more than 17,000 visitors, November 5 and 6, at the Austin Convention Center.
Focused on young learners, the exposition enjoyed support from nineteen sponsors including Google, Dell, ExxonMobil, Shell, the U.S. Navy, the Austin Chronicle, and the Mexican-American Engineering Society. Two portable star show domes - one from Austin Planetarium, the other from Rice University - competed for attention with roving robots, catapult construction, police laboratories, and solar cars. 

Experiencing electrons
Three visitors
Saturday's crowd was boosted by busloads of elementary and middle school pupils from Dallas and Houston area districts, as well as locals. Many kids were primed for the serious side of fun with notebooks at the ready to record their experiences. Their hosts were prepared, as well.  IBM provided trays of oobleck. IBM also had an aerodynamics exercise where the kids built gliders with a straw and two loops of paper. The Society of Women Engineers also had a paper airplane exercise, the key to which was a wind tunnel made from a room fan and half-liter plastic bottles. The Texas Department of Public Safety provided a command car and a SWAT tank and made both freely available to the event visitors. The CIA brought a robot for the kids to operate.  The US Navy handed over the controls to a submersible model.
SEEK: Student Engineers Educating Kids
Of the fifteen stage presentations, "Science in the Movies" (both Saturday and Sunday) was easily the most popular with its explosions, flashes, and realizations of make-believe. They had a tough act to follow. Opening both days was Dr. Kold's liquid nitrogen show.

On Sunday, NASA mission specialist Dr. Richard M. Linnehan engaged the youngest in the audience with a Q&A that traveled light years from low Earth orbit to intergalactic space. The kids held their own and even surprised the astronaut with their knowledge. Rounding out the theater offerings were the Circus of Physics, the UT Solar Car, BEST Robotics, Google Science Fair Winner Shree Bose, and two different sets of talks by UT doctoral candidates in physical science, life science, and engineering.

STEM: Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics
The University of Texas programs in engineering, astronomy, and physics met the public from five different tables. However, Prairie View A&M sat at seven separate locations. ACC took two, one for electronics, the other for physics. Texas State Technical College, Texas Southern University, Texas State University, Southern Methodoist University, and the Geoforce Institute rounded out the higher learning alternatives. Present to help manage the choices was My College Options. Parents also found help with their science homework at table set up by the UT Women in Engineering.  SaplingLearning demonstrated their innovative virtual laboratory experiments and other online homework aids and study tools.
This was the second annual Texas Science and Engineering Festival. The concept and the plethora of administrative details were were the work of MAES, the Society of Mexican-American Engineers and Scientists.

On this blog, see also Nerd Nation here and Nerd Nation 2.0 here

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