The second USA Science and Engineering Festival’s 3-day Finale Expo took place on April 27-29, 2012 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington D.C. The weekend extravaganza celebrated science with over 3,000 fun and exciting hands-on activities, with 550+ exhibitors, numerous stage shows and even a book fair. Many exhibits placed strong emphasis on increasing awareness through science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with our nation’s younger generation. Adding even more appeal to a broader audience, the expo was free and open to anyone interested in the wonders of science. Prior to the main event, a special “Sneak Peek Friday” provided over 28,000 school kids, teachers and special guests with an early look at exhibits and activities before doors opened to the general public. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum collaborated with the USA Science and Engineering Festival and through the support of Celestron, hosted a stargazing party on Saturday evening with special guest Bill Nye the Science Guy.
Celestron attended the inaugural USA Science and Engineering Festival back in 2010, and while it was a complete success, we knew we could implement a few changes to make our booth even more engaging and exciting for guests. This year, our team brought along two giant display monitors and focused one of our Deluxe Handheld Digital microscopes on an ant farm. People old and young alike were eager to see close-up views of harvester ants going about their daily business of creating tunnels, snacking on apples and interacting with other ants. We also displayed “fact cards” which provided interesting notes about our specimens before they were viewed through the Advanced 500, Portable LCD Digital, Amoeba, LCD Deluxe Digital and PentaView microscopes. It was quite exciting for everyone to explore fascinating new worlds on Earth – from insects and arachnids to bacteria, cells, Mammoth’s hair, Seahorse, Bat, flower parts, pond water, clothing and even body parts! Telescopes exhibited included two FirstScopes (one cut-out model to show how reflecting optics worked), SkyProdigy 6 and CPC 800 models. These telescopes provided guests with close-up views of selected targets inside the convention center. Judging by the amount of enthusiasm and positive reactions from students, parents and teachers, you could say it was quite a weekend of learning and most importantly, having fun!
On the evening of April 28th, a big stargazing party took place at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Celestial objects such as the Moon, Mars and Saturn were well positioned in the sky for viewing. Unfortunately though, as predicted by weather forecasters, a cold front moved through Washington D.C. and it rained on our parade. However, more than 800 guests still showed up to the event despite the bad weather. Many took walking tours of the museum's Voyage Scale Model Solar System and many sat in on the evening’s presentations held inside the Moving Beyond Earth Gallery. Bill Nye the Science Guy, the internationally well known science ambassador, actor, comedian, engineer, inventor, etc, conducted a very lively science presentation which lifted everyone’s spirits up, especially to children in the audience. His passion for science literally electrified the room! Bill then introduced me (Kevin Kawai), and I went on stage and spoke how I became inspired by an amateur astronomer a young age and Celestron’s commitment to support events like the USA Science and Engineering Festival – which brings science awareness and challenges to the forefront. I then spoke about Celestron’s AstroMaster 70AZ telescope donation for the museum’s prize drawing. After the presentations concluded, the Planetary Society conducted their live interview program while Celestron representatives set up telescopes inside the museum for viewing. Although rain prevented actual stargazing, guests still had a fun, educational night filled with astronomy, science and telescopes. From that prospective, the night was indeed a success.
Science and Engineering can be seen everywhere in today’s world – from the computers we work on to the Smart Phone we text on. They were seen at the expo at USAF Thunderbird’s aircraft on static display to a model of DNA being projected onto a screen, to our microscopes and telescopes being used at our booth and at the stargazing event. Science and Engineering both play important roles in everyone’s lives whether we realize or not. In general, we are all curious about science and technology, and this event provided everyone with a real world look to have a better understanding. The USA Science and Engineering Festival is unquestionably the largest and most entertaining science festivals in the nation, if not the world. The mission of this event is clear – to re-invigorate the interest of the nation’s youth in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by presenting the most exciting, educational and entertaining science festival in the United States. Judging by what we encountered during this memorable weekend, innovation is continuing to drive forward to inspire our nation’s young people to aim high. In a sense, the sky is truly limitless.