USA Science & Engineering Festival
October 28, 2010
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by Kevin Kawai
The inaugural USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo took place in Washington, D.C., centered on the National Mall and nearby surroundings areas on October 23 and 24, 2010. Sponsored by Lockheed Martin, the Expo was a free grand finale for a nationwide festival that began on October 10 with activities that transpired throughout the nation. The Expo featured over 1,500 hands-on interactive activities, 75 stage shows, and 50 satellite events in 25 states for people of all ages. This event was unquestionably the largest science and engineering event of its kind in the United States designed to engage the public on the wonders of science, mathematics and engineering. Organizers estimated more than one million people participated at this historic event. It's important for the public to learn and understand why these fields play such important roles in everyone's daily lives.
Throughout Celestron's 50 years in the telescope making business, our company has employed many brilliantly-minded people, many of whom with advanced degrees in mechanical, optical and software engineering, as well as in physics. As a strong proponent of astronomy and science-related public outreach, our traveling team flew out to Washington D.C. to attend this noteworthy event and share some of our fun and innovative optical products with educators, parents and especially to the next generation of science and engineering enthusiasts. Joining us at the Celestron booth included our very special guest and youngest Ambassador, Caroline Moore, who was accompanied by her father, Bob. In April 2008, Caroline, then at age 14, became the youngest person ever to discover a supernova, sn2008ha. In July 2009, Caroline discovered her second supernova, sn2009he. Since then, she has been recognized for her achievements by Local, State and Federal governmental agencies and has received numerous awards for bringing astronomy to the people, especially to children. One memorable moment occurred when Caroline was invited as a personal guest of President Obama during the first official "White House Star Party" back in October 2009. The President has since called her one of America's young heroes. We were especially proud to have Caroline and her father join us during this event.
Our booth was located in Freedom Plaza along Pennsylvania Avenue. We brought along a wide variety of "kid friendly" optical products including several HandHeld Digital Microscopes, Digital and Optical Microscopes and Deluxe LCD Digital Microscopes to explore a wide variety of samples such as insects, fabrics, feathers, coffee grains, sugar, pond and sea water, meteorites and much more! How rewarding it was for us to see families analyzing new hidden worlds and making their own new discoveries here on Earth. At the same time, we assembled several of our telescopes in front of our booth, including the CPC 1100, NexStar 8SE, AstroMaster 70AZ and even the Anniversary FirstScope. Although a building blocked much of the Sun from our location throughout the day, being in shadow was actually a blessing as it improved the clarity of our notebooks and LCD screens. Instead of solar observing, we conducted terrestrial viewing with our telescopes aimed at various landmarks throughout the city. We encountered a surprise guest as "Johannes Kepler", the man who became famous for his laws of planetary motion, stopped by to show us his "Galileo scope" and see how far our modern telescopes have evolved. A few booths down, the Science Cheerleaders were on hand signing autographs and inspiring young girls to explore the possibilities in science related fields. They were quite successful in breaking down the old stereotype of what female scientists are usually perceived as. Instead, they sent out a message that today, you could still be stylish, hip and beautiful and be a professional with a science background. The cheerleaders were comprised of mathematicians, medical doctors, chemists and engineers! They even performed on stage cheering to science and math facts. Way to go Science Cheerleaders!
During the evening of October 23, in front of Wilson Plaza, Celestron, along with Dr. Donald Lubowich of Hofstra University and a few volunteers from the Astronomy Outreach Foundation, conducted a public star party on Pennsylvania Avenue. Jupiter played "peek-a-boo" through the clouds as we patiently waited for the front to pass through. When the planet finally emerged, several hundred guests were already lined up at each telescope eager for a glimpse. Although the Great Red Spot wasn't visible, one of Jupiter's moons was casting its shadow on the planet which drew a lot of "oh wows" from the public. The Full Moon also fought its way through the clouds, but eventually shined through to the delight of everyone present. The Moon may have been exceptionally bright; however, we were well prepared with polarizing filters. The crowds were awestruck!
During the star party, Caroline conducted a presentation in front of a large crowd that gathered. She spoke about her supernova discoveries, and how she's been conducting her own research, as well as making her own hypothesis from data acquired from other scientists. Caroline's speech electrified the crowds and captivated both adults and young children alike. She spoke with a lot of passion for her work and her love of astronomy. Her enthusiasm and rapport with kids really makes her an impressive role model! Immediately following Caroline's presentation, the trio "Powers of Ten" featuring David Haines (Composer), Ruth Kiefer (USA ScienceFest Organizer) and Nancy Huddleston, entertained the crowds by singing an informative song about our nearest star, the Sun. Now that's a fun and alternative way to learn about science!
Today, the importance of science education is being emphasized more than ever before, as noted by scholars, the media and President Obama, but more work needs to be done. People are genuinely curious about science and technology, yet our nation, as a whole, will need to strengthen its commitment towards science education if we're going to compete in the global information age. Having an event like the USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo, gave youngsters, their parents and teachers a real world eye opening experience that hopefully stirred their creative imaginations and provided inspirations towards higher goals and achievements in life. Celestron is proud to support this great educational movement, and we hope many of today's youths will embrace science, engineering and mathematics and will continue to drive innovation forward. Who knows how many youngsters will grow up to become the next Caroline Moore and make their own exciting discoveries? There's no telling.