The National User Facility Organization participated in the inaugural USA Science & Engineering Festival in Washington DC on October 23 and 24. An estimated 500,000 people of all ages celebrated science and engineering participated in this event. An additional 250,000 attended 82 satellite events in 27 states across the nation. There were 1,500 hands on activities, 75 stage shows, 550 participating organizations, 25 Nobel Laureates and 1000s of scientists and engineers at this event.
The NUFO representatives conducted hands-on demonstrations with the general public to stimulate their interest in science. An estimated 5,000 children, parents, high school students, and teachers participated in activities at the NUFO booth. The goal of this event was to make science fun for young people and expose them to the discoveries that are made at the User Facilities. From the perspective of the volunteers who participated, it was a huge success.
Hundreds of the country's leading science and engineering organizations participated in the festival week, which included day, evening, and weekend events for the general public, including workshops, lectures, open houses, performances and more. President Obama hosted a White House Science Fair on October 18 to recognize the winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math competitions. The President invited the public to attend this event with his YouTube invitation. The festival’s free grand finale two-day expo on the National Mall offered people of all ages a chance to explore hundreds of fun hands-on activities covering a wide variety of science and engineering topics.
The NUFO demonstrations attracted a lot of attention from the Festival’s attendees, despite serious competition from the next booth’s “Candy Experiments.” NUFO had five activities planned. We measured kids’ height and hands in nanometers, demonstrated the water-repellent properties of nanoparticle-coated cloth, but the most popular nano activity involved memory wire. Participants were given NiTinol wires and were asked to bend them and drop them into hot water. Upon hitting the hot water the wires snapped back into a straight formation. We had a computer set-up with simulations of RHIC collisions, and an astronomy quiz board on comets. Unfortunately, due to electrical problems at the NUFO booth the “astro peeps experiment” could not be conducted, which was disappointing to the volunteers but ultimately didn’t matter to the attendees.
Not only were people having a wonderful time, they were engaged in the events and asked lots of questions about the demonstrations, the user facilities, science, internships, summer programs, etc. All of the NUFO literature was snatched up the first day, so a lot of parents and teachers got to learn about NUFO, the user facilities and the research that is being carried out there. We had a continuous stream of visitors from 10 am to 5:30 pm on both days.
A special thanks to the volunteers who made this happen: Dennis Brown (Northern Illinois University), Tom Ferbel (University of Rochester), Rene Bellwied (University of Houston), Carla Vale (Brookhaven National Laboratory), Tony Lanzirotti (University of Chicago) and Susan White-DePace (Brookhaven National Laboratory).