The Virginia Tech Science Festival returns to campus Saturday, Oct. 27, with 93 free hands-on, minds-on learning interactive booths and activities that showcase dozens of science education and research programs throughout the university, including physics, space, engineering, communication, geology, health and medicine, history, transportation, computers, chemistry, and more.
Events will be held in the Moss Arts Center, Carol M. Newman Library, Torgersen Hall, and along Alumni Mall. Parking on campus will be free during event hours. The day kicks off at 10 a.m., with the main festival closing at 4 p.m., with science-based talks in the form of Nutshell Games beginning at 4:30 p.m.
All events are free and open to the public. Parking will be free at Virginia Tech’s North End Center parking deck and other campus locations.
Virginia Tech launched the first Science Festival in 2014. More than 5,000 people attended the festival in 2017. Festival organizers again are providing transportation to select school groups from across the state to attend, giving them the same chance to enjoy the STEM-focused event as local families.
Many exhibitors from previous years will be returning, including 3-D printing, various robotics labs, virtual reality, lizards, neuroscience, electric vehicles, meteorology, paleontology, the science of sports helmets, a teddy bear clinic provided by Carilion, “virus” trackers, volcano demonstrations, a human-powered submarine, and dozens more. Crowd favorites such as Stormtroopers from the “Stars Wars” films also will return in the form of cosplayers. Exhibits provide hands-on, minds-on experiences for all ages, along with highlighting the expansive applications of science.
“The Virginia Tech Science Festival has become a tradition in Blacksburg,” said Phyllis Newbill, festival chair and outreach and engagement coordinator with Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT). “Kids are growing up with it, knowing that science is exciting and about doing things. Science is a thing to be celebrated. Five years is short in adult time, but in kid time, it’s most of a lifetime. This work is important in shaping attitudes toward science.”
Following the Festival Expo, the Center for Communicating Science will present the 3rd annual Nutshell Games, a contest in which selected Virginia Tech graduate students compete for cash prizes as they are given 90 seconds to present their research, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the Moss Arts Center. The winner is the person who can most clearly explain their work in an entertaining manner, as determined by a panel of judges, one of whom is a middle school student. This event is for ages 11 and up.
“The Virginia Tech Science Festival’s expansive outreach aligns with the university’s mission to support and serve the citizens of the commonwealth regardless of their zip code,” said Karen Eley-Sanders, associate vice provost for college access at Virginia Tech.
“We know that young people’s early exposure to STEM subjects is related to their subsequent success in STEM, and in school generally. Children develop science knowledge in both formal and informal settings, and they learn science by doing. The Virginia Tech Science Festival is an incredible learning opportunity for youth, their families and teachers, and we believe it helps youth to realize that science really is bigger than they think.”
For the second year in a row, the Science Festival will also feature exhibits that are autism-friendly, with festival organizers coordinating with the Virginia Tech Center for Autism Research, based in the College of Science. The effort is part of the center’s SAFE: Supporting Autism Friendly Environments program, an effort headed by Amy Azano, an associate professor in the School of Education.