There was a time when science fairs were the sole way to tickle the fancies of students and steer them toward careers in science and technology.
When Jonathan Frederick was a kid in Harrisburg, Pa., he won an award for his project. It was an experiment that determined whether my cat was left- or right-pawed. I put his food in small cups hed have to knock over to get to.
Now 39, this former owner of a right-pawed cat and former in-tank speaker at a Florida aquarium, and most recently a staffer at UNCs Morehead Planetarium is director of the North Carolina Science Festival. The event is a 16-day educational blitz that this month fields roughly 300 events statewide.
The goal is to spur bright kids interest in technical fields and to make all ages of people more aware of the impact all sciences have on everyday life.
After a trial run in September 2010, the N.C. Science Festival launched in April 2012 and starting this week is now an annual event.
Actually, its an collection of events staged in towns, cities and wildlife areas from Bryson City and Burnsville in the mountains to Nags Head and Ocracoke on the Outer Banks. Museums and science centers are heavily involved, as are clubs, library systems, colleges and universities. Corporate sponsors help foot the bill.
The emphasis is on reaching families, and the festival initially had a K-12 emphasis. That outreach has grown to engage collegians, parents and grandparents. There are even science-oriented tours of the Carolina Brewing Company in Holly Springs and the April 18 Science of Wine-Making (and Tasting) Tour at SciWorks in Winston-Salem.
Our goal, Frederick said, is to have a really cool event within a 30-minute ride of every North Carolinian.
Heres a small sample of upcoming events up close to your home.
Guest Night at the Morehead Observatory. See the telescope in operation and keep your eyes peeled for some solar system objects, visibility permitting. Demo operating robotic Skynet telescopes will be used remotely. Free but pre-registration required. 9 p.m., Morehead Observatory, 250 E. Franklin St., Chapel Hill. Note:
Other Star Party events will be held April 5 at Marbles Kids Museum & IMAX Theatre (Raleigh) the Museum of Life and Science (Durham), Howell Woods (Four Oaks), Duke University (Durham) and elsewhere.
Triangle BEST Fest. Scientists, researchers, engineers and educators have all-day exhibits, activities and events showcasing biotechnology, engineering, science and technology. Free. 9 p.m., N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, 11 W. Jones St., Raleigh.
Bubble-ology. Dr. Ken Lyle and colleagues from the Duke University Chemistry Outreach Program show how to make giant bubbles, create bubble solutions and different kinds of bubbles. Free with paid admission: $5. 1 p.m., Marbles Kids Museum, 201E. Hargett St.
Science of Color Ages 4-7 can explore how primary colors are mixed and can make-and-take a kaleidoscopic color wheel. Free, 6:30 p.m., South Branch Public Library, 1550 S. Campus Drive, Creedmoor.
The Science in Science Fiction Movies. Find out what science in movies is legitimate and what isnt from human anatomy to physics. Free admission, free refreshments. 6:30 p.m., BTEC Building, 850 Oval Drive NCSU Centennial Campus.
Yuris Night. On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space. This adults-only celebration is also being observed by 200 other groups in 51 countries. Bring your gallon milk jugs; youll be making them into space helmets. Reservations required. $10. 6 p.m., Museum of Life and Science, 433 W. Murray Ave., Durham.
UNC Science Expo. Explore labs, try activities, hear science talks from professors and students at open-house day on campus; appropriate for all ages. Free, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., UNC-Chapel Hill campus.
Lake Jordan Eagle Watch. Bring your binoculars for hourlong boat tour of Jordan Lake. $10. 1 p.m., Jordan Lake Environmental Education, 1434 Farrington Road, Apex.
Celebration of Undergraduate Research Symposium. Poster sessions and platform talks point up the wide variety of undergraduate research at UNC-CH. Free. 1 p.m., Frank Porter Graham Student Union, UNC-CH.
Patterns, Patterns Everywhere. Regular patterns appear throughout nature. Dr. Martin Golubitsky, a mathematician at Ohio State University, will show some patterns and discuss how mathematical symmetry comes into play. Free. 4:30 p.m., SAS Hall, NCSU North Campus, 2311 Stinson Drive.
Mad Materials Science: Strange Polymers, Crazy Colloids, and Mad Materials. A light-hearted, science-filled presentation by Popular Science columnist, element enthusiast and official mad scientist Theo Gray, who educates through demonstrations. Free. 4:30 p.m., Paul M. Gross Hall, Duke University, 104 Science Drive, Durham.
An Evening with Alton Brown: The Science of Cooking. The host of Good Eats on the Food Network will speak on kitchen science and more; a question-answer session with the audience will follow. Admission: $20-$125 per person. 7:30 p.m., Durham Performing Arts Center, 123 Vivian St., Durham.
Stargazing at Harris Lake. Bring binoculars and a blanket or chair to view the stars and learn how to chart them from your own home. $5 per family. 9 p.m., Harris Lake County Park, 2112 County Park Drive, New Hill.