March 28-April 13 N.C. Science Festival stimulates public, statewide

jbordsen@charlotteobserver.comMarch 23, 2014 

  • N.C. Science Festival

    All the details – including day-to-day schedules of events across the state – are at

Family fun? How about going to your children’s classrooms and launching rockets?

A dramatically expanded outreach to K-12ers is only one way the North Carolina Science Festival is flexing to broaden its appeal. The annual event – March 28 through April 13 this year – features hundreds of events from the mountains (Cherokee) to the coast (Buxton).

This year, organizers are sponsoring 110 Folt Science Nights across the state. For these events, named for UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt, elementary schools have been mailed kits that contain the makings for 12 hands-on activities – “all sorts of good stuff,” according to festival director Jonathan Frederick. At school science nights, students and their families will be able to do chemistry experiments, build marshmallow towers and, yes, launch rockets: indoor-safe “stomp rockets” where forced air launches paper rockets the kids have made.

The festivalwide goal, of course, is to encourage everyone’s interest in science, technology, engineering and math. Universities and museums are heavily involved in the activities.

It’s not all for youngsters, either. Programs – many free of charge – range from lectures to hikes. The popular Star Parties (after-dark, outdoor sessions led by astronomers) have returned and have expanded to include seven in South Carolina. There will also be more than a dozen expos across North Carolina – kind of a series of scientific street fairs.

Here’s a small sample of upcoming festival events in this area. Check for details and possible costs.

March 28-30

At Cemetery Sleuths: People Are Dying to Try It, aspiring archaeologists help Superintendent Sam at Historic Oakwood Cemetery by using clues to find the final resting places of four characters using “historical documents,” GPS tracking, science identification, math and more. The free event begins at 10 a.m. March 28-29, noon on March 30.

March 28

At 1:30 p.m., take a special tour of Sonoco Recycling, 111 S. Rogers Lane, to see what happens to the items you recycle. (Space limited, registration required; you must be 18 or older to go.)

March 29

Big Toy Day at the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market, in Colfax, earthmovers, firetrucks, cranes and helicopters are among the amazing machines on display. Volunteers will show you how they work. The no-fee fun starts at 9 a.m.

In downtown Raleigh, Marbles Kids Museum has the opening celebration of its new STEMOSPHERE exhibit. Celebrate STEM with brain teasers, science challenges and math play at the museum all day, starting at 9 a.m.

April 1 and 4

At 3 p.m. both days, take the free Raleigh Rockin Walkin’ Tour and learn what kinds of rocks make up the buildings in downtown Raleigh. Learn how and why these types of rocks are used.

April 4

This is quite an evening to look at the heavens. There are Star Parties at Marbles Kids Museum (5-7 p.m.), Prairie Ridge Ecostation (7-10 p.m., with the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences and the Raleigh Astronomy Club), Annie Wilkerson Nature Preserve (8-10 p.m.), Reedy Creek Observatory (8-10 p.m.), Eno River State Park in Durham (7:30-9 p.m.), Morehead Observatory in Chapel Hill (9-11 p.m.) and other locations.

April 5

The Tr iangle SciTech Expo returns to connect students with scientists, researchers, engineers and universities. STEM research is in the spotlight, as are careers in those fields. The 9 a.m.-4 p.m. event at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, 11 W. Jones St., is free to attend.

Starting at 1 p.m. at Marbles Kids Museum, professor Ken Lyle and his team of bubble-ologists from Duke University’s Chemistry Outreach Program present Bubble-ology, showing kids and parents how to make giant bubbles and specialty bubbles.

Also in downtown Raleigh, the World Beer Festival in Moore Square toasts science with its Art of Beer Experience (noon-10 p.m.). At the exhibit, included in festival admission, there are beer ingredient samplings, educational seminars, a mini commercial brewery and more.

April 9

At N.C. State, the outdoor Earth Fair at the Brickyard (behind D.H. Hill Library) features Earth-focused exhibits and demonstrations on how you can make the world a better place. Admission is free to the 10 a.m.-2 p.m. event.

At 7 p.m. at UNC Memorial Hall, in Chapel Hill, ESPN “Sport Science” host John Brenkus will helm The Science of Sports, using demonstrations, videos and audience interaction to connect current science research with athletes’ performances.

April 10

Does trash float? Find out 4-5:30 p.m. at William B. Umstead State Park, where you can help build a boat using everyday recyclables. Recycled items will be provided, but feel free to bring your own. Admission to Build-A-Boat is free.

Cognitive archaeology – the study of how people in ancient societies thought – is the topic of a free workshop in Durham, Reading the Past: Mind, Brain and Archaeology, offered by the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. It begins at 9 a.m.; registration required (

At Raleigh’s SAS Hall Auditorium, enjoy The History of the Universe, with John Mather – a 4 p.m. presentation by the senior astrophysicist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Mather won the 2006 Nobel Prize in physics for his work on the Cosmic Background Explorer satellite. Admission is free.

April 12

Head to UNC’s Morehead Planetarium in Chapel Hill for the UNC Science Expo. There will be demonstrations, hands-on activities, behind-the-scenes tours of research labs, exhibits, science-related arts and crafts and more. Admission is free to the all-ages event, held along Cameron Avenue between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

The Children’s Museum of Alamance County, on Main Street in Graham, will hold its Butterfly Festival, starting at 11 a.m. Art and science activities include creating/decorating your own butterfly wings and antennae, learning how a butterfly eats, and listening to stories about butterflies. There will be a butterfly release at 2 p.m. and – while supplies last – you can adopt a caterpillar at the museum ahead of time.

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