To kick off the 2012 N.C. Science Festival, Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, a group at UNC-Chapel Hill, launched a near-space “weather balloon” from the grounds of the Executive Mansion in Raleigh. Students from a nearby grade school cheered as the balloon soared into the sky and disappeared from sight.
SEDS members expected their balloon to land east of Raleigh, where they could easily retrieve it. But stronger-than-expected winds made their project race toward the Atlantic. With just miles to spare, GPS indicated it had landed in distant Carteret County, just shy of the Outer Banks. Someone from the Division of Marine Fisheries pulled it from the North River – slightly soggy but its data intact.
Among the lessons learned: Science and technology can be fun.
That takeaway is why the statewide festival, April 10-26 this year, now includes about 800 events, half at K-12 schools and half geared to the general public. Events are scheduled in 95 of the state’s 100 counties, in venues as disparate as Elk Knob State Park and university lecture halls. Many are family friendly and free.
Here’s a sample of festival events in this area. Check www.ncsciencefestival.org for details on many more events.
P.S. One of the students involved in the 2012 balloon launch is today a software engineer at Moon Express, a Silicon Valley firm with the long-range goal of mining rare elements found on the moon.
The Triangle SciTech Expo at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, 11 W. Jones St. in Raleigh, features more than 50 exhibits, activities, presentation games and crafts for all ages and led by sci-tech educators, organizations and industries. Admission is free; the 9 a.m.-4 p.m. event attracts more than 6,000 visitors. Details: www.naturalsciences.org.
The UNC Science Expo, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at UNC-Chapel Hill and on the 200 block of Cameron Avenue in Chapel Hill, highlights hands-on, interactive experiments, behind-the-scenes lab tours and stage entertainment; disciplines covered range from archaeology to robotbics to virtual reality. Admission is free. Details: www.moreheadplanetarium.org.
STEAM at the N.C. Railway Museum and New Hope Valley Railway, in New Hill, addresses the science and technology of the railroad from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and includes an 11 a.m. train ride, an interactive discussion of steam and diesel engine operation and a demonstration of how to replace railroad ties. There’s a charge for the train ride, otherwise free. Details: www.triangletrain.com.
Adults (and children accompanied by them) can take a no-charge naturalist-guided hike of Raleigh’s 157-acre Annie Louise Wilkerson Nature Preserve, 5229 Awls Haven Drive. Search for such signs of forest spring as wildflowers, birds and box turtles on the 10:30 a.m. jaunt. Participation is $2; pre-registration online recommended at https://reclink.raleighnc.gov.
The N.C. State Earth Fair, on the N.C. State Brickyard off Hillsborough Street, features dozens of exhibits, demos and ideas on how you can make the world a better place. The free-admission expo begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m. Details: www.facebook.com (go to the N.C. State Earth Fair 2015 page).
The STEMville Science Symposium, starting at 8:30 a.m. at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, in Chapel Hill, showcases activities for fourth- through seventh-graders to work with university students and professionals to create hands-on science experiments. Registration: $25 (includes light breakfast, T-shirt, materials). Details: www.moreheadplanetarium.org.
Innovate Your Cool: Science & Hip Hop Hackathon features Christopher Emdin – an associate professor in the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology at Teachers College, Columbia University and a Hip-Hop Archive Fellow at the WEB DuBois Institute at Harvard. He’ll give high school students a performance about the intersections of science, music and innovation. He and other tech gurus will then have the audience solve a problem “hackathon”-style. It will start at 1 p.m. at American Underground, 201 W. Main St., Durham. The event is part of downtown Durham’s Art of Cool Fest. Registration is free for students. Details: www.aocfestival.org.
N.C. Science Festival
All the details – including day-to-day schedules of events across the state – are at www.ncsciencefestival.org.