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By Taariq N. Adams
At the fourth U.S. Science and Engineering Festival April 16-17 in Washington D.C, science enthusiasts gathered to observe exhibits and discoveries that promote the STEM fields, from robotics and environmental science to military defense and programming.
“This event is designed to inspire the next generation to become STEM professionals,” said Shawn Flaherty, the PR coordinator of the event. “This festival has grown and has become a magnet for this weekend alone with 350,000 people.”
“Not enough kids are going into STEM fields,” Flaherty said. “So this festival is really designed to get people excited to celebrate science and want to develop a passion for entering it as a career.”
The festival included National Geographic, Chevron Cooperation, Dell, InfoComm International and the U.S. Department of Defense. One of the highlights of the event was a live question and answer session with astronaut Jeff Williams while he was still in space.
There were many exhibits including one for SensorCraft, a programing training software made from the video game Minecraft using Python, a high level programming language.
“It’s a clone of Minecraft written in Python,” said Jesse Cruz, 33, programmer of Sensorcraft. “There’s a bunch of exercises in there for you to go in and mess with the gravity and learn how to build and launch stuff.”
Other exhibits included a robotic jellyfish that operates by measuring water pressure levels, a weather truck from NBC with a satellite attached, a tesla coil provided by the UMKC (University of Missouri–Kansas City) Department of Physics and Astronomy, and a seal robot designed for neurological and non-pharmacological therapy from the Japan Science and Technology Agency.
“I really enjoyed everything,” said Ryan Revel, 60, attendee. “It’s fun for me to get exposed to so much information and technology. If you’re interested in STEM, go for it. Your work is your life so you got to work in something you enjoy.”
Barry Stevens, a Benjamin Franklin reenactor since 2005, was dressed in his period clothes and holding court as the great inventor. Youngsters were eager to ask Benjamin Franklin questions about his life and his struggles. This was to build interest in science and technology and to encourage curiosity when entering this field.
“Science is not something that I did, I was just curious, and when I found something that interested me, I said A-HAH; this is something Franklin needs to look into,” he said. “It’s fascinating because these are the scientists of tomorrow. We need to give them the attention they deserve and to encouraging them, that is what this entire event is all about.”