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Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

N.C. Science Festival makes science fun for masses

Posted March 24

Morehead Planetarium Skywatching sessions at Jordan Lake (credit: Lee Capps)

The N.C. Science Festival is gearing up for its fourth year of making science fun for all ages with 750 events across the state.

The festival starts up Saturday and runs until April 13. The festival organizes and serves as a clearinghouse of sorts for all kinds of events designed for kids, families and adults at museums, libraries, parks and other venues across the state.

I checked in with festival director Jonathan Frederick to find out more about what's planned this year. He was excited to share all of the details.

Here's our Q&A.

Go Ask Mom: Tell us why and how the N.C. Science Festival began and what its goal is.

Jonathan Frederick: The idea for the Festival started way back in 2006 or ‘07 at UNC’s Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. We were initially thinking about producing a Triangle Science Festival. But after talking to a few big dreamers and key stakeholders, we thought it might be more interesting to try to host the first statewide science festival in the nation. So that’s exactly what we did! Our co-founders, Morehead’s Todd Boyette and Denise Young, reached out to science education friends across the state and in September 2010, we hosted our first festival. Over 85,000 people participated in over 400 events.

The 2010 Festival was so well received that we decided to make it an annual event. Only to get more school groups to participate, we moved it to the spring. We had our second festival in April 2012 and our third in April 2013. To give you a sense of how popular the Festival has become, last year we had 178,000 people attend over 650 events.

We’re gearing up for our fourth Festival which starts this week. The 2014 NC Science Festival runs from Friday through April 13. There are 750 events this year and our attendance goal is 300,000 participants.

The Festival’s primary goals are:

  • to connect Science to our everyday lives so we can have as much fun with it as we do with other Festivals be they music or sports or food.
  • to have high-quality events near every person in North Carolina.
  • to connect families with hands-on activities and leading experts.

GAM: What's happening and how can people get involved?

JF: This year, we have over 750 events on the calendar. You can go to our online calendar and search all of our public events. You can search by location, date, topic, and type of event. You can also share events you like via Facebook and Twitter. There’s a new “Add to My Calendar” widget that’s pretty handy as well.

We’re really proud of this year’s offerings. There are science expos (think: “science street fairs”) happening across the state, in addition to events at libraries, museums, parks, sporting events, and even a cemetery. Science is everywhere!

GAM: Is it designed for kids and families or is it intended for all ages?

JF: The Festival has something for EVERYONE. It really does. Our core audience is families so there are tons of great events for them, like the Triangle SciTech Expo at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, the Family Science Fair at Marbles Kids Museum or the bilingual “Meet a Scientist” event at the Museum of Life and Sciences in Durham.

But there are also super-fun events for adults, like the Science of Art of Conservation event at the NC Museum of Art or the Science of Beer at the World Beer Festival. Plus, lots of talks and programs with leading experts on complex science topics.

GAM: What are some of the highlights this year?

JF: By far, the toughest question you’ve asked. So much! This year, the NCSU’s Vet School is having its Open House during the Festival on Saturday, which also happens to be the same day a huge event in Greensboro is going down - Big Toy Day at the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market! If you have a little one who likes cars and trucks, there are going to be construction vehicles, cranes, police and fire trucks and more there all day.

Marbles Kids Museum is opening a new exhibit called the Stemophere. The N.C. Zoo is opening their kidZone exhibit. Discovery Place in Charlotte is doing amazing programs as is the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh.

Our Statewide Star Party was so successful last year that thanks to our program partners and NC Space Grant, we’re reprising it again this year. On April 4 and April 5, there are astronomy programs happening all over the state. This year the Statewide Star Party is focusing on the moon. You can find a star party near you via the calendar on our site.

The UNC Science Expo is going to be on April 12 at UNC-Chapel Hill. Hundreds of scientists and volunteers will be on hand to show people how amazing current science is. Then, the very next day, UNC Charlotte is hosting their amazing science and technology expo which gets more and more amazing every year.

Whew! I didn’t even get to the fact that Mr. Cosmos himself, Neil deGrasse Tyson, will be on NCSU’s campus. Mary Roach, best-selling science author, will be in Durham. ESPN’s John Brenkus will be in Chapel Hill talking about the science of sports. So much great stuff!

GAM: How do you see it growing and evolving in the future?

JF: Our long-term goal is to have 1 million North Carolina residents participating each year. We plan on staying agile, relevant and supportive of the incredible resources and partners already here in our state.

Next year, look out for our new theme: Science of Music and Sound. Should lead to some great events!

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