Monday, February 11, 2019

Atlanta Science Festival to launch at Emory with the power of WOW!

Wow in the World host Mindy Thomas, center, will kick off the Atlanta Science Festival with the help of musical duo The Pop Ups (Jacob Stein, left, and Jason Rabinowitz).

By Carol Clark

Watch for serious fun to spring up all around town as part of the 2019 Atlanta Science Festival, March 9 to March 23. The festival begins with a Wow in the World Pop Up Party on Saturday, March 9 from 11 am to noon on the Emory University campus. Mindy Thomas, a host of the popular NPR science-themed podcast Wow in the World, will engage curious kids and their grown-ups in games and skits with mad musical accompaniment by the Pop Ups — creators of the children’s music album Giants of Science.

A "Wow in the World" launch
“Wow in the World is an excellent program for kids and we really wanted to bring the energy of its team to Atlanta,” says Meisa Salaita, co-director of the Atlanta Science Festival. “They tie new and relevant research into interesting topics for kids, everything from ants that explode to seaweed that might boost your brain power. Kids are our future and getting them excited about science is so important.”

Kids will enjoy skits and games inspired by topics from the podcast like “Contagion Alert: The Science of Trying Not to Laugh” and “It SNOT What You Think.” Tickets are required for the launch event, set at Emory’s Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church, and it is expected to sell out.

The Atlanta Science Festival, or ASF, will feature more than 100 events throughout the metro area hosted by school districts, universities, museums, businesses and civic and community groups. Delta Air Lines is the presenting sponsor for 2019.

This year, Emory scientists will lead a walk with Mesozoic dinosaurs, discuss how neuro-engineering is blurring the lines between mind and machine and describe the physics of how babies learn to talk. Click here to see a full list of events connected to Emory.

Hundreds of visitors are expected on the Emory campus on Friday, March 22 for the perennial festival favorites, "Chemistry Carnival" and "Physics Live!"

“Science on Stage: The Forgotten Organ,” stars the bacteria, fungi and viruses within the human microbiome that shapes every one of us from birth. The Emory Center for the Study of Human Health teamed up with Theater at Emory to have playwrights quickly produce short plays about the microbiome. The playwrights drew their inspiration from a New York Times bestselling book by acclaimed science writer Ed Yong, “I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life.”

Yong will join the playwrights for readings of their works and a panel discussion of this unique collaboration between art and science. This event is set for Wednesday, March 20, at 6:30 pm at the Carter Presidential Library and Museum.

The Emory event “Become an Archaeologist” returns on Thursday, March 21 from 6 to 8 pm. This year the faculty and students involved are taking their bones off campus, to Brownwood Park in East Atlanta Village. The Emory experts will teach community members how to extract DNA and put pieces of ancient objects back together like a puzzle. “It’s a great example of the festival taking events that we know are popular and setting them in other parts of the city so that we can continue to reach new audiences and connect in different ways,” Salaita says. “Our goal is to keep broadening access to our programming.”

Two perennial festival favorites — Chemistry Carnival and Physics Live! — return this year to the Emory campus on Friday, March 22 from 3:30 to 7 pm. Emory science faculty and students will explain their research, give lab tours, and entertain with games like Peptide Jenga, a chance to play with giant soap bubbles and tastings of liquid nitrogen ice cream. Hundreds of visitors are expected to turn out for the events, held in the Mathematics and Science Center and Atwood Chemistry Center.

Oxford hosts "Ada and the Engine"
A highlight on Emory’s Oxford campus will be performances of the play “Ada and the Engine,” portraying the groundbreaking career of Ada Lovelace — a mathematician, poet and the first computer programmer. During the festival, the play will be performed Friday and Saturday, March 21 and 22, at 7:30 pm. Performances will be followed by talks on the themes of women working in a field dominated by men, and a chance to walk through a multimedia gallery of women in STEM fields from throughout history.

The festival culminates on Saturday, March 23 with the Exploration Expo at Piedmont Park — a day-long, free carnival of science with hundreds of hands-on activities. More than a dozen booths will feature Emory faculty and students, who will engage crowds in activities with names like “Air Pollution Particle Toss,” “Opening a Can of Worms: Exploring Biomaterials and Nanotechnology with Alginate Gummy Worms,” “Smell the World,” and “Can You Guess What Your Brain is Thinking?”

Founded in 2014 by Emory University, Georgia Tech and the Metro Atlanta Chamber, the ASF celebration of local science, technology, engineering and math has brought programming to more than 200,000 people in the metro region, reaching a diverse audience of a wide variety of ages. 

Special funding from sponsors such as Delta, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation and others is helping ASF soar to new heights and extend some of its programming and events year-round. A chief science officer program charges student representatives from middle schools and high school to foster science communities at their schools.

“These chief science officers, who are elected by their student bodies, receive leadership training, meet with state legislators and learn about the role of science and policy,” Salaita says. “We launched the program this year with 22 students and we plan to grow exponentially over the next three years to 200 students.”

Another program piloted this past year by the ASF is a science communication training fellowship for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. “We’ve started with eight students who met monthly to learn about narrative in science communication, data visualization and other communication techniques,” Salaita says. “They will use their new skills to create events for the science festival and give informal talks to the general public.”

Another new component of the ASF is a year-round calendar of STEM-themed activities. “We want people to stay connected to science,” Salaita explains. “Our new events calendar is a guide for family friendly activities in the metro Atlanta area when the festival’s not happening.”

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