Learn about polar bears and penguins. Drive a robot through an obstacle course using only what’s seen through the bots camera. Center a two-foot tusk on your forehead and imagine youre a narwhal exploring your icy-ocean home. Use a laser to see how scientists measure glaciers slip sliding down mountain sides.
Grab the kids and head for Polar Science Weekend, March 1 to 4, at Pacific Science Center for these activities and more. Sponsored by the University of Washingtons Applied Physics Laboratory and the science center, fifteen of this year’s 40 exhibits are new.
Live presentations will include the popular “Extreme Cold” with liquid nitrogen as a prop.
Led by researchers at APL’s Polar Science Center, the event also includes scientists and students from units across campus, including oceanography and atmospheric sciences, as well as polar experts from organizations such as the US Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“Scientists always enjoy talking about their research, but at Polar Science Weekend they have to distill the essence of it into a short, easy-to-understand, engaging message that’s still accurate,” said Harry Stern, senior mathematician with the Applied Physics Laboratory and lead organizer of the event. “It’s a fun challenge. Also, it’s very gratifying to see the interest that the visitors take in the scientists’ work. People really do want to know how scientists do science and what they’re finding.”
Pacific Science Center lends a hand by offering scientists designing new exhibits a science-communications short course. Prior to this year’s event, 15 scientists and graduate students learned how to design and present engaging hands-on activities to illustrate their research.
Hours for the event March 1 and 2 are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and those are the days when 1,600 public school students, mainly from middle schools, will attend. In this time of cutbacks in school activities such as field trips, the Applied Physics Laboratory has NASA funding to provide free admission and transportation for 1,000 of the students, Stern said.
Hours March 3 and 4 will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Being launched Monday, in time for Polar Science Weekend and continuing for three months, the Pacific Science Center’s “Portal to Current Research” will feature “Investigating Arctic Ice Melt” based on the work of Applied Physics Laboratory researchers Axel Schweiger, Bonnie Light and Ignatius Rigor. The portal is in Building 2.
This is the seventh annual Polar Science Weekend led by UW, the first was in 2006.
That first event has led not only to an ongoing relationship between the Applied Physics Laboratory and Pacific Science Center, but to the development of an idea for a “portal to the public” effort at the center, said Dennis Schatz, senior vice president for strategic programs at Pacific Science Center. “It’s become part of our strategic plans. It [Polar Science Weekend] really was the kick off to a major program.”