UW Today

May 29, 2012

UW people, programs to shine at Seattle Science Festival

News and Information

The UW's Burke Museum will host a booth at Science Expo Day at Science Center and will host behind-the-scenes events during the Seattle Science Festival.

The UW’s Burke Museum will host a booth at Science Expo Day at Science Center and will host behind-the-scenes events during the Seattle Science Festival.Andrew Waits

What’s it like to build a solar race car, measure an ocean wave or drive a Mars rover? How do our genes determine our traits? How will astronomers find new Earthlike planets? And oh yeah — how exactly do antacids work?

The answers, and more, will be revealed at Science Expo Day, a free, daylong, family-friendly celebration of science June 2 at Seattle Center. Lots of University of Washington programs and people will be featured among about 150 interactive experiments, games, exhibits and performances.

It’s all part of the Seattle Science Festival, happening at various locations through June and into July — with much UW involvement — and including Science Festival Week June 3-10.

Children visiting Science Expo Day June 2 will get to build and race model solar cars such as this with the Center for Materials and Devices for Information Technology Research.

Children visiting Science Expo Day June 2 will get to build and race model solar cars such as this with the Center for Materials and Devices for Information Technology Research.Center for Materials and Devices for Information Technology Research

Also, the five-lecture Science Luminaries series will feature UW computer science Professor Yoshi Kohno discussing cyber security. He’s in excellent company, as other lecturers include theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, paleontologist Jack Horner and former astronauts Bonnie Dunbar and George “Pinky” Nelson.

This first-ever science festival roughly coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Seattle World’s Fair and the Pacific Science Center (which was called the United States Science Pavilion for the fair). It’s all about making science accessible and fun.

Bryce Seidl, chief executive officer of the Science Center — which is the festival’s main organizing agency — said that too often, young people perceive science, technology and engineering as “overly difficult, dry and devoid of creativity.

“It’s difficult to imagine a more compelling force for reversing student disinterest in these fields than face-to-face interaction with dynamic, engaging, interested practitioners of these fields from all walks of life, backgrounds and education.”

Science Expo Day’s 130-some exhibitors will include a host of UW-related booths. Here are just a few:

  • Animations and a computer game on the science and art of protein folding, from biochemistry and computer science and engineering.
  • A demonstration of guiding a remote-controlled robot to view discoveries made on Mars, from the department of Earth and space sciences and the Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium.
  • A hands-on experiment on how crushing pills — Tums, in this case — can affect how they work, from the School of Pharmacy.
  • An exhibit showing how genes affect traits, and the making of a “genetic traits tree” showing traits common among participants.
  • Hands-on activities showing how scientists can learn what planets’ atmospheres are made of from afar, and how extrasolar Earthlike planets might be found.
  • A Facebook-based interactive game about restoring wetlands from UW Bothell.
  • An exhibit on how ocean waves are measured and the significance of the data. Also, taste the ocean and learn if your tongue is a good salinometer. Both from the Applied Physics Laboratory.
  • Conservation Remix, a daylong event June 2 at Town Hall is meant to appeal to a mix of students, scientists and other citizens of Puget Sound and is organized by UW’s Conservation Magazine and biology department.

The month-plus festival includes a number of UW-related events. Here’s a brief look (learn more on the festival’s online calendar).

  • Lectures about Venus by UW astronomy professors in 120 Kane Hall on June 4, a day before that planet “transits” the sun. Woody Sullivan will discuss “Transits of Venus and the Quest for the Scale of the Universe” and Victoria Meadows will talk about “Venus: Our Modern Day Understanding of the Earth’s Twisted Sister.”
  • Kohno will join national security expert Deborah Gracio and Pablos Holman, hacker and security expert, for “Hackers,” a discussion of identity theft, viruses, worms and other cyber-perils June 9 at Town Hall.
  • Visit the UW, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and other research institutions in the South Lake Union Science Trek for elementary and middle school students on June 8.
  • Behind the Scenes at the Burke Museum: Tour the museum’s various collections in a number of different tours June 3-7.
  • Kids can build and race their own solar cars, and all can learn how chemistry and engineering research is making it possible to make solar cells from inexpensive plastic, for future use on buildings, windows and even clothing.
  • Student RND, a Bellevue based-nonprofit dedicated to inspiring students to study science and headed by UW computer science undergraduate Edward Jiang will hold free classes on 3D printing, laser cutting and more June 4-9.

The UW is one of many area cultural, educational, research and business agencies collaborating to make the Seattle Science Festival a reality.

The festival may not exactly blind your family with science, as the song goes — but it might open their eyes a little.