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Science festival returns to Virginia Tech on Saturday with new focus

October 4, 2016

A young child peers through a microscope at last year's science festival
A budding scientist makes her observations at last year's science festival. This year’s event will have multiple opportunities for scientists of all ages to explore and learn.

This year’s Virginia Tech Science Festival on Oct. 8 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. will feature hands-on experiences, live performances, and interactive demonstrations using science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to inspire wonder in all ages.

The event offers more than 100 exhibits at the Moss Arts Center, Alumni Mall, and Newman Library on the Virginia Tech campus, as well as Henderson Lawn and along College Avenue in downtown Blacksburg. Parking on campus and in downtown will be free  during event hours.

Visitors to the festival will witness:

  • the transformation of a Chevrolet Camaro into a hybrid electric vehicle,
  • the launch of a balloon to the edge of outer space,
  • STEM-based Lego Models,
  • WDBJ7’s First Alert meteorologists,
  • 3-D printing,
  • live animals and more.

The 501st Legion’s Garrison Tyranus Star Wars costuming organization will dispatch a detachment of stormtroopers to patrol the festival.

For the past two years, Virginia Tech has attracted more than 6,000 people to campus as a host site for the Virginia Science Festival, which held STEM-related events across the commonwealth. With no statewide festival planned this year, Virginia Tech's Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology worked with Thanassis Rikakis, the university’s executive vice president and provost, to create a standalone science festival in Blacksburg.

“The Virginia Tech Science Festival will expose youth around the commonwealth to the fun of science,” Rikakis said. “Ideally, the festival will inspire kids to become the next generation of science, technology, engineering, and math innovators.”

Festival organizers hope the event will also encourage students from across the commonwealth to consider pursuing their STEM dreams at Virginia Tech. R. Benjamin Knapp, director of the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology, said, “The festival enables kids of all ages to explore Virginia Tech. The festival will offer a glimpse of discovery and innovation through engaging hands-on exhibits and amazing virtual environments.”

One such virtual environment is the Cube, a lab at Moss Arts Center that uses computers, specialized projectors, speakers, and other technologies to create immersive environments. The Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology is sponsoring a virtual-reality simulation of subatomic physics in the Belle II detector, located at the KEK laboratory in Japan. This work in progress aims to develop a teaching tool to train students in the behavior of elementary particles and their interactions with ordinary matter but will also allow visitors to investigate the subatomic world. It will be shown throughout the day.

Continuing and Professional Education at Virginia Tech – part of Outreach and International Affairs – is assisting with the logistics and planning for the festival, along with the help of more than 300 volunteers from Virginia Tech and the community.

The festival will be the culminating event in what organizers are calling a “Week of Science,” which began last week with a school preview day of the festival’s offerings at the Science Museum of Western Virginia in Roanoke as well as a STEM teacher summit in Blacksburg and the Maker Festival in the National Capital Region.

In addition to Rikakis’s office and the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology, major sponsors for the festival and week of science include WDBJ 7, the Roanoke Times, Carilion Clinic, 4-H, and the Science Museum of Western Virginia.

Written by Dana Cruikshank

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