The Virginia Tech Science Festival returns to campus for its sixth year on Nov. 16 with more than 100 free hands-on, minds-on learning interactive booths and activities that showcase dozens of science education and research programs throughout the university. Appearing for the day will be Virginia Tech alumna Camille Schrier who was crowned 2019 Miss Virginia.

The Science Festival will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Moss Arts CenterCarol M. Newman LibraryTorgersen Hall, and along Alumni Mall. At 4:30 p.m. in the Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre in the Moss Arts Center, the Virginia Tech Center for Communicating Science will once again host the Nutshell Games, a science-based talks event for a public audience. Schrier, who earned dual degrees in systems biology in the College of Science and biochemistry in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, will also appear at this event, carrying out a science demonstration making a cloud using liquid nitrogen and hot water.

All events are free and open to the public. Parking on campus also will be free during all event hours at Virginia Tech’s North End Center parking deck and other campus locations. 

“This Science Festival is set to be the biggest one yet,” said Phyllis Newbill, festival chair and outreach and engagement coordinator with Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT). “We are excited to welcome field trips from schools in Franklin, Henry, Giles, Wise, Halifax, Dickenson, Madison, and Buchanan counties, as well as Radford and Chesapeake. We love that it’s become a destination.”

At the 2018 Virginia Tech Science Festival at Moss Arts Center, a young girl handles an experiment involving the measuring of voltage in fruit.

A young girl at the 2018 Virginia Tech Science Festival handles an experiment involving the measuring of voltage in fruit
At the 2018 Virginia Tech Science Festival at Moss Arts Center, a young girl handles an experiment involving the measuring of voltage in fruit.

Last year, more than 4,000 people attended the event, which includes STEM-focused booths such as building an earth wall, wildlife conservation efforts, various robotics labs, virtual reality, ancient fossils from the Virginia Tech Paleontology Research Group, rockets, volcano demonstrations, and a teddy bear clinic and an EXO-Skeleton, both provided by Carilion.

Schrier will host a booth and carry out a science demonstration during the festival at 10:30 a.m. on the Moss Arts Center lawn. During her year-long reign as Miss Virginia, Schrier has raised awareness of drug safety and abuse prevention and has promoted science, technology, engineering, and math education and careers in schools throughout the state, with a focus on attracting girls to the path. Schrier, who is enrolled in the doctorate program at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Pharmacy, will compete in the 93rd Miss America competition on Dec. 19, 2019, in Montville, Connecticut.

“I’ve loved science since I was a little girl,” she said to introduce her Miss Virginia competition demonstration. She ended: “Keep an eye out, because science really is all around us!”

Festival organizers again are providing transportation to numerous school groups from across the state, giving them the same chance to enjoy the event as local families. The festival also will again host exhibits that are autism-friendly in coordination with the Virginia Tech Center for Autism Research, an effort with the center’s SAFE: Supporting Autism Friendly Environments program, an effort headed by Amy Azano, an associate professor in the School of Education in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

At the fourth annual Nutshell Games, starting at 4:30 p.m., 30 Virginia Tech graduate students will each have 90 seconds to present their research to the audience at this friendly science communication competition. Three winners, determined by a panel of judges to have been the most engaging and to have communicated their research the most clearly, will each receive a $500 prize. All of the contestants will receive a professional quality video recording of their talk — and the opportunity to share their research.

Nutshell Games presenters this year include graduate students from a wide variety of research fields, including human development, biomedical engineering, plant and environmental sciences, industrial and systems engineering, geosciences, biology, electrical engineering, psychology, nutrition, food science, and technology, and many more.

With an emphasis on communicating to a public audience, the Nutshell Games will be judged by a panel of eight people from both on and off campus. The judges are:

  • Karen DePauw, dean of graduate education, Virginia Tech
  • Reiss Gidner, Virginia Tech theatre arts and animal and poultry sciences double major
  • Kwame Harrison, associate professor, sociology, Virginia Tech
  • Steve Hulburt, Virginia Tech alumnus and science educator
  • Sarah McAnulty, Skype a Scientist founder and squid researcher
  • Odessa Mayalorca, seventh grader, Blacksburg Middle School
  • Molly Morris, seventh grader, Eastern Elementary Middle School
  • Bob Whiton, Virginia Tech chemistry alumnus

Nutshell Games presentations have been called “very uplifting,” “interesting and inspiring,” and “truly a sight to see!”

 Follow the Virginia Tech Science Festival on social media at Facebook and Twitter and the Nutshell Games on the Center for Communicating Science Twitter. Plan to go and take pictures? Use #VTSciFest and #NutshellGames to share your images with us on these platforms and Instagram.