FSU hosts annual Science on State Street Festival

[Julia Sarcinelli]

Framingham State University’s Christa McAuliffe Center held its third annual Science on State Street Festival on Friday, April 21 from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m.

The event is typically held outside, but due to inclement weather, the event took place indoors. The festival was held in both O’Connor Hall and the Christa McAuliffe Center.

General admission to the festival was free and open to all ages. Tickets were also distributed so families could attend planetarium shows, that occurred periodically throughout the day.

The event featured presenters from a wide variety of backgrounds, including FSU students and faculty, invited scientists and representatives from other organizations such as Big Brother Big Sister.

Irene Porro, director of the McAuliffe Center, said, “We have a really good mix of FSU students and outside presenters for the event. I think it’s important for people to realize that while this event is held at FSU, it’s about bringing us all together as a community.”

Porro said that there were just over 500 people who attended the event.

“We’ve always held the event on a Saturday in the past, so we weren’t sure how that would affect the turnout. Thankfully, we were in line with previous years. I think this was partially because many grade school students were on spring break.”

Along with free admission, those in attendance were encouraged to take a pin upon entrance. These pins were used to both track attendance and help spread word about the event. T-shirts and calendars were also distributed at the festival.

Porro said a grant from MathWorks made the distribution of those items possible. “They gave us the money, because they believe in supporting the community. … Their core values lined up with ours.

“The contribution made a huge difference, but what was really important was the fact that they recognized that this event was for the community’s benefit,” she added.

Porro said the original date changed in part because it conflicted with The March for Science Boston, which many faculty members attended.

However, Porro said changing the day to a Friday allowed for new initiatives to be added. For the first time in the festival’s history, the McAuliffe Center was opened early to the children of FSU faculty and staff.

Porro said the center ran a morning space mission simulation as well as a planetarium show and a storytelling from space event. The activities were geared to attract all age groups.

The storytelling from space event utilized recordings of astronauts reading books from space. An accompanying volunteer also read along to the children in attendance. The morning activities ran until 11 a.m.

The festival itself featured a wide array of presenters. Some of the displays also included hands-on activities. The event featured both new and returning presenters.

There were a total of 23 displays at the festival. Of them, 10 were staffed by FSU students, six were operated by FSU faculty members and seven featured presenters from outside the FSU community.

Among the returning presenters was Dwayne Bell, a chemistry professor at FSU. For the third year in a row, Bell conducted his “Build a Battery” experiment.

In response to his demonstration, one elementary school student said, “I’ve never seen anything like it, but it was really cool to see.”

Another added, “I thought the experiment was awesome.”

John Lancaster, a parent in the audience, said, “It’s great that they offer so many hands-on presentations here. I think it’s a great way to get children and adults to think about science in new and creative ways.”

A new addition to the presenter line up was biology professor Andrea Kozol, who showed off a collection of creatures in her displays. The exhibit featured insects, spiders, millipedes and other insects.

Kozol even allowed students to hold a praying mantis she brought, provided they were comfortable doing so.

Sarah Clark, a parent in attendance, said, “I’m fine looking at them in their cage, but that’s about it.”

Sophomore Ben Whitney said, “I think it’s awesome that this event includes all members of the community. The displays are pretty neat, too.”

Devon Klos, a sophomore, said, “The hands-on activities really help to draw in new guests. It shows them science can be fun while being informative.”

In her presentation MySTEM, Jessica Hagget of Big Brother Big Sister MetroWest encouraged elementary students in attendance to draw a picture of what science means to them. They collected pieces were then displayed on a mural which showcased the work.

A related exhibit was the STEM in early childhood presentation by Valerie Hytholt, of FSU’s Center for Early Childhood Education. Her initiative focused on having students become active participants in STEM activities from an early age.

FSU’s Chemistry Club’s presentation, which demonstrated their experimental display – frozen flowers and pH indicators – drew a large crowd.

They started off by having those in attendance feel two objects – one a latex glove and the other, a fresh rose. After the audience noted that nothing had been tampered with and the objects both felt right, the chemistry students dunked them in liquid nitrogen. After a few seconds, they withdrew the glove and rose and shattered them with ease.

Scott Redman, a parent in attendance, said, “I think these events are just as entertaining for us parents as they are for the kids. … The students clearly put in a lot of work to bring these projects together.”

Porro said, “The festival is an opportunity for us to showcase the talented students we have at FSU.”

Other FSU clubs represented in the festival were the Dental, Wildlife, Food and Nutrition and Engineering.

The Engineering Club displayed their makeshift filtration device to the audience. The device, which cost less than $20 to make, turned unsanitary water into drinkable water.

President of the Engineering Club Cameron Danwah said, “All in all, I think the event went really well. It would have been nice to see more administration members or deans in attendance, though.

“It was great to get this kind of exposure, though, and it was good to see that people enjoyed our presentation,” he added.

Porro said, “The planetarium shows are always our biggest attractions. As such, we’ve decided to add as many shows as we could this year.”

Jackie Salvas, a junior said, “The planetarium shows are a great experience. I would recommend everyone seeing one at some time, if they haven’t already.”

Sophomore Morgan Rose said, “There was so much to see. It was fun just walking around and seeing the projects that took a lot of work to complete.”

Porro said, “I hope this festival shows how science affects every aspect of our lives, and how important it is for us to support science education.”

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