Indiana Daily Student

IU’s annual Science Fest fosters curiosity, engagement in science

<p>Graduate student Clarke DeLisle explains a stream table Oct. 9, 2021, at Science Fest outside of Owen Hall. The stream table illustrates how sediment interacts with water along a river stream.</p>

Graduate student Clarke DeLisle explains a stream table Oct. 9, 2021, at Science Fest outside of Owen Hall. The stream table illustrates how sediment interacts with water along a river stream.

Crowds of local families, students and faculty attended IU’s annual Science Fest to experience an array of scientific activities from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday on campus.

Science Fest, organized by the College of Arts and Sciences, included activities hosted by 20 IU departments, event organizer Jo Anne Tracy said. Attendees explored activities ranging from model volcanic eruptions by Maxwell Hall to rocket launches in Dunn Meadow. This year’s Science Fest returned to in-person festivities after last year’s online-only event, Tracy said.

The family-friendly event aims to promote interest in science among local children, Tracy said.

“Science Fest is a celebration of science,” Tracy said. “We want to encourage curiosity and the excitement that goes with science, and give all Hoosiers a chance to experience science in a very hands-on way.”

Tracy said this year’s Science Fest took place outdoors only with social distancing and mask recommendations. Although the number of activities were reduced by about half from previous years, the event was still highly popular, she said.

“With the weather cooperating, this is some of the best attendance I've ever seen,” Tracy said.

The lawn of Swain West, renamed “Physics Field” for Saturday’s event, was filled with attendees participating in physics experiments and demonstrations. Hal Evans, a physics department professor and event organizer, said his department aimed to offer playful scientific activities for children.

“I hope they get out of it an enthusiasm for science,” he said. “That's really what this event is about. It's about having fun. If you learn something that's great, but have some fun.”

Science Fest creates enthusiasm that is important for the future of the scientific field, Evans said.

“It's a pipeline,” he said. “We need new scientists, so getting kids interested from an early age is the way to make sure that we continue to have bright people come into this field and give us good ideas.”

Tracy said Science Fest is also an opportunity to highlight research at IU and share scientific knowledge with the public.

“Scientists create new knowledge, and we have an obligation to share this with the public — the public’s paying for it,” she said. “So this is one of the ways that we not just fulfill that obligation of sharing knowledge, but also the joy of discovery and everything that goes with that.” 

Jen Stafford and her nine-year-old daughter Lucy were two attendees who said they benefited from the curiosity fostered at Science Fest. 

Jen Stafford said she takes Lucy, an aspiring marine biologist, to Science Fest every year. 

“It just opens her mind to all the different possibilities of what she can do with her life,” Jen Stafford said.

Lucy Stafford said her favorite part of the event, besides playing with a tortoise from the biology department, was seeing women scientists.

“It makes me feel happy that there are role models for people like me,” Lucy Stafford said.

Lucy Stafford said she likes Science Fest because she enjoys learning about science. 

“I really like it,” Lucy Stafford said. “I love science. I like how science is fun to learn and it’s awesome to help the world. I hope a lot of other kids get to learn about science too.”

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