Festival draws half a million fans of science and engineering

Charli Dvoracek shows off some nanoparticles at the USA Science & Engineering Festival. (Photo: Mary Spiro)

The scene was a sea of white tents spread across the National Mall in Washington, DC and science and engineering were the order of the day. That’s what greeted visitors to the booth hosted by Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology at the first USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo, held October 23-24.

An estimated 500,000 people attended the two-day event, which featured 550 participating organizations and 1,500 hands-on activities. Those who stopped by INBT’s “Nano-Magic” booth learned about how atoms, molecules and materials have ways of building structures all by themselves.

Twelve graduate students affiliated with INBT training programs and a handful of friends of the Institute volunteered to help visitors understand the science. In addition, several of the research and news videos created by INBT’s Animation Studio were on display throughout the day.

An estimated 500 to 600 people came to the INBT booth and spent from 5 to 20 minutes discussing nanotechnology, Johns Hopkins research, and INBT’s training programs. This first-ever event was a major outreach opportunity for INBT and one of the first times the Institute has had a public display of this kind.

Tania Chan working with youngsters at the USASEF. (Photo: Mary Spiro)“Outreach serves an important purpose,” said Denis Wirtz, INBT’s associate director and professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering who came out Saturday to assist with the demonstration. “It showcases the interdisciplinary nature of INBT’s work to a broad audience. But it also gives the students an opportunity to explain their research in an accessible way. These outreach activities are a requirement of their training program grants, but this skill will also help them in their future careers when explaining their work to funding sources.”

USA Science and Engineering Festival organizers have not announced whether or not they will host another event like this one next year. INBT leaders indicate, however, that they will be interested in participating in this or similar events in the future.

Six exhibitors from Johns Hopkins presented at the USA Science and Engineering Festival. Along with INBT, they included representatives from the Institute for Data Intensive Engineering and Science and the department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from the Whiting School of Engineering and the undergraduate program in neuroscience, the department of Physics and Astronomy, and the Institute for Biophysical Research from the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.

USA Science and Engineering Festival Website

Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology

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