Full STEAM ahead

Dayton Regional Science Festival proves science isn’t scary

By Josher Lumpkin

Photo: Dayton Regional Science Festival is this weekend at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery and other locations; photo: Kristy Creel, courtesy of Boonshoft Museum

Close your eyes and imagine a world where children are encouraged to learn about science, instead of being chastised for participating in it. In this world, there are no “dorks,” “geeks” or “dweebs,” but a population of future doctors, engineers, manufacturers and geniuses with the education, brainpower and motivation to dream up the next amazing invention, to solve the environmental problems of our era or even just think of a faster way to solve “2 + 2.”

This is the world the people behind the 2014 Dayton Regional Science Festival hope to achieve. The event, which will take place this weekend at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, bills itself as a “four-day celebration of all things STEM.” To the uninitiated, STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Mastery in one of these fields by a Daytonian will surely bring fame and glory to the Gem City.

“The Boonshoft Museum is kind of a hub for STEM education,” said Dona Vella, Vice President of Development and External Relations for the Dayton Society of Natural History, which includes the Boonshoft Museum. “We were STEM before anybody was using the word ‘STEM.’”

But Vella reminds us there is another important component that must not be forgotten when it comes to STEM education. “There’s also ‘STEAM’ – there’s art inside this movement.”

Vella and others behind Dayton Regional Science Festival, if nothing else, want to show young people that science, technology, engineering, art and math are a part of just about everything they will encounter once they enter the adult world.

“If you’re a stylist at a salon, you need science and math to mix the dyes for people’s hair and do their nails,” Vella said. “When we were young, everybody would tell us that it was important for us to know algebra. And we all thought, ‘Well, why?’ It really is, because math is used all day long, from cooking to sewing to drawing.”

The idea is to show kids they don’t have to be afraid of science. And the organizers have definitely put some events together that will have the desired effect. Over the weekend, kids can take part in workshops, such as The Physics of Flight, which will take the mystery away from airplanes and the seemingly magical way they defy gravity.

In an attempt to demonstrate the size of teensy-weensy particles, which can be as small as two billionths of a meter in diameter, Quantum Dots – How to Control Light with Particles That You Can’t Even See! will explain nanotechnology to parents and their munchkins.

Care to learn about local scientists, innovators, doctors and other STEAM trailblazers? If so, the Historic Tour of Woodland Cemetery is for you. This tour (which takes place during daylight hours) includes visits to gravesites of well-known Daytonians, as well as those of others who may have slipped under your radar. “It’s so beautiful,” Vella said of Woodland Cemetery. “It’s one of those things that people don’t think about that we have right in the heart of our city and it’s very special.”

For children, there will also be an exhibition about STEAM careers. Some of the best employers in the Miami Valley will be there to talk to kids about just what they can expect should they, as adults, work for them and how they can get the education they will need if they want to be on their payrolls.

“We have partners from all over the community, from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to the School of Advertising Art to Sinclair [Community College], to shine the light on different opportunities that kids can think about for their future,” Vella said. “We’ll have Tinkertech, which is a mobile unit that has a 3D printer on it and a CAB machine, so kids will be able to take a look and maybe walk away with something they’ve produced. There’s just so many avenues and opportunities for a child’s future in STEM and STEAM education.”

Finally, if you don’t have any children of your own, but still have a passion for science, technology and art, you don’t have to feel left out of the awesome event. Boonshoft truly thought of everyone when they created Dayton Regional Science Festival.

Chemistry + Cocktails is a three-hour, adults-only event, which will take place on Friday night. This “spirited” display of scientific discovery will feature explosions, drinks and other interested adults who, like you, probably also “like” “I F***ing Love Science” on Facebook.

“That’s gonna be a lot of fun,” Vella said, “and, again, it’s showing that science is fun, accessible, not frightening … plus you add to cocktails to it … ”

Mystery Science Theater 3000/Rifftrax fans take note: “We’ll have four, 15-minute campy science movies that we’re going to play in our Planetarium, with the commentary over it, of course. You can have a lot of fun with science and that’s what we do with Chemistry + Cocktails.”

Dayton Regional Science Festival will take place Thursday, Oct. 23 to Sunday, Oct. 26 at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, 2600 DeWeese Parkway, and at other locations. Admission for workshops at held at the museum is $13 for adults and $10 for children. Chemistry + Cocktails will take place on Friday, Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. at Boonshoft and costs $25 in advance, $45 at the door. For more information about the events, please call 937.275.7431, ext. 136 or visit daytonsciencefestival.org.

Reach DCP freelance writer Josher Lumpkin at josherlumpkin@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Josher Lumpkin is a nursing student and aspiring historian who enjoys writing about music and geekdom of all kinds. He is especially fond of punk rock, tabletop gaming, sci-fi/fantasy and camping with his wife, Jenner, and their dogs, Katie and Sophie. Reach him at JosherLumpkin@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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