ATLANTA - April 6, 2014 - More than 30,000 people were “blinded by science” during the inaugural Atlanta Science Festival, an eight-day celebration of science and technology filled with more than 100 events across 50 locations in metro Atlanta. The Festival’s flagship event, The Exploration Expo on March 29, drew more than 16,000 of Atlanta’s most scientifically curious residents.
“When we opened the doors at the Expo on Saturday and the people flooded in, I cried,” said Meisa Salaita, Ph.D., festival co-founder and the director of education, outreach and diversity for the NSF/NASA Center for Chemical Evolution. “While I knew Atlanta was ready for something like this, I honestly wasn’t expecting the level of hunger people had for science in this region.”
Many of the events during the course of the Festival were packed with people excited about science. Most notably, 200 people filled the house at Shakespeare Tavern for “The Story Collider”; 650 showed up at Fernbank Science Center's Nano Day; more than 1,000 visited the high school student-led Kell Robotics Innovation Center in Kennesaw; and 200-plus people joined Georgia State University Geoscience faculty and students at Stone Mountain Park for guided hikes and geocaching hunts.
“We pulled together an amazing group of partners who were so dedicated to creating wonderful programs for this Festival. The planners, sponsors, volunteers, and event hosts all worked together to put on an awe-inspiring week celebrating science. I truly believe this will change the fabric of our city, creating a greater love and appreciation for science and inspiring the youth in Atlanta to pursue science in the future,” said Salaita.
David Hartnett, chair of the 2014 Atlanta Science Festival and vice president of economic development, bioscience and health IT sector at the Metro Atlanta Chamber, echoed that sentiment, “The Festival reached thousands of children in metro Atlanta, helping them realize career possibilities in science and technology. The Festival raised the profile of STEM education and demonstrates that we have a vibrant, future workforce poised for high-quality science and technology jobs, which is a big draw for companies in our region. The support of founding partners Georgia Tech and Emory University, which have nationally-ranked science programs, was instrumental in making all of this happen.”
At The Expo, held inside the Georgia World Congress Center due to inclement weather, visitors raced robot roaches and touched a human brain at the Atlanta Chapter of Society for Neuroscience and the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience exhibit. Other booths had long lines but activities turned out to be worth the wait for visitors who made their own scabs with Silver Scream Spookshow or bouncy balls with Big Thinkers. The Georgia Natural Gas mobile exhibit saw non-stop action as well.
“You could feel the energy at the Expo―literally,” said Maurice Baker, manager, community relations, Georgia Natural Gas. “We participate in quite a few festivals and public outreach events, and the Atlanta Science Festival was at the top. It was truly life in the fast lane, as we showcased our natural gas vehicle and shared the technology behind compressed natural gas to eager children and families. I give the whole team behind the Atlanta Science Festival a ‘high five’ for excitement, organization, innovation and fun.”
Additionally, more than 1,812 students entered a contest during the Expo for a chance to win $400 for their schools to enhance science education in the classroom. The 10 schools and their teachers selected for the awards were:
● Kittredge Magnet School, 4th Grade, Larry Mosley
● Amana Academy, 4th Grade, Angelique Barnett
● Hawthorne Elementary, 5th Grade, Sharon Halpern
● Cleveland Elementary, 3rd Grade, Emily Sparks
● Quail Run Elementary, 1st Grade, Allison Tarrer
● Kipp Strive Academy, 7th Grade, Elizabeth Korthof
● Babb Middle School, 8th Grade, Krystyn Busby
● Renfroe Middle School, 8th Grade, Amber Boglin-Hamilton
● Stockbridge High School, 9th Grade, Josephine Jeganathan
● Forest Park High School, 9th Grade, D'Anna Muhammad
Festival co-founders Jordan Rose, Meisa Salaita and Sarah Peterson were thrilled with the Festivals’ turnout and the awareness it raised about the impact of science and technology in our community. Discussions are already underway for hosting next year’s Festival.
About the Atlanta Science Festival
The first event of its kind in the Metro area, The Atlanta Science Festival is a weeklong celebration of local science and technology that culminates with an all-day interactive Exploration Expo at Centennial Olympic Park. Scientists, experts and educators from local schools, colleges, universities, museums, and corporations will uncover mysteries and explain discoveries in hands-on activities, facility tours, stimulating presentations, and riveting performances at venues across the city. Our mission is to celebrate the inherent integration of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in our lives today, share the impact they have on our community, and inspire us all to wonder about our future. The Festival, which runs March 22-29, is produced by a collaboration of science, cultural, and educational institutions, led by Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology and the Metro Atlanta Chamber. To learn more, visit AtlantaScienceFestival.org or call (770) 322-4992.