UC San Diego News Center


San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering Presents Countywide Events March 17-24

Interactive demonstrations and exciting speakers, ranging from skateboard legend Tony Hawk to icon of engineering Irwin Jacobs, get students excited about science and engineering

Science festival

“It’s never too late to fall in love with science and engineering,” says Steve Briggs, a plant biologist and faculty member at the University of California, San Diego, who started out as an English major until a botany class convinced him to switch his focus. Briggs is also chief scientist for the San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering, the largest celebration of innovation and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education in Southern California. Organized by UC San Diego, the festival offers free countywide events March 17 to 24, plus free bus transportation and comprehensive teacher resources.

On Sat., March 24, science and engineering take over PETCO Park for EXPO DAY, which is expected to draw more than 20,000 kids of all ages and their families to interact with hundreds of activities, enjoy shows and talk to scientists and engineers. Briggs adds, “That’s how most scientists get started—by getting exposed to hands-on research as students.”


Life Technologies Foundation is the lead sponsor of the San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering (formerly known as the San Diego Science Festival).  Because there is a nationwide shortage of college graduates entering science, technology, engineering and math careers, the festival’s mission is to inspire San Diego’s youth to get involved in these rewarding fields. Through interactive demonstrations, hands-on activities and engaging speakers, the festival shows students of all backgrounds that they have the potential to become tomorrow’s leading innovators.

“The technology and science that Life Technologies is focused on requires a very innovative and curious mind,” said Katie Carlstrom, science education manager at the San Diego-based biotech and a graduate of UC San Diego. “That, combined with the scholastics of science, is how we continue to come up with new breakthroughs in the scientific community. It is important to foster that curiosity outside of the school environment. This is what drives Life Technologies to become a partner in events that further education like the San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering.”

Now in its fourth year, the weeklong community celebration of science and engineering features nearly 40 events across the county, culminating in the all-day finale event, EXPO DAY, which will include 140 organizations presenting hands-on activities, 50 “Ask Me” scientists and engineers that students will be able to interview, plus 16 stage performances ranging from Sid the Science Kid to the DNA Dragon to Space School Musical. Many of the presentations and information booths will feature Spanish speakers. A complete schedule of Festival activities is available at

Steve Rodecker, a biology teacher at Chula Vista High School, is an enthusiastic fan of the San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering. Rodecker’s interest in science stems from his early experience in nature. “As a young person, I spent many summers on a farm in Missouri, where you can’t help but interact with nature. Studying insects on the farm was my great early interest in science.”

Today, Rodecker tries to connect his students with nature to help them understand that science is everywhere. Rodecker runs a weekly science club—ZU2U Club (Zoo to You)—that brings in live animals and experts provided by a local exotic pet store, South Bay Tropicals. After the animal presentations are over, each student picks one in which they would like to become an expert. At the Festival EXPO DAY, students offer a biology-focused presentation of their animal to an audience. “The festival provides a concrete goal for students in the club, which promotes science engagement year-round,” adds Rodecker.


A key to the success of the festival is the comprehensive resources that have been developed for teachers ( And to ensure that students in the region have access to events planned March 17 to 24, including EXPO DAY, free transportation is being provided for organized field trips by a teacher, school liaison or program liaison; on a first-come first-serve basis, as long as funds are available ( This opportunity is open to all San Diego County schools, as well as education and community outreach programs. In addition, in partnership with MTS, low fare ticket prices of MTS Classroom Day Trip Passes are available to attend festival events—a great opportunity to help the festival go green and an affordable way for more people to go to the events. Transportation for the 2012 festival is being funded by Cal-SOAP, Arts Bus Xpress and the San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering.

The 2012 San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering marks the last year of support from the National Science Foundation—the three-year grant funded seed money to establish and grow the regional San Diego festival, as well as create an alliance to start other festivals throughout the U.S. This year’s sponsors include Life Technologies Foundation, ABC 10/Azteca San Diego 15, San Diego Padres, Time Warner Cable, Cox Media, General Dynamics Information Technology, Gen-Probe Incorporated, Nokia Inc., Qualcomm and U-T San Diego, among other generous supporters.

Private support from the community will be critical to ensure that the San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering remains a free celebration to engage kids in science and engineering, as well as a lasting tradition for the San Diego community. Please help us keep the festival free by making a donation at