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Science and Engineering Fans Take Over PETCO Park

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View 2012 San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering Slideshow | Photos by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

“You never know what is going to inspire a kid or what the one thing is that they will remember and lead them to their passion,” said Nate Delson, director of UC San Diego’s Mechanical Engineering Design Center in the Jacobs School of Engineering. From petting a bearded dragon and peering into a telescope at the sun to seeing a robotic skateboard on a half pipe, kids had the opportunity to encounter such inspiring moments at the San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering, which wrapped up its weeklong celebration Saturday at PETCO Park. Organized by UC San Diego, the festival is the largest celebration of innovation in Southern California.

Leading off the week, Delson and fellow engineering professor Raymond de Callafon teamed up with skateboard icon Tony Hawk and skateboard manufacturer Paul Schmitt to present “The Physics of Skateboarding.” Roughly 100 K-12 students watched as Tony Hawk and his Birdhouse skate team demonstrated ollies, kick flips and other tricks while Delson, de Callafon and Schmitt explained the science behind the moves. Students from the Jacobs School of Engineering also got involved by building and presenting a robotic skateboard—a project that offered a scientific challenge for the UC San Diego students and a scientific wonder for the audience.

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Tony Hawk discusses the physics of skateboarding with K-12 students.

“That exploration for information is so powerful,” said Schmitt. “That’s what we’re trying to trigger here.”

Other highlights of the week included “Crime Scene and Traffic Investigation” with the Escondido Police Department, “Chemistry of Food Science Café” featuring author Shirley Corriher and “The Green Learning Adventure” presented by the California Center for Sustainable Energy.

At the festival’s finale event, EXPO DAY at PETCO Park, 27,000 K-12 students and their families turned out to explore a generous sampling of the ways in which science and engineering relate to our everyday lives.  There were more than 140 booths offering science to see, touch and even taste. There were booths exhibiting creatures from the sea, explorations into space and the science and engineering of the human body.

New this year, UC San Diego’s department of bioengineering organized the Home Run Science Challenge, an EXPO DAY activity that challenged students to “run the bases” by learning key science concepts at special booths. To complete the challenge and earn a prize, students had to visit five designated exhibits and verbally answer a question about the activity.

One of these booths was “Cell Adventures: Follow the Cues to the New You” presented by the department of bioengineering. Here students learned about cell differentiation and how bioengineers use this process in regenerative medicine to heal and repair the body.

“The festival is a wonderful opportunity to share with young students that a career in science and engineering is a viable option for them,” said Carolyn Schutt, bioengineering graduate student and one of the organizers of the Home Run Science Challenge.

And that’s really what the weeklong celebration was all about—showing young people that careers focused in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) areas have the potential to transform our world. To learn more about the San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering, or to make a gift to help keep the festival free, visit www.sdsciencefestival.com.

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