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D.C.-Area Students Enjoy Science Festival

Posted on Thursday, July 21, 2011

Igniting a passion for science and engineering in middle and high school students, the USA Science & Engineering Festival celebrated science in the nation’s capital, Virginia and Maryland in October 2010. Among the participants was Mary L. Snitch, National president of ARCS® Foundation and employee of Lockheed Martin Corporation. 

The USA Science & Engineering Festival sent more than 50 top scientists into local middle and high schools for two weeks in October. 

Two weeks of free science activities included brown bag lunches for high school students with Nobel Laureates, science open houses, events such as the science of wine and chocolate, a Kavli Science Video Contest, a Jingle Contest, a You CAN Do the Rubik’s Cube contest, and a Sustainable Dreamhouse contest. A two-day Science Expo on the National Mall featured more than 400 science and engineering organizations, and most of science’s best and brightest.

ARCS Foundation Metropolitan Washington Chapter was an official sponsor of the festival. Several of the Chapter’s ARCS Scholars from area universities represented ARCS Foundation. Marcin Balicki and Stephanie Fraley from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland; Brenton Duffy, Yi Jin, Jessica Stolee and Bennett Walker from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.; and Eric Patterson, Ilana Goldberg and Monique Koppel from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. presented visitors with their educational and science hands-on demonstrations.

As part of the USA Science & Engineering Festival, 50 speakers (The Nifty Fifty) were selected from Lockheed Martin to speak at high schools in the Washington, D.C., area.  the speakers were carefully chosen from hundreds of applicants for their differing fields, talents, divergent backgrounds and ages, and ability to convey the importance of science to our nation’s future. Mary Snitch’s presentation and remarks to a local high school included these points:

  • Her exciting career in science and engineering as a social scientist
  • Surprising and important career opportunities in the aerospace industry
  • “Lighting the Fire” for NextGen scientists and engineering
  • Commitment to make a difference in “Advancing Science in America”

Supported by festival host Lockheed Martin and sponsor Life Technologies Foundation, the Nifty Fifty included a broad spectrum of scientists and engineers, along with high-tech entrepreneurs and financiers, policymakers, actors, journalists, educators, researchers, explorers, video game developers, spies, alien hunters, astronauts and brain surgeons. These are a few of their subjects:

  • How bionic body parts and the Guitar Hero video game can save lives. Robert Armiger of Johns Hopkins University talked about the use of bionic body parts in helping rebuild the lives of veterans injured on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • The physics of NASCAR. Diandra Leslie Pelecki of the University of Texas at Dallas answer questions such as What’s it like to drive a couple of hundred miles per hour?
  • Do bacteria really talk to each other? What do they say? Why is communication so vital? Bonnie Bassler of Princeton University tackled the importance of communication at the most basic level.
  • The Invention of the Big Bang Machine, how atoms are smashed, the workings of particle physics and the birth of the universe. Herman B. White of Fermi National Accelerator Lab took on these topics.
  • How a migrant worker became a top brain surgeon. Alfredo Quinones Hinojosa of Johns Hopkins discussed his journey and his work removing the most complicated and life-threatening tumors.
  • The chemistry of Thanksgiving dinner. Connecting chemistry to her students’ own experiences has helped Diane Bunce of Catholic University engage and excite her students about the field of chemistry.
  • The physics of superheroes. James Kaklios of the University of Minnesota talked about creating unique characters for movies such as The Watchmen and others.

The second USA Science & Engineering Festival will continue inspiring up-and-coming scientists and engineers with school programs and nationwide contests throughout the 2011–2012 school year. The culmination will be an expo in Washington, D.C., on April 27–29, 2012. To learn more about the USA Science & Engineering Festival, visit