Back in 2009, a group of North Carolina leaders got to work on realizing a self-proclaimed “audacious goal”: to organize the nation’s first statewide science festival. They envisioned a series of events that promoted science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), held in every corner of the state over a 16-day period. The fruit of their labor was the 2010 North Carolina Science Festival. And there were some stunning numbers to report: over 400 events, over 75 program partners, and nearly 86,000 in total attendance.
So when the time came to hold the second Science Festival in April 2012, the bar was already set pretty high. You may think these numbers would be hard to beat, and yet by ever measure this year’s festival was a gigantic leap forward. During another 16-day run ending on April 29, there were 566 events that took place, with total attendance clocking in at over 233,000. That’s a 172% increase from the first Science Festival! Add in an increase to 273 program partners, and the results are clear: North Carolinians are becoming more and more engaged with science.
The types of events that took place this year run the gamut – from sought-after speakers such as astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson to hands-on Science Expos hosted by various universities to the grand opening of the Nature Research Center in Downtown Raleigh.
The opportunities for young minds and future scientists to get some hands-on learning were plentiful. Program partners truly excelled at finding thrilling ways to make science and technology come to life. K-12 students got to race go-carts, tour airplanes, look through microscopes, meet astronauts, play music, shoot rockets, practice treating patients, and even see a few explosions. This year also saw the introduction of the NC Science Festival’s mascot, Kelvin the Robot.
Pulling together the 2012 festival took a tremendous amount of coordination. Production was spearheaded by the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center at UNC, founders of the NC Science Festival. Discovery Place took on much of the work organizing events in Charlotte.
RTP companies got involved too, with financial support provided by the Biogen Idec Foundation, the NC GlaxoSmithKline Foundation, and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. Here at RTP Headquarters we were also proud to host several events, including the NASA Destination Station, a Water Reuse lunch-and-learn, and our Earth Day Celebration.
Clearly the North Carolina Science Festival is already having a huge impact, even after only two installments. With preparations now getting started for the 2013 Festival, the sky’s the limit for next year! After all, with science there’s always more to discover and more people to get involved. So save the date now: April 5-21, 2013. For more of the wrap-up, check out the video below, and see Science Festival photos here.