Science festival to be Atlanta’s biggest ever

The 10th anniversary edition of Atlanta Science Festival opens March 10 at locations across the metro area and continues through March 25. It will be the largest ever with approximately 150 events, according to Meisa Salaita, co-founder and executive co-director of Science ATL—the engineers of the Atlanta Science Festival.

At a preview event Feb. 21 at First Christian Church of Decatur, invitees were given a taste of what attendees to the two-week festival can expect. A live version of ALEX, the festival’s space-suited mascot, was on hand for photos as visitors learned about snakes of the world with live ones on display, and about the lives and habits of yellow jackets from the school that adopted it as a its mascot—Georgia Tech.

Also presented by Georgia Tech was a space exhibit that allowed attendees to hold the world in their hands in the form of a geologically correct model of the Earth with a special viewer that allowed visitors to see though to its core. Alongside it were miniatures of Mars and the moon, also created to be accurate in every structural detail.

As with the actual festival, there were hands-on exhibits. At a polymer experiment table presented by the Emory University Student Affiliate of the American Chemical Society, visitors—including some as young as kindergarten age—were invited to make “gluep” from glue, borax and water.

Georgia Tech and Emory University along with WABE are sponsors of both the festival and Science ATL. Delta Air Lines is the presenting sponsor of this year’s festival.

Science is broadly defined for the festival, which will explore a wide range of topics, including astronomy, artificial intelligence, chemistry, climate science, microbes, neuroscience, and robotics. “We are honored that this festival offers so much opportunity to showcase underrepresented voices in science,” Salaita said, adding, “With the many advances in technology, science has taken on an even more vital role in today’s world, and we are proud to have the chance to brag that Atlanta really is a science city.”

Salaita said she and the other festival officials are excited that the annual event continues to grow. “We really don’t have to look for exhibitors. They come to us. Everybody from private companies to universities to government entities wants to be part of this. Occasionally, however, we hear about something and say, ‘We’ve got to include that in the festival,’” she said.

Among the exhibits organizers invited to this year’s festival is one displaying what is touted as “the world fastest aircraft,” which is being built in Atlanta. Builder of the craft, Hermeus, an aircraft development company, will host a tour and a panel discussion on manufacturing, avionics, and hypersonics.

Other highlights of this year’s festival include Destination Science during which three women scientists talk about their explorations in Australia, Africa, and the Arctic Circle, and Come Closer: Carnivorous Plants, which includes a “feed the fly traps” station “for onlookers to see the plants gobble up their meals.”

The 2020 festival was forced to shut down early as the COVID-19 pandemic struck as it was going on. Modified versions returned in 2021 and 2022, but at least one modification was such a success that it was adopted for future festival, according to Salaita. “We did more outdoor events because of the pandemic, but we decided we liked going outside and plan more of them for this year,” she said, adding that very few will be virtual, as many were during 2021.

Salaita, who has been with the festival since its inception, recalled the inspiration that started it all. “We wanted to expand science learning access to all in metro Atlanta. It continues to be a privilege to watch the local science community grow alongside the Atlanta Science Festival, and now we anticipate another amazing year,” she said. According to festival officials, Atlanta Science festival is one of the largest events of its kind in the nation.

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