At USA Science and Engineering Festival, Mason Shows How Fun and Exciting Science Can Be

Posted: November 9, 2010 at 1:02 am, Last Updated: November 9, 2010 at 8:59 am

By Tara Laskowski

Physics and astronomy professor Harold Geller chats with visitors to the USA Science and Engineering Festival. Photo by Patty Snellings

Robots playing soccer. Galaxies forming. Hurricanes in motion. Animal artifacts. All examples of science at work, and all examples of Mason research.

These projects and more were highlighted as part of Mason’s presentation at the USA Science and Engineering Festival held Oct. 23 and 24 in downtown Washington, D.C.

Attendance was estimated at 500,000 people — mostly young people eager to learn hands-on science.

“The turnout was unbelievable,” says Michael Summers, chair and professor of Mason’s Department of Physics and Astronomy.

“This was an opportunity to show how exciting science is and how fun it can be, and we were able to reach a lot of people.”

Mason faculty members and students from physics and astronomy, geography, climate dynamics, computer science, environmental science and policy and the Krasnow Institute of Advanced Study demonstrated projects ranging from detailed climate simulations to analysis of ocean pollution, all under the theme of “extreme science.”

As a leader in the “citizen science” movement, Mason’s faculty is interested in engaging the general public about science and increasing science literacy.

Recent examples include Mason’s partnerships in projects such as the Galaxy Zoo, which asks the general public to help categorize and model the more than one million galaxies in our universe with a few clicks of the keyboard; and the Science Cheerleader program in which physics professor Jim Trefil joins Philadelphia 76ers cheerleaders to show that science is for everyone.

Write to gazette at gazette@gmu.edu