This Science Isn’t Fiction: How the Largest Science Festival in the US Comes Together

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Almost everyone has participated in a science fair competition at least once.

You remember the routine. Choose a riveting subject, keep it top secret so no one steals your idea, make tons of last minute tweaks the night before and, finally, wow the crowd with your genius.

If you take all of the hard work and pressure it took to make your elementary school science project a success and magnify it times 1,000, you would get close to what it takes to put together one of the largest science fairs in the world, the USA Science & Engineering Festival.

Along with being a founding and presenting host of the 4th USA Science & Engineering festival, Lockheed Martin will also introduce festival-goers to some of the high-tech innovations we’re working on, like 3-D printing and deep-space travel that – at first glance –  look like something out of a sci-fi movie.

As you can imagine, it takes a little more than a poster board, some glue and an exploding plastic volcano for this three-day event to get a standing ovation, but it often eludes even the smartest minds as to how much work goes into putting together such a huge event. Think about it: hundreds of speakers from all over the United States, 2 million square feet of space… the logistics for this thing are unreal.

Here are just a few statistics to help you understand just how much work it takes to carry out what some have called the Super Bowl of science festivals:

 

FESTIVAL FACTS

  • An estimated 350,000 STEM enthusiasts will visit D.C.’s Walter E. Washington Convention Center during the event.
  • The festival will cover close to 2 million square feet of hands-on activities.
  • Over 50,000 kids pre-registered for the festival’s Sneak Peek Friday.
  • There will be over 3,000 exhibits and exhibitors will be representative of the entire United States.
  • BONUS: The U.S. Senate recognized the USA Science & Engineering Festival by designating April 11 – 17 as National Science and Technology Week.

     
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LOCKHEED MARTIN FACTS

  • Over 500 volunteers will dedicate over 5,000 hours to the USA Science & Engineering Festival efforts.
  • Over 200 Lockheed Martin employees and their guests will dedicate over 1,000 volunteer hours to support the Lockheed Martin exhibit at the festival.
  • Items for the Lockheed Martin exhibit come from as far as Pasadena, California. That’s 2,636 miles away.
  • One flight simulator weighs 3,000 pounds - we'll have three.

As you can see, hosting thousands of families and children from all over for two days of science and engineering fun takes a great deal of planning, many hours of work and tons of dedication.


 

WHY IT'S IMPORTANT

The first people to walk on Mars are currently sitting in an elementary classroom. Because of this, it’s crucial to encourage future engineers, scientists and astronauts to dream and explore science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) beyond known limits.

Former astronaut Stephen Frick knows firsthand the importance and impact STEM fields have on the world. Frick is a veteran of two space shuttle missions and has degrees in both aerospace and aeronautical engineering.

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Frick is now the director of operations for Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Center, where he collaborates with universities on developing opportunities for technological innovation and manages the execution of research and engineering programs.

“We want to show kids what’s possible when you focus on STEM subjects,” Frick said. “The opportunities STEM subjects create are very real and kids today are going to have the chance to develop technology very soon that might even seem like fiction today for you and me.”

There’s also a shortage of qualified candidates in STEM, so the sooner we can get students excited about these fields, the better.

“For us to successfully design, build and navigate deep-space missions,” Frick said, “we must have the skilled workforce to get the job done. We know that space has the power to inspire a new generation of STEM innovators, and it’s never too early to plant that seed.”

Although the work it takes to put this huge festival together isn’t fiction, neither are the opportunities to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers with fun, learning and adventure.


The USA Science & Engineering Festival is a free event that will be held April 16-17 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, District of Columbia.