USA Science & Engineering Festival–Where Can STEM Take you?

Middle School students at the Key School in Annapolis recently got a free lesson in how science can land you an amazing career.

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Dr. Aaron Alford, a research scientist and paleontologist at the National Network of Public Health Institutes visited the Key School to regale the fifth to eighth graders with amazing adventures from his years of black water diving and fossil hunting. According to Dr. Alford, this is essentially diving in waters where you can’t even see your hand in front of your face.

Alford is a founding member of Paleo Quest, a non-profit whose mission is to “advance the sciences of paleontology and geology through material contributions to museum collections, field exploration, publication and the advancement of science education.” The group has made hundreds of fossil discoveries, sometimes leading to the discovery of new species.

Alford wowed the kids at Key with stories about diving into murky waters with alligators, sharks (at least he thinks that’s what was head-butting him underwater) and creepy fingerlike tree roots, all while donning 100 pounds of lead to help keep him on the bottom while currents rip past. He passed around giant megalodon teeth and fossilized shark poop, and showed videos of his dives, including a video of his discovery of a 17-million-year-old dolphin skull.

Alford was there as a guest in the USA Science and Engineering Nifty Fifty program, which aims to bring scientists to D.C. area schools to entice kids into STEM programs and excite them about the upcoming USA Science and Engineering Festival.

USASEF Gallery 00002The USA Science and Engineering Festival, touted as “the nation’s largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM),” will have more than 3,000 hands-on exhibits, 30 stage shows, TED-style talks, and the X-STEM Symposium (April 5), which hosts “interactive presentations from top STEM visionaries and hands-on workshops.” The festival is April 7–8, 2018, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.

The biennial festival, sponsored by Lockheed Martin, will feature presentations by an explosive chemist, professional cheerleaders turned scientists, a mathemagician, and a stunt scientist, to name a few. As for interactive exhibits, there are 19 different pavilions for kids to explore just about every field of science, including space travel, aviation, computer science, natural sciences and oceanography, energy, and a special pavilion for kids under 7 to explore STEM fun and watch kid-friendly shows.

USA Science and Engineering Festival
April 7–8, 2018 (X-STEM April 5)
Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington D.C.
Free; Preregistration required at usasciencefestival.org.