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Media Advisory 14-009

NSF-funded research spotlighted at largest science festival in the country

More than 3,000 hands-on science and engineering activities and 150 stage performances promise to educate and delight adults and children alike

2014 USA Science and Engineering festival
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Third USA Science and Engineering Festival, April 25-27, Washington, D.C.

April 22, 2014

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Robots that go where none have gone before, smart apparel that gives wearers directions, health updates, and rehab, and exhibits that uncover the mysteries of bogs, spiders and tsunamis will be on display this weekend. In Washington, D.C., at the third USA Science & Engineering Festival, the National Science Foundation (NSF) will showcase a broad range of NSF-funded projects that reflect the diverse research NSF supports across all fields of science and engineering.

Exhibits and performances will provide a glimpse of the knowledge, innovation and educational resources that result from investment in fundamental research. Adults and children alike will enjoy opportunities to experience science and engineering up-close and hands-on.


USA Science and Engineering Festival



Media sneak peek, Friday, April 25, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Friday night preview party 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. The festival continues on Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Media are welcome throughout the festival, but credentials are needed on Friday.



Walter E. Washington Convention Center
801 Mt Vernon Pl., N.W., Washington, D.C., near the Mt. Vernon Square/7th St. Convention Center Metro stop on the green and yellow lines.



To see/engage with fascinating, interactive exhibits and shows, many of which (detailed below) spotlight funding supported by NSF.


To learn more, visit the USA Science & Engineering Festival website and check out this video.

To speak with exhibitors or performers about their work, journalists are encouraged to contact NSF's Lisa-Joy Zgorski who can help arrange onsite interviews:, (703) 292-8311.

During Sneak Peek Friday and throughout the weekend's festivities, @NSF will tweet stories and pictures in real time of children and adults interacting and learning. For additional up-to-the-minute information, follow the official event hashtag #scifest.

Summaries of the exhibits and stage shows spotlighting NSF-funded projects appear below:


Wild Lives in Your Own Back Yard (North Carolina State University)
Explore extraordinary life in ordinary, everyday places. Meet and greet common creatures from mammals to insects, and learn how to make real and important scientific discoveries on your own.

Creepy Crawly: Spend a Day in a Spider's (Many) Shoes (University of Pittsburgh)
Explore the behavior, ecology and sensory systems of spiders, ubiquitous and one of the most diverse groups of organisms in the world. Test spider aggressiveness, explore web life and participate in a quiz show.

How the Cranberry Was Crowned Jewel of the Bog (University of Wisconsin Madison)
Learn about growing, harvesting, processing and storing cranberries in a bog where they thrive, an otherwise foreboding place for many species on account of its cold, acidic, and oxygen-light soil conditions.

Snakebots to the Rescue! (Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute)
Learn more about the maneuverability and application of snakebots, which, inspired by biological creatures, have applications in search-and-rescue operations, surgery, and industry. Take one for a spin.

Vera Wang, Can You Hear Me? (University of Colorado at Boulder)
See "flutter" which integrates fashion and function to help a hearing impaired wearers navigate their surroundings, and other smart apparel and materials that think, respond and interact with the environment. Experience color-changing materials and shape-changing soft robots. Make a phone call using a glove.

Fashioning the Future (University of Minnesota, College of Design)
View e-textiles, garments and accessories with functionality to protect against extreme conditions (like fire) and aid in recovery from injury. Learn about assembly techniques and the geometry of how 2-D pieces of fabric become 3-D garments.

Wear Your Heart on Your, er, Wrist (University of Texas at Dallas)
Learn about and wear prototype wearable computers that monitor and visualize movement and daily activities, and measure vital signs-devices that could be powered by the energy of a handshake.

Engineer Your Own Racebot (Engineer Your World, University of Texas at Austin)
Join a team and learn how to program a robot to make its way through an obstacle course using the fewest commands and the shortest amount of time. No programming experience required!

Dive in to Engineering (Engineering is Elementary, Museum of Science, Boston)
Learn from small submersible vessels that dive to the ocean floor and have revolutionized ocean exploration to design, create and test your own submersibles.

Keep Your Eye on Engineering to Solve Real-World Problems (Mobile Area Education Foundation)
Design a device to catch blood clots in a model human circulatory system. Create and test barrier systems to prevent pollution of streams and waterways. Design the fastest and scariest roller coaster ride, "The Dare Devil."

Music is the Sound of Physics (SciGirls, Twin Cities Public Television)
Design and create your own pan flute, an ancient wind instrument that shows how physics and math underlie nearly all of music making. Explore sounds using tubes of various lengths and see how design affects the sound-wave frequency and air vibration, and make beautiful music.

No Meatheads Here. Brains are Brawn in this Game (Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering, University of Washington)
Play WrestleBrainia 3000, an engaging two-player game that uses the electrical signals from players' muscles to power an arm-wrestling match between them. Players get visual feedback about their muscle-firing patterns and learn basic concepts about the nervous system.

Powering Today and Tomorrow (Center for Ultra-wide-area Resilient Electrical Energy Transmission Networks, University of Tennessee)
Explore solar panels, an important technology to collect, store and use the sun's energy to meet electricity needs. Design your own energy circuits and race solar-powered cars using different types of solar panels.

Materials: The Essential Building Blocks of Everything (Essentium Materials)
Don safety glasses and lab coats and use agricultural leftovers such as coconut husks to make materials for cars and other products in a cost-effective and environmentally responsible way.

Survive the Wave (NEES: Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation, Purdue University, Howard University, Bowie State University)
Use engineering skills to design and build a structure to withstand a tsunami in a 16-foot wave tank. This is useful technology, as earthquakes at the ocean floor -- common near California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii -- can generate tsunamis with waves reaching the beach in minutes.

Build it Better (NEES)
Use everyday household items and engineering skill to design and test a structure to withstand an earthquake generated by a shake table.

These Shoes Don't Just Look Smart - They Really Are! (University of California, Berkeley)
Experience a "smart shoe," embedded with sensors to assess walking patterns and provide feedback to correct problematic gait patterns.

The Mind's Eye (University of Southern California, Biomimetic MicroElectronic Systems Engineering Research Center)
Learn about the anatomy of the eye and the amazing engineering and medical technology behind the artificial retina as it mimics one of our most complex sensory systems -- eyesight.

Rivers and Deltas in the Lab: Energy, Environment, Restoration (University of Minnesota, Department of Earth Sciences)
Learn how experiments and computer models can help harness energy and restore free-flowing rivers. Assess the challenges and benefits of restoring lost wetlands in the Mississippi Delta.

Redefining Chemical Logic: Teaching Old Bonds New Tricks (Center for Selective C-H Functionalization, Emory University)
Learn how to build completely new molecules -- literally breaking old bonds and creating new ones to reshape chemical synthesis, material sciences and drug discovery. From artificial snow to vanishing colors, step into the shoes of a real researcher and help solve modern chemical quandaries.

Little Shop of Physics (Colorado State University)
Explore and touch while conducting dozens of different experiments designed to learn how the world works and ascertain such things as whether a cloud is warm or cold and how to see veins through skin.

Light in Action! Painting With Polarized Light (National Optical Astronomy Observatory, NOAO)
Learn about the curious properties of polarized light, including how it produces a wide array of beautiful colors used in everything from 3-D movies to art. Then use it to contribute to a community art project.

Linguistics: The Science of Language (University of Arizona, Linguistics Department)
Talk and tap a finger to learn which half of the brain manages language. Make a spectrogram of a name to discover how linguists study sounds in Earth's 7,000 languages. Learn how results may inform crime solving and medicine.

Stage Performances

Squirrel Selfies: Motion-sensitive camera traps discover animal secrets (North Carolina Museum of Natural Science)
See amazing animal "selfies" taken with motion-sensitive "camera traps" run by scientists around the world. Learn how to become a camera trapper yourself with the eMammal project.

Oozing Catalytic Chaos (Center for Selective C-H Functionalization, Emory University)
Observe a chemist combine hydrogen peroxide, liquid detergent, food coloring and a catalyst into a weird inanimate object for a surprising catalytic conversion.

Under Pressure, Little Shop of Physics, (Colorado State University)
Watch researchers levitate beach balls, crush barrels and launch stuffed animals through the air, all to demonstrate the power and pressure of the air around us.

The Xylophone Challenge - SciGirls Science of Sound (Twin Cities Public Television)
Join a team to organize a collection of different-sized PVC pipes into a table-based xylophone. Play a tune and hear how the basic concepts of frequency can help change your music.

Storm Chasers (Center for Severe Weather Research)
Meet Josh Wurman and Karen Kosiba, two extreme weather chasers. See the tornado pod they use to take measurements of extreme weather and learn what it's like to be a storm chaser.

The Programmable Person: To The Wall .... And Back! NSF AAAS Fellows
Engage in a "computing unplugged" activity. Through audience participation, determine the commands and sequence of movements to get a robot's job done, while learning about the logic, computational thinking and basic programming involved in simple movements.

Wearable Technology Fashion Show
This stage show will feature NSF-funded wearable technology on exhibit at the Expo, such as:

Flutter, the Dress. Equipped with sensors that respond to sounds via haptic feedback, Flutter's ornamentation moves to the dynamic frequencies of the sound landscape. Someday, clothing such as Flutter may help the deaf orient toward sound direction. (University of Colorado, Boulder).

Amulet Computational Jewelry for Healthcare, a wristband that securely manages one's health and wellness devices, including those that can measure physical activity and monitor overall body health. (Dartmouth College Institute for Security Technology Studies and Clemson University, School of Computing).

Smartie Pants and Shoes, with sensors that capture human walking behavior, providing information in real time for and helpful applications to rehabilitation of gait abnormalities and other health issues.

Read my Mind Cap which transfers brain signals to a hand-held tablet, with many applications for health professionals at remote locations. (University of Texas, Dallas).

BioWatch, a handy wrist band that can measure electrocardiogram, photoplethysmogram and pulse transit time, all known to have important correlations with blood pressure. (University of Texas, Dallas).

Fashions for the Future: garments and accessories for important functions like protecting firefighters and helping patients recover from injury. Come see the entire designer lineup that includes tactile firefighter gloves, a solar-power jacket, a shirt that monitors breathing, evening dresses that respond to touch or physiological changes, a child's light-up hoodie, stockings that respond to knee bends, and more. (University of Minnesota).


Media Contacts
Lisa-Joy Zgorski, NSF, (703) 292-8311, email:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, its budget is $7.8 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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