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Media Advisory 18-004

Experience hands-on science and meet NSF-supported researchers at USA Science and Engineering Festival

Expo open to media for April 6 'Sneak Peek Friday'

Overhead shot of the 2016 USA Science and Engineering Festival

The USA Science and Engineering Festival aims to inspire new generations of researchers.

March 29, 2018

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 Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Experience hands-on science and meet NSF-supported researchers at USA Science and Engineering Festival

Expo event open to media April 6 on 'Sneak Peek Friday'

Meet scientists from a Nobel Prize-winning astronomy project, view biology specimens and erupting volcanoes through virtual reality, build a pocket microscope, meet creative young science illustrators and much more at the National Science Foundation (NSF) pavilion at the USA Science and Engineering Festival Expo.

Located in the lower level of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, NSF's pavilion will feature 22 incredible, hands-on experiences, accompanied by researchers who are leaders in the science and engineering (S&E) communities and passionate advocates for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning.

Media interested in touring the NSF pavilion, meeting NSF-supported researchers and speaking with NSF staff are encouraged to contact the Office of Legislative and Public Affairs (OLPA) prior to the festival. OLPA can set up availabilities for media throughout the Festival Expo weekend, April 7-8, and during "Sneak Peek Friday" on April 6.

NSF works to support national security, the economy and U.S. innovation by funding research and investing in efforts to strengthen the workforce of tomorrow by providing students with access to STEM. That's why the foundation will be showcasing some of the great work by its supported researchers at the USA Science and Engineering Festival Expo. The free event, which is open to the public, was developed to increase public awareness of the importance of science and to encourage youth to pursue careers in S&E.

WHAT: NSF will have 22 hands-on S&E experiences and researchers available at the USA Science and Engineering Festival.


  • "Sneak Peek Friday," April 6, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., hosted by Chevron for media, schools and military families.
  • Festival Expo, April 7, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; April 8, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

WHERE: Booth 529, Halls A B C, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mt. Vernon Place NW, D.C.


WHO: NSF-supported exhibits are listed below.

Harnessing the Power of Natural History Data

Organization: iDigBio

Explore biological specimens in a new way -- through augmented reality, virtual reality and 3-D printing! The "Integrated Digitized Biocollections" (iDigBio) exhibit lets participants explore natural history collections like never before with these emerging technologies.

Generation Nano
Organization: NSF and the National Nanotechnology Initiative

Meet the "Generation Nano" winners! These middle and high school students harnessed the power of science, technology and art to create a unique superhero.

Air Quality Sensors and Citizen Scientists
Organization: University of Utah

Concerned about your air quality and exposure to pollutants? Build your very own air quality sensor and take charge of your health. At this exhibit, you'll learn how to estimate your exposure to pollution and how you can provide valuable data to scientists on air quality as a citizen scientist.

Geoscience Exploration with AR/VR
Organization: National Center for Atmospheric Research

Explore the structure of hurricanes, see how storms sweep across the planet, and watch El Niño evolve in the equatorial Pacific -- all from the palm of your hand! These exhibitors will reveal how augmented and virtual reality apps on your mobile device transform large volumes of weather data into beautiful 3-D visualizations of tornadoes, cyclones, firestorms and more.

Reading Corner
Organization: NSF Office of Polar Programs

It's story time! Young readers can join NSF's "Reading Corner" and hear from the author of "The Lost Seal," a book that tells the true story of a seal pup lost -- and rescued -- in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica. A large monitor will show video of the seal coming into scientists' camp before a helicopter whisks him back to his home on the sea ice. Young readers and educators are also invited to explore the NSF Long-Term Ecological Research Schoolyard Book Series to learn about environmental science, draw a picture and have a chance to nab a book, a plush toy or STEM education resources.

Shackleton's Science Camp
Organization: NSF Office of Polar Programs

Wear what explorers wear, see what they see, and become a true Antarctic explorer! Trek over to NSF's Antarctic exhibit to try on the cold-weather gear worn by Antarctic explorers, nose around an explorer's tent, and look through microscopes to see the first microbes ever discovered by early Antarctic explorers, such as famed Ernest Shackleton.

Dinosaurs and the Deep Seafloor
Organization: NSF Division of Ocean Sciences Marine Geology and Geophysics

Participants will learn how sediment cores drilled and collected from the deep ocean floor help scientists learn about events in Earth's past. Children will use bubble tea straws to "drill" their own cake core and make scientific observations based on the cake's multiple layers. On hand will be real sediment samples and a core replica that bears the signature of a catastrophic event 65 million years ago -- when a meteor struck the Earth, killing the dinosaurs.

cosmOcosm Sound Planetarium
Organization: University of California, San Diego

Do you hear what I hear? Sounds like stars at the cosmOcosm Sound Planetarium, where visitors can experience an immersive, 3-D sound space that blends science and art to reimagine the universe in sound. An additional installation to the planetarium adds a virtual reality component that lets visitors combine auditory and visual mappings into a self-directed exploration of the universe.

Organization: University of Iowa

You may be in Washington, D.C., but you can still view the aurora borealis, Van Allen Radiation Belts and other plasma phenomena at this exhibit. Visitors channel their inner plasma physicist when they explore the Iowa Planeterrella, a plasma generator that simulates the plasma discharge observed in space. The simulations give a better understanding of the role plasma phenomena play within the Earth-sun system.

Organization: Stanford University

Not all scientific instruments for discovery are state-of-the-art expensive. At this exhibit, visitors can build and pocket the Foldscope, a low-cost, paper-based, durable microscope that has the optical quality of conventional research microscopes. It's a small world out there after all, so take the Foldscope with you wherever you explore!

BioBots: Building With Biology
Organization: NSF Emergent Behaviors of Integrated Cellular Systems Science and Technology Center

BioBots to the rescue! Why build with materials like metal and wood when you can use biological materials able to sense, respond and adapt to their environment? Learn how researchers build BioBots, what they do, and what problems they can solve. To demonstrate how they make BioBots move, researchers will direct a robot to walk around in response to a blue light signal.

Singing Redrock Arches of Utah
Organization: University of Utah

The red rock arches of southern Utah are constantly vibrating. By speeding up real arch vibration measurements to the range of human hearing, we can experience the hum of these iconic geologic landforms for the first time. Visitors can don a pair of headphones to hear the sounds of the famed Rainbow Bridge and other arches, or experience their vibrations on a deeper level -- through a special speaker that creates air pulses able to visibly vibrate a piece of paper.

3-D Printing of Soft and Living Materials!

Learn to 3-D print a whole new world of materials, including living, edible and even liquids! At this exhibit, visitors will be able to see 3-D bioprinters in action and handle 3-D printed objects with mechanical properties, as well as see 3-D printed organs. Researchers will also show visitors how they can build a 3-D bioprinter at home for less than $500 using their open-source hardware designs.

What Makes Us Human?
Organization: The George Washington University Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology

This exhibit is all about you! Move through several stations to learn what makes us human and how our bones, vision, hair and locomotion differ from other animals?  Visitors can also go ape talking about everything primate-related with researchers from the Primate Genomics Lab.

Ground-Based Astronomy
Organization: National Solar Observatory, National Optical Astronomy Observatory, Associated Universities Inc.

Visitors hoping to perfect their night-viewing experience can learn how astronomers use mirrors and lenses to investigate celestial objects millions of light-years away. They will also learn other tricks of the trade through demonstrations that reveal how astronomers study the rotation of the sun and other stars, how they discover the inner life of stars, and how they can "see" the appearance of sunspots on the far side of the sun.

Innovations in Brain-Computer Interfaces
Organization: University of Florida

Talk about putting your mind to something -- visitors can use their thoughts to fly drones and play the drums, while learning about new innovations in brain-computer interfaces.

GRASP: Gesture-Based Science Education Simulations
Organization: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The GRASP simulations are a new approach to STEM learning technology design that give students the opportunity to become part of the simulation using hand gestures. Visitors to the exhibit will have the chance to use these augmented reality simulations and experience what body-based learning of the future will look like.

Alex: A Code-Switching Virtual Peer
Organization: Carnegie Mellon University

Meet the virtual peer, Alex -- a type of embodied technology that looks, talks and acts like a real child and was designed to investigate how social and cultural factors affect science task performance. Children and adults will be able to interact with Alex on a second-grade task focused on animal behavior. The Alex system supports proto-literacy skills among preschoolers, social skills for children with autism, and math reasoning for middle school students.

Animal Discovery
Organization: New York University

This exhibit presents interactive games that allow children to do science to discover new things about animals. Research in cognitive development has revealed the strategies that children of various ages use to gather information as they learn about nature. Based on this research, this team from New York University has developed interactive games to help support children's learning. This exhibit will allow children to do science by playing these games. We will also provide information for parents and educators about how children learn and reason about the natural world.

Listening to Einstein's Universe
Organizations: LIGO Scientific Collaboration and NANOGrav

How do we know when two black holes or neutron stars collide millions and even billions of light-years away? They create a barely detectable ripple in the fabric of space-time, called a gravitational wave. In 2015, scientists at NSF's Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detected gravitational waves for the first time. Join scientists from the LIGO and NANOGrav projects to find out more about the amazing science and technology behind the detection of gravitational waves and what they can tell us about the universe.

The Pack
Organization: New York Hall of Science

Visitors will have the opportunity to test a prototype of a computer simulation game in which they can control the behaviors of animals within dynamic, interconnected biomes. Help scientists complete work on the game by giving valuable feedback to the developers.

Nature of Sounds and Sounds of Nature
Organization: University of Montana

Visit this exhibit to hear -- and "see" -- the sound of animal music and so much more. Visitors will learn to speak chickadee, create different animal sounds using wood blocks, balloons and other "instruments," and record their voices to create a copy of their own unique voiceprint. They'll come away with a better understanding of how animals use sound to communicate complex information and with their ears attuned to the natural world, which is awash in sound.


Media Contacts
Bobbie Mixon, NSF, (703) 292-8070, email:
Robert J. Margetta, NSF, (703) 292-2663, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2021 budget of $8.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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