By Amy Simpson Swiss
The World Science Festival has a bold mission: every year, they gather the greatest minds in science and the arts and create intriguing, unique events designed to engage the public in the wonders of science. With an annual, multi-day festival in New York City as well as single-day events throughout the region, they are changing the way people think about science.
This year, the World Science Festival made its mark on the Hudson Valley. The main floor of the Westchester County Center was entirely transformed by gravity waves, spinning wheels, warped space and seismic accelerators for the City of Science event. Produced by the World Science Festival, City of Science is a free traveling extravaganza of color, technology, engineering and hands-on science experiments with compelling activities that fascinate all ages.
As my family arrived at the County Center, we were handed a map of the 22 stations set up across the arena, and we were free to wander and try our hand at whatever happened to capture our attention. Moving around the event, we were struck by the sheer number of people who were actively engaged in science and having a blast while doing it. Every corner of the arena was brimming with activity as participants were busy interacting, creating and doing rather than just watching—all while learning the scientific principles behind the fun.
In one corner of the arena, people were lined up for the opportunity to take their shoes off and literally walk on water. In between the giggles and the mess, they were also introduced to the principles of fluid mechanics. Meanwhile, across the aisle, a gravity well was surrounded by people using marbles to simulate planets as they learned about general relativity.
The City of Science event was staffed by volunteers who simply love science and want to share the fun with everyone they meet. The activity leaders included students, professors, engineers, scientists of all varieties and even a few everyday people who just wanted to be involved in a great science event. Local museums and nature centers were well represented, including the Hudson River Museum, the Westchester Children’s Museum and the Rye Nature Center, each sharing a unique, interactive example of the science they offer to the public every day.
Wandering the floor between the stations was the Science Squad—roving scientists wearing lab coats and carrying all manner of interesting objects and mini-experiments. AJ Patton, one member of the Science Squad, intertwined my family in colorful ropes and then challenged them to escape. Over and under, round and round, it seemed impossible—until AJ demonstrated the solution. He then explained how the science of topology, a variant of geometry, worked the magic that led to our escape.
The largest exhibit, the Pendulum Wave, dominated the room and captivated spectators with a show every 15 minutes or so. It was impossible to look away while this unfolded: 15 huge pendulum balls, each colorfully lit and filled with water, were released simultaneously. Swinging freely, they created multiple mesmerizing wave patterns that changed and morphed over time, eventually returning to their original pattern. Saakshi Dulani, a Columbia University graduate student, led the presentation with a lively and interactive discussion about the basic principles of wave theory and why this happens.
The World Science Festival hoped to unleash the inner scientist in everyone who attended by making science and technology fun, and from what I saw, they definitely accomplished their goal. In fact, over 10,000 people participated in the event I attended, and many more participated in the events across New York City in May and June. I’d call that a major success. Intrigued? Find out when the next World Science Festival event is happening by visiting WorldScienceFestival.com. This traveling science extravaganza is definitely worth the trip. █