Life Is Your Lab!


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With technology-based companies such as Google and Apple launching operations in our state, and prominent area universities focusing on scientific research, North Carolina has evolved from a tobacco and textile producer to a hub of science and technology. To celebrate its wealth of science resources, North Carolina is holding the nation's first statewide science festival this fall.

Aptly themed "Life is Your Lab," the family-friendly celebration will feature events from the mountains to the coast during the two weeks Sept. 11-26, 2010. The UNC Morehead Planetarium and Science Center is coordinating the festival by partnering with museums, parks, community sites, and other facilities and sponsors.

"The North Carolina Science Festival is going to give families a great opportunity to see how science and technology are building a new North Carolina, and it's going to be fun," says UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp.

During the weeks of the festival, families can explore more than 200 science-related activities at locations across the state that will include everything from a catapult demonstration to a science magic show and a visit from the hosts of the TV show "The Mythbusters." Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman will visit the Dean E. Smith Center Sunday, Sept. 19, to share behind-the-scene stories and "for fans only" video outtakes. Many of the festival events are free, and several are within easy driving distance of the Triangle. (See sidebars for a sampling of local events and ones across the state.)

Science expos and challenges

School-age students can put their problem-solving skills to the test by signing up for science challenges during a full day of hands-on science activities Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the UNC campus to include bridge building, egg drop demonstrations, rocket launching, robotics and more.

Elementary and middle school students who sign up for the challenges can learn more about fundamental science, technology, engineering and mathematics concepts. Many challenges may be undertaken by individuals or teams, and parents can join the fun. Children can participate in as many activities as they choose, but must have a guardian present. To guarantee a spot, register online at www.ncsciencechallenge.org.

Families are invited to make a day of it, since the science festival entertainment is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. the same day. Visitors are welcome to bring food and a blanket.

"Our goal is to expose students to the fascination of science, engineering, technology and mathematics," says Alfred Childers, co-founder of Magellan Laboratories Inc. "Our hope is that the challenges will capture the minds of students across North Carolina and encourage continued thinking and problem-solving in hopes of using those new thoughts, ideas and solution in next year's challenge."

Spark an interest in science

North Carolina has the third largest biotechnology industry in the nation with more than 520 bioscience companies, contract research organizations, and device and life science-related companies.

North Carolina families in the Triangle have unique resources and facilities available to encourage children to explore science and technologies. The N.C. Science Festival is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the amazing scope of science in our state and show children exactly how much fun science can be.

Carol McGarrahan is associate editor at Carolina Parent.

 

MORE SCIENCE FUN

 

... In the Triangle
Local families can be helpful "citizen scientists" by joining in a BioBlitz project at the Mason Farm Biological Reserve in Chapel Hill. During the project, 19 registered teams, with assignments ranging from butterflies and dragonflies to stream organisms, will be in the field looking for plant and animal life. From 6 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29, to 6 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 30, families can volunteer a few hours to help inventory the living organisms in the reserve, which is part of the North Carolina Botanical Gardens (NCBG).

The BioBlitz is a joint project of NCBG and Morehead Planetarium and Science Center and participation is free. The project goal is to complete a scientific inventory at the reserve to better understand its biodiversity. In most cases, a team will look for a specific type of organism at a specific time of day.

Children age 7 and older may participate on a BioBlitz team if accompanied by a parent or caregiver at all times. Younger children and their families may participate in a Habitat Walk (at 10:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m.) or special activities in the Junior Naturalist Corner. Participants should register in advance at www.moreheadplanetarium.org or e-mail bioblitz@unc.edu for more information.

... At Carolinaparent.com
Check out the June 2009 Carolina Parent article: "Grow a Crop of Summer Scientists" to find fun science experiments (indoors and out), cool science websites and more.

A Sampling of Festival Events

Events scheduled in the Triangle that are part of the N.C. Science Festival include:
- Bugfest, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh.
- Heroes, Villains and Special Effects, Museum of Life and Science, Durham. (For more about this event, see calendar spotlight, p. 73)
- One-Hour Mill Heritage Tours, Historic Yates Mill County Park, Raleigh.
- Skywatching Session, Ebenezer Church Recreation Area, Apex.
- Fall Family Fun Day, Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Durham.
- Tours of the Eco Industrial Park (to see a hydroponic greenhouse and how clean-burning renewable fuels are made from fats, oils and greases), Pittsboro.
- Meet the Animals, N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh.
- Nature Watchers Program: Fish, Crowder District Park, Apex.
- Crabtree Casters, Lake Crabtree County Park, Morrisville.
- Nature Bike Ride, American Tobacco Trail, Apex.
- Saturday Safari, Agape Center for Environmental Education, Fuquay-Varina.

Science festival events across North Carolina:
- North Carolina Shell Show, Cape Fear, Museum of History and Science, Wilmington.
- Science of Wine Making, Shelton Vineyards, Dobson.
- Build an Electromagnet, Imagination Station, Wilson.
- Guided Bird Walk, Jackson Park, Hendersonville.
- Family Fun Day: Project Nature's Art, North Carolina Zoo, Asheboro.
- More Life Lab Exploration, Discovery Place, Charlotte.
- Snaketacular, Natural Science Center of Greensboro, Greensboro.
- Family Festival, Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, Flat Rock.

To check event dates, cost and preregistration requirements, visit
www.ncsciencefestival.org for a searchable online calendar of festival events.

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