Cosmic Curiosity: Georgia Tech Hosts Science and Engineering Day to Open Atlanta Science Festival

March 20, 2024

Georgia Tech opened the 11th annual Atlanta Science Festival (ASF) with record attendance for Science and Engineering Day. Despite the drizzly weather, about 4,000 people of all ages from throughout metro Atlanta — more than double the number of attendees in 2023 — visited campus on Saturday, March 9, 2024, for the space-themed event. They explored more than 45 exhibitions and hands-on activities related to art, robotics, nanotechnology, chemical and systems engineering, and biology, as well as other STEAM areas. 

Visitors began their investigations at “Earth” (the Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design), where they picked up a galactic passport specially designed to guide them from building to building — each designated with the name of a planet — and the demonstrations housed within.

At “Mars” (Marcus Nanotechnology Building), attendees measured their height in nanometers, experimented with fruit batteries, and took a window-tour of the largest cleanroom in the Southeast, where semiconductors are developed. Inside “Venus” (Parker H. Petit Biotech Building), budding scientists examined bioluminescent bacteria under a microscope and made Play-Doh models of the human brain. When visiting “Saturn” (Ford Environmental Sciences and Technology Building), visitors studied density by making DIY lava lamps and inspected human brain specimens the way a pathologist would.

“Getting to hold a human brain was cool,” said a 12-year-old participant from Alpharetta. “And I also liked comparing it to the brains of a pig and a mouse.”

Other activities included math games and puzzles, the opportunity to build an artificial hand and a gallery display of research-inspired artwork. Georgia Tech faculty, students, and staff hosted all the demonstrations and served as volunteers who helped Science and Engineering Day guests navigate campus and the demonstration sites.

For many participants, the undoubted highlight was the chance to hear a presentation by former NASA astronaut and Georgia Tech alumnus Shane Kimbrough, MS OR 1998. Kimbrough spent 388 days in space over three missions and served as commander of the International Space Station (ISS) in 2016. He captivated the standing-room-only crowd with photos and descriptions of his time living and working aboard the ISS and answered questions from the kids in the audience.

“It’s really exciting to see all the activities around campus today … we’re inspiring the next generation of scientists and explorers for our country,” Kimbrough said afterward.

The event was a resounding success for Georgia Tech and the Atlanta Science Fair.

Lauren Overton-Kirk, who organized the event for the Institute, said, "Georgia Tech Science and Engineering Day 2024 was so wonderful to share with the community. What started years ago as a day for young scientific exploration became an all-ages, space-themed scientific spectacular. You could feel the passion for learning fill the campus in a way only Georgia Tech could do.”

Both the Georgia Tech and the Atlanta Science Festival teams are looking forward to next year’s Science and Engineering Day.

As one of the founding organizations of the Atlanta Science Festival, Georgia Tech has been deeply invested in sharing the Institute’s innovations with the community,” said Meisa Salaita, ASF co-director. “And that investment was deeply evident on March 9th as they opened their doors to kick off the 11th annual Science Festival. Their students and faculty came out with enthusiasm to showcase science to the public. We couldn't be more thrilled with this partnership — and the many ways Tech has helped us show our community that Atlanta is a science city.”

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Shelley Wunder-Smith, Institute Communications