Philly's Science Festival puts Penn expertise on display

The fifth annual Philadelphia Science Festival will be held from April 24 to May 2, bringing together people of all ages and backgrounds to learn about science through dozens of interactive events. Once again, Penn students, faculty, and staff will be well-represented at the festivities.

Organized and led by the Franklin Institute and sponsored by the Dow Chemical Company, the 2015 festival involves more than 200 partners around the city, including Penn and other universities, museums, research centers, corporations, and cultural and community institutions.

Daniel Ueda, the associate director for education and outreach in the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing & Perception (GRASP) Lab in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, has been involved with the festival since its inaugural year. He says he has always looked up to TV personalities like Bill Nye the Science Guy and Mr. Wizard for their ability to make science popular and exciting. The goal of the Philadelphia Science Festival is to do just that.

“This event goes even further to popularize science in Philadelphia,” he says. “It gets so many people out to see all the cool science that is going on right here in the city.”

Some favorite events will return this year, including the signature Science Carnival, which will be held on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on May 2. More than 175 exhibits will offer engaging games, interactive displays, and informal science education.

In Penn’s West Philadelphia neighborhood, the popular Clark Park Science Discovery Day will be returning on Saturday, April 25. This event will showcase the science happening in University City with hands-on activities presented by local scientists and STEM students, including Penn experts in astronomy, brain injury, robotics, and genomics.

A unique event this year will be “Inspired by Nature,” held on April 30 at the Painted Bride Art Center. Scientists and engineers, including Jeffrey N. Carey of the School of Veterinary Medicine and the School of Arts & SciencesBiology Department and the GRASP Lab’s Justin Thomas, Denise Wong, and Gavin Kenneally, will discuss and provide demonstrations of how biology has given inspiration to robotic design. Penn roboticists will, for example, show off a robot that can, like a hawk, grasp objects while comparing it to a live hawk in attendance.

Many other events throughout the festival will highlight Penn science, including “An Alchemist’s Toast to Health, Wealth, and Longevity” on April 28 (tickets are required). Featuring doctors and scientists from Perelman School of Medicine and Penn Arts & Sciences’ Chemistry Department, this program will explore the ancient science of alchemy and describe how the history of alchemy still influences science and medicine today.

At an evening dedicated to happiness on April 29, faculty and students from Penn Medicine, the Positive Psychology Center, CHOP, and the Morris Arboretum will help the audience consider how everything from the sight of a puppy to getting enough sleep can bring us contentment. The Let’s Get Happy event will be held at Ruba Club Studios in Northern Liberties (tickets are required).

The full schedule is available at the Philadelphia Science Festival website. Penn affiliates can receive 10 percent off Festival program tickets purchased through TicketLeap by using the discount code UPENN10.

More than just teaching people a few things about science, Ueda says the festival is for “inspiring people and getting them excited to want to learn more.”

Philadelphia Science Festival