A big second day at the USA Science & Engineering Festival

Posted by David Eicher
on Monday, April 28, 2014

One part of one of the four display areas shows the immensity of this event, which drew 100,000 people, USA Science & Engineering Festival, Washington, D.C., April 27, 2014. // all photos by David J. Eicher
Well, what can I possibly say about being at the USA Science & Engineering Festival for the first time? On day two, Sunday, April 27, it was every bit as overwhelming as on the first weekend day. Many thousands of people rolled through the enormous Walter E. Washington Convention Center in the nation’s capital — students, teachers, and enthusiasts of all ages, from babies in strollers to many we spoke to in their 80s and 90s. It was an incredible cross-section of those interested in science, and it represented in large part a new generation of astronomy lovers, many excited by watching the new Cosmos TV series on FOX.

I again had the pleasure of accompanying the Celestron staff — Kevin Kawai, Jason Mulek, and Brenda Abrica — and we exhaustively manned telescopes and microscopes all day, showing countless people images of stars, space, rocks, insects, and tissue samples. I would tell you that I was handing out samples of Astronomy magazine, but they were long gone after midday on Saturday. Nonetheless, it was inspiring and eye-opening to discuss the current state of the astronomy hobby with literally hundreds of people, most of whom have fresh eyes for their interest.

The gang of four from Celestron and Astronomy magazine poses for a picture in the booth: l. to r., Brenda Abrica, Kevin Kawai, Dave Eicher, and Jason Mulek, all smiles on day two, USA Science & Engineering Festival, Washington, D.C., April 27, 2014.
A surprise happened in mid-morning when I ran into Darlene Cavalier, a consultant for Discover and Astronomy magazines, who is also the force behind the Science Cheerleaders. These energetic young ladies are accomplished scientists — from undergrad degree holders to Ph.D.s — who also happen to be professional sports team cheerleaders, either current or former. They cheer and yell and do great routines and transfix the audience as they also bring attention to numerous worthy scientific projects going on — truly inspiring.

By the end of the day on Sunday, we had spent 2.5 days at the cavernous festival, and we were thoroughly exhausted. But we were happier and wiser and learned a great deal from talking to the attendees, as well as from this unique partnership between Astronomy magazine and Celestron.

Today we set off for an unexpected pleasure — a private tour of the U.S. Naval Observatory, courtesy of Astronomy magazine contributor Geoff Chester, a great friend.

For all images from this trip, visit the Online Reader Gallery.

Related blog: A big first day at the USA Science & Engineering Festival

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