Your Guide to the Nat'l Science & Engineering Festival This Weekend

What is it?

The 4th U.S.A. Science and Engineering Festival is the largest science festival in the nation. This year, it will feature over 3,000 hands-on science and engineering activities and a projected 350,000 visitors. The festival is dedicated to advancing science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, education and getting youth excited about STEM through innovative exhibits, science celebrities, fun performances, contests and more.

When and where is it?

The free Grand Finale Expo will take place this weekend, April 16 (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and April 17 (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center (801 Mount Vernon Place NW). Before the weekend main event, there will be a X-STEM Extreme STEM Symposium on April 14 (9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and a sneak peek of the festival on April 15 (9 a.m. to 3 p.m.). 

The X-STEM Symposium is for students in middle and high school, and it will feature presentations and workshops on a huge variety of topics, from "Great White Sharks in STEM" to "STEM With No Root Bears No Fruit." A schedule of events can be found online here and tickets must be purchased in advance online here. The Sneek Peek Friday is for K-12 school groups, homeschoolers, government officials and staffers, press and military families. Registration is required and can be completed online here.

How is the festival organized?

The festival is organized in themed pavilions. Some themes include natural sciences, astronomy/space, health and medicine, social sciences and the Kid Pavilion (for children under 7). There will be detailed maps of the festival available at information booths upon arrival.

Exhibits range from robots and flight simulators at the Lockheed Martin Experience to a photo op at NASA to making lip balm and constructing LED pens at the Chevron STEM Zone. A full list of exhibits and organizations can be found here.

Additionally, there will be 3 major stages with more than 50 stage shows and live experiments including two performances by Grammy Award-winning alternative rock band They Might Be Giants on Saturday and a talk with actor Wil Wheaton from "The Big Bang Theory" and "Star Trek: The Next Generation." A list of these free shows can be found here.

The festival will also have food courts and concession carts, so you can leave your lunch at home!

What is the STEM Career Pavilion?

This pavilion, aimed toward high school students, aims to display STEM career options and facilitate networking. The pavilion will include a college fair, a STEM programs exposition, a job fair and opportunities for students to meet scientists and engineers. A detailed description of these events is outlined here.

How can you get involved?

You can get involved by joining the volunteer team, which includes student leaders, local scientists, engineers, STEM professionals and parents. Volunteers help spread the word about the festival and work shifts at the Expo and other programs. Volunteers will receive a free t-shirt along with other perks. To volunteer, complete an application here.

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