Great minds will gather this week for an 11-day celebration of technology and science known as the Atlanta Science Festival (ASF). Attendees can experience a little bit from every almost branch of science ranging from chemistry to robots to rockets. The especially brave can even get up close and personal with a real human brain.
— Jessica Gale (@Jessie_Gale) February 7, 2017
ASF cofounder Meisa Salaita insists there’s something for everyone at the festival. That’s not hard to believe when there are 100 interactive STEM events hosted across 65 metro Atlanta locations. Plus, this year’s keynote event features retired NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly sharing details of his 54 days spent in outer space.
— ATL Science Festival (@ATLSciFest) February 7, 2017
In addition to fun and learning, ASF highlights local educational and professional opportunities for eager career-seekers who want to work in a STEM field. According to cofounder Jordan Rose, Atlanta is the nexus of science in the south. “We have so much to offer here, from our schools to great career opportunities in the area that rely on STEM,” Rose said. “We need to celebrate that.”
The desire to recognize and promote Atlanta’s STEM community is what led to the creation of the ASF. Inspired by attending festivals in other cities, the duo realized there was a gap in Atlanta that needed to be met.
“There is a lot of great science and technology happening in [Atlanta],” said Rose. “We’re the health IT capital of the world, the public health capital of the world; we have a growing life science industry, biotech, medical devices, financial tech. But no one was speaking as a collective voice for all of those opportunities.”
By working together with founding sponsors Emory University, Georgia Tech and the Metro Atlanta Chamber, the dream of bringing Atlanta’s science community to a public event became a reality. In a recent interview, Salaita said, “People here welcomed the idea with so much enthusiasm. They were excited about a new type of cultural opportunity, a chance to educate all our residents about science.”
It would be difficult to find a more perfect pair to have made the ASF possible. Both Salaita and Rose began their careers in science, Salaita with a Ph.D. in chemistry and Rose with master’s degree in public health. Both worked in education and public outreach for several years before taking on the roles of co-directors. “I fell in love [with outreach],” said Rose. “I was helping teachers feel more connected to research and more aware of the educational and career opportunities for their students.”
Organizing the ASF was a life-changing event for Salaita. What started as a mission to give Atlanta’s STEM community a voice soon became a full-time career. Rose balances his co-director duties with his full-time role at Emory, but despite their busy schedules, both have big goals for the future of the ASF.
“We want to grow the festival and reach more people,” said Salaita. This could mean anything from helping other cities outside Atlanta set up their own public science events to adding events, programming and more family-friendly activities.
Although the festival continues for 11 days, the Exploration Expo on the last day of the Festival (March 25th) draws the largest crowds. The Expo transforms Centennial Olympic Park to an enormous science and technology wonderland, with everything from bubble bombs to microscopes to stage shows. Attendees of all ages are welcome.
Get your science on, Atlanta.
All images courtesy of the Atlanta Science Festival