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Group aims to make science fun

The Rutgers Science Festival on Saturday was centralized on making science accessible and interactive to people of all ages.

Just inside the door of the Life Sciences Building on Busch campus, a crowd of children stared with expectant eyes at a demonstration labeled “Elephant Toothpaste,” clearly named for the sake of being silly and approachable.

The demonstration started with food coloring, soap and a splash of an unknown liquid. The demonstrator prepared a solution of hydrogen peroxide and a potassium iodide in another container. When combined, both liquids rushed up in a torrent of foam, finally cascading around the container they started in, to the amazement of spectators.

In this example, the Rutgers chapter of American Institute of Chemical Engineers tried to demonstrate an elementary chemical reaction: The breakdown of H2O2, or hydrogen peroxide, into H2O and O2, or water and oxygen.

Katelyn Dagnall, a School of Engineering sophomore, executed some of these reactions at the table with other AIChE members and explained it to the children, who gave them their full attention.

Examples of new technologies filled the floor, such as Oculus Rift, a state-of-the-art virtual reality headset, and a MakerBot 3-D printer. Others featured old technologies that could still spark an interest on an impressionable mind, such as a telescope aimed at the furthest areas of the building.

Andrew Yolleck, founder of Rutgers Science Festival, organized the event with newcomers in mind — whether they were children or adults. The goal was to get peoples’ feet wet in the different fields of science, allowing them to see the curious and fun side of the subject.

“We feel that too many children stray away from the sciences because they feel they can’t do it, and that it’s not for them,” he said. “We say that’s not the case. It can be fun and can be done by anyone.”

He said the target audience was people without a science background. The point was to get people started and involved in science, especially those that had not been exposed to it before.

Their aim, he said, is to be an outreach festival for K-12 students while staying open and involved enough for anyone to enjoy.

“Student organizations here share a passion for a certain discipline within the sciences, and each of them has a feel for how they can make their field fun to the public,” he said.

Fifteen different student-run organizations, such as the Rutgers Astronomical Society, the Rutgers Photography Club and AIChE ran tables at the event.

Children walked away staring at different objects with diffraction gratings, and adults walked away with different oddities to talk about.

“All too often when you take a class in science, it’s boring and technical,” Yolleck said. “We want to put a brighter note on it. We have to bring out the brighter side of science.”

He hopes next year they can expand on what they have developed this year and continue to increase exposure to science.

“I feel like I gained a lot from Rutgers, and I’m hoping this event will be my successful form of giving back,” he said. “At the end of the day, we want people to be happy about science — that’s it.”

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