USA Science and Engineering Festival Proves It’s Fun to Be Smart!

Categories: Authors on tour, Brain Quest, Education, Events, Family, Kids, News, Science

USA Science and Engineering FestivalThe last weekend in April saw Workmanites at events of all kinds, from a crafter’s wedding paradise at the Etsy wedding expo to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Sakura Matsuri, a Japanese cultural celebration. But the other big event of the weekend was the USA Science and Engineering Festival, a free event for families and kids to get up close and personal with real examples of science at work. I was lucky enough to represent Workman—and all of our awesome science books—at the two-day celebration, and I’m excited to share the details with you now!

The adventure began on Friday morning, when Maggie, John, and I hit the road in our amazing custom Brain Quest minivan!! This year marks Brain Quest’s 20th anniversary, and we’ve teamed up with Chrysler to give away over $25,000 in scholarship money and other prizes through the Brain Quest College Tuition Sweepstakes. Be sure to enter online!

Maggie and John are ready to hit the road.

Maggie and John are ready to hit the road in style.

It’s a long drive from New York City to Washington, D.C., but we came prepared: In addition to Brain Quest for the Car and Natan Last’s crossword puzzle book Word., we also brought a copy of All-American Car-I-Oke—and busted out a car-rocking rendition of “Proud Mary.”

Maggie bringing down the house---er, car.

Maggie bringing down the house---er, car.

When we arrived at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, we pulled the van into our booth, which was decked out with some truly amazing signage, made by our great studio team.

BQ van and poster

Brain Quest has never looked better.

After a good night’s sleep, we got up bright and early to greet the crowds! Thousands of eager science enthusiasts flocked to the convention center to get some hands-on scientific action. As you could probably guess, a huge part of our weekend was about Brain Quest. Lots of kids stopped by the booth to be quizzed on math and science topics from their grade levels. And we unveiled the brand new free Brain Quest app for iPad, iPhone, and Nook!

Jessica quizzes some Girl Scouts---i.e. future Marie Curies.

Jessica quizzes some Girl Scouts/future Marie Curies, while two others play with the new Brain Quest app for iPad (right).

Plus, just in case you think we were too easy on the Brain Questers, Selina fired questions at kids while they hula hooped.

"I'll take the physical challenge!"

"I'll take the physical challenge!"

We also had the distinct pleasure of hosting not one but two Workman authors in our booth. The first was Sean Connolly, author of The Book of Potentially Catastrophic Science and The Book of Totally Irresponsible Science. Sean performed experiments from those two books as well as from his most recent endeavor, The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math. Below, Sean Connolly demonstrates some of the more surprising principles of sound waves to young science buffs.

Sean Connolly demonstrates some of the more surprising principles of sound waves to some young science buffs.

Stop, hey, what's that sound?

And did you ever hear the story of the inventor of chess, who asked only that his only reward for inventing such a spectacular game be a piece of rice for the first square of the board, two for the next, four for the next, and so on, doubling the amount for each square? Below, Sean uses a real chess board to show that the reward wasn’t as measly as you might think.

Scientists of all ages are amazed by Sean's math skills.

Scientists of all ages are amazed by Sean's math skills.

Also in attendance was Allen Kurzweil, author and inventor of Potato Chip Science, a book and kit that includes everything you need to complete 30 science experiments involving potatoes and potato chips. Allen showed us how to turn an ordinary potato into a mind-blowing display of Boyle’s Law, which states that volume and pressure are inversely related. In other words, as pressure increases, volume decreases (and vice versa). In other other words, load a chunk of raw potato into either end of a patented Potato Propulsion Pipe, apply pressure, and BAM! Potato goes flying! Science!!

A budding rocket scientist loads his Potato Propulsion Pipe.

A budding rocket scientist loads his Potato Propulsion Pipe.

No one can resist a mad scientist who advocates launching veggies in the air.

No one can resist a mad scientist who advocates launching veggies in the air.

The USA Science and Engineering Festival was a truly wonderful experience, and I’m so glad I got to be a part of it. Seeing all those kids learning about the way science affects their everyday lives proved something I’ve been pretty sure of all along: It’s FUN to be smart!

—Avery, who got to stand about 50 yards from her childhood hero Bill Nye the Science Guy. BILL! BILL! BILL! BILL!

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