Two-week Philadelphia Science Festival takes off today with a giant leap by students

Science Festival director Gerri Trooskin (right) and festival coordinator Josette Hammerstone (left) ham it up while standing atop 3D street art that will be at the Logan Circle carnival tomorrow.
Science Festival director Gerri Trooskin (right) and festival coordinator Josette Hammerstone (left) ham it up while standing atop 3D street art that will be at the Logan Circle carnival tomorrow.
Posted: April 15, 2011

IF YOU'RE READING this before 11 a.m., brace yourself.

At precisely 11 a.m. today, thousands of children at local schools will jump into the air simultaneously to launch the first Philadelphia Science Festival.

They're hoping the force of their landing will register on a supersensitive seismometer at the Temple Ambler campus.

After that, brace yourself for a two-week science free-for-all.

Between now and April 28, the festival is bringing 120 events to local schools, libraries, bars, restaurants, museums and other locations, including Citizens Bank Park for a day game in the upcoming Phillies-Brewers series.

Tomorrow the festival takes over Logan Circle for a massive science carnival from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (It goes on rain or shine.)

We don't use that term "science free-for-all" loosely. The carnival and nearly all of the Philadelphia Science Festival events are, indeed, free. (Phillies game and some restaurant happenings not included). The festival is underwritten in part by the National Science Foundation and in part by local sponsors.

And the intent is to attract people from all walks of life, whether they're scientists themselves (hundreds will participate), science groupies, CSI fans, foodies, beer geeks or little kids who like projectiles and slime.

There's even a show at tomorrow's carnival geared toward NFL Cheerleader groupies. At 3:10 p.m., a group of current and former pro cheer-women with day jobs in the sciences will perform as the Science Cheerleaders. "Sammi Jo," who shakes her big brain at Baltimore Rams games, is a chemistry teacher, for instance.

"We're trying to show Philadelphia and the region that science is important, fun, engaging and accessible," said festival director Gerri Trooskin. Here, some highlights, categorized into subsets for key niches of the Science Festival-going public:


Tomorrow's Science Carnival at Logan Circle is the big kahuna, with 90-plus booths and two stages featuring live entertainment. A Jell-O science exhibit from the Chemical Heritage Foundation will explore, among other mysteries, why Jell-O doesn't stick to pineapple chunks.

NextFab Studio will show off its 3D printer. Chemists and engineers from Philadelphia University will mess around with slime. The Philadelphia Zoo, Academy of Natural Science, Please Touch Museum and Franklin Institute will staff a kiddie science zone.

And look for the New York City's BioBus, a traveling laboratory with a green roof and a collection of microscopes inside that anyone can use. A vehicle from the Philadelphia Police Department forensics unit will also be on hand.

For a carnival keepsake, you can pose for a picture with the 3D bird's-eye view of City Hall that you see in the photo on this page, designed for the festival by the next-gen Princeton marketing group Wasabi 3D. and click under "Science Carnival on the Parkway" for the full Saturday lineup.


One of the festival's mantras is to "engage people where they are," Trooskin said, "and this is a beer town."

One marquee beer-bar event is a beer-science summit next Saturday at 7 p.m. at Yards ($20) that pairs the brewer with some smell- and taste-scientists from the Monell Center, among other collaborators.

Another is All Things Fermented: The Science of Beer and Cheese, at 6:30 on April 27 at Triumph Brewing Co. (Tickets are $49-the festival's priciest-to try seven beers and four farmhouse cheeses.)

The festival will also be hoisting a glass to science at a wine-and-beer reception following Murder at the Mutter, a CSI-type murder mystery for visitors 21 and over that spotlights forensic scientists from the Police Department and Medical Examiner's Office (6 p.m., April 28, $20).

Two nights of Science Quizzo are on tap, on Monday at 6 p.m. at National Mechanics in Old City and on April 26 at 8 p.m. at City Tap House in West Philly. For additional foodie and boozie events, go to and sort the festival lineup using the "Cafe" tab.


While Philly's public schoolchildren are out for spring break next week, branch libraries in the Free Library system will host dozens of science meet-ups designed to keep idled minds busy. The Logan Branch gets Towers and Catapults on Tuesday at noon. Science in the Simpsons is at the Kingsessing Branch Thursday at 1 p.m.

On Thursday, telescopes will be set up for Astronomy Night at 14 sites around the city and the region, including several college observatories and the Fair Hill Burial Ground in North Philly. Franklin Institute astronomer Derek Pitts will star-party-hop. His goal is to hit every Astronomy Night viewing spot within the city limits at some point that night.

West Philly's own science superstar, NASA astronaut Guy Bluford, will give a talk at the University of Sciences at 43rd and Woodland before the star party there.

You can search the library schedule and Astronomy Night lineup by neighborhood if you go to the festival's online events calendar and sort using the "Location" tab. All library and Astronomy Night events are free. Reservations required for the Bluford talk, via


All month, Trust Gallery (249 Arch St.) is exhibiting artistic images that capture the beauty of science, captured by both scientists and artists.

For a high-concept take on the beauty of botany, there's a free performance at 7 p.m. on April 25 at the Academy of Natural Sciences by the modern dance group Capacitor, based in San Francisco. Registration is required, at

For more arts events, sort the online events calendar using the "Art and Science" tab.


Sorry to say, not everyone recognizes Dean "Segway" Kamen and Brian "string theory" Greene as the rock stars of popular science that they are. If you do, mark your calendar for these events, and we'll see you there along with all of your friends from the brotherhood of Philly geekdom.

Kamen will be on hand for a Maker Field Day competition among high-tech DIYers at the Franklin Institue Wednesday from 2 to 4:30 p.m. $5 for spectators ; register at

Greene will give a free talk on parallel universes at the Free Library at noon on April 28.


The Philadelphia Zoo, Franklin Institute, Academy of Natural Sciences and other aces of the local museum scene will bring traveling exhibits to Phillies-Brewers game on Wednesday for Science Day at the Ballpark.

Check the scoreboard for Jumbotron-size lessons on the physics of baseball. A surprise visitor from the realm of science may throw out the first pitch, weather permitting.

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