Nerd vs. Nerd

Looking at the stars from the Joseph R. Lynch Observatory at Drexel University as part of the Philadelphia Science Week’s 2011 “Astronomy Night.”
Looking at the stars from the Joseph R. Lynch Observatory at Drexel University as part of the Philadelphia Science Week’s 2011 “Astronomy Night.”
Posted: April 18, 2012

YOU DON’T HAVE to be a technical whiz or science smarty to dive into the two dueling festivals kicking off in Philadelphia on Friday.

The bigger 10-day Philadelphia Science Festival welcomes all comers, said Steven Snyder, vice president of exhibits and program development for the fest-planning Franklin Institute. “Our goal is to underscore how much of a science city Philadelphia is and how science plays into every aspect of our lives. The festival is geared for anybody who’s interested in anything.”

Anybody interested in anything: that’s inclusive.

The nine-day Philly Tech Week focuses on the area’s growing community of technology innovators, “now numbering in the tens of thousands,” said organizer Sean Blanda. They’ll rally round events such as the “Women in Tech Summit” on Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. at 3720 Walnut St. ($25) and Sunday’s (1-8 p.m.) block party at Independents Hall, the city’s pioneer “co-working space” at 20 N. 3rd St. (Free.)

But Tech Week’s organizers are also gung-ho for outreach, Blanda added, and the week includes a fair share of populist programs designed to welcome/inform all interested parties.

Blanda said the close scheduling of last year’s first Philadelphia Science Festival and the premiere of Philly Tech Week was “just a coincidence that worked out well.” This year, the Tech Week team intentionally locked in to the same dates as the bigger Science Fest to create a strength-in-numbers message. “The local tech community is growing by leaps and bounds, and we want everyone to know it,” said Blanda, a member of the Technicallyphilly.com team that shepherds Philly Tech Week. About 4,000 people participated in the initial Tech Week. This year, attendance is expected to more than double. (Philadelphia Science Festival says it connected with about 100,000 people last year.)

While we’ve heard rumblings about participants’ being pressed to align with just one of the festivals, Franklin Institute’s Snyder took the high road in our chat. He said there’s a synergy to the two events that makes both stronger. And there are some crossover events embracing both festivals, such as Thursday night’s pre-event warm-up party at the new NextFab2 studios, 2025 Walnut St. ($25 includes food and drink) and Friday night’s official opening night bash at Frankford Hall, 1210 Frankford Ave. ($5, cash bar). Here, a look at the best of both festivals:

Fun for all

Tech Week’s “Performing With Technology,” is a mashup of sound installation, interactive dance and experimental electronic music. Monday, 5 to 8 p.m., at the fidget space, 1714 N. Mascher St. (Free).

Kids of all ages should get a charge at the Fest’s “Philly Robotics Expo” on Monday from noon to 5 p.m. at Drexel’s Bossone Research Center, 3120 Market St. (Free.)

If you’re a sports buff, hustle over to PTW’s “Behind the Philadelphia Eagles NFL Draft,” 6-8 p.m. Monday at the Apple Store, 1607 Walnut St., where the franchise’s web team shares plans for tracking the draft on line. (Free.)

Wanna warm those trigger fingers? Gamers can put hands on the creations of 15 new area-based game studios (who knew?) at Tech Week’s “IODA Philadelphia Game Showcase.” Wednesday, 7 p.m.-9 p.m. at Independents Hall, 22 N. 3rd St. (Free with RSVP.)

Movie time

Fresh this year to the mix is the PSF’s “Science Film Festival,” featuring both ecological themes (check out the Earth Day double feature, on Sunday at International House) and more traditional sci-fi fare. The latter include local premieres of “Apartment 143” (at International House) and “The Corridor” (at the Trocadero) Tuesday night ($5 each).

The film Snyder finds most intriguing is “Man on a Mission,” a documentary about “a gentleman who spent $30 million of his own money to get into space.” Screens on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. at the Franklin Institute Imax Theater. ($10)

Explosions and entrepreneurs

Lots of stuff will be blowing up real good at the big “Science Carnival” on the Ben Franklin Parkway at Logan Circle on Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., by far the most visible and well-attended of PSF events. Come out for two stages of sci-themed entertainment and more than 100 exhibitors offering hands-on demonstrations of everything from the science in music and fashion to the good stuff Dow Chemicals (the lead local festival sponsor) put into mobile phones. (Free.)

Some of the best tech ideas bubbling up from area think tanks will be shared at Tech Week’s “Entrepreneur Expo.” More than 50 exhibitors are participating, 6 p.m.-9 p.m. on April 26 at the Levitt Auditorium, 401 S. Broad St. (Free with RSVP.)

The dramas of Tech Week’s “Switch Philly” could prove better than a TV reality show. The concept: Five start-ups compete in a throwdown in which each gets seven minutes to pitch, then take questions from the judges, including Mayor Nutter. The winner gets free office space, resources and access to potential funders. April 26, 6-7:15 p.m. at Levitt Auditorium, 401 S. Broad St. ($10).

Take me out

Back by popular demand is Sci Fest’s “Science Day at the Ballpark,” April 28 at Citizens Bank Park. You know it’s special because a robot will throw out the first pitch. And exhibitors sprinkled around the facility will share the “science of sports” before and during the first three innings of the Phillies vs Cubs game. ($20 and up.)

Next day, the PSF goes out with a bang at “Clark Park Science Discover Day,” April 29, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. in the park at 43rd-45th streets between Chester and Woodland avenues. (Free.)

Strength in numbers

We’re sniffing a strong social agenda in a bunch of Science Festival and Tech Week happenings. Take PSF’s “I Smell You, You Smell Me,” analyzing the messages in body odors. Share yours Friday from 6:30-8 p.m. in the Red Room at Society Hill Playhouse, 507 S. 8th St. ($10).

Then there’s the Fest’s “Nerds Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse” on April 26 at the Frankford Hall, 1201 Frankford Ave. This special edition of the monthly Nerd Night starts at 6 p.m. with a “Meet and Geek” social hour ($15), before a conversation with experts on disaster preparation and musical interludes (shades of the “Titanic”) by the West Philadelphia Orchestra. ($5 alone, free with Nerd Night admission.)

Romance might also spring from the PSF’s conversation on “Cultural Beauty and Geek Chic.” Do opposites really attract? Find out Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, 116 N. 3rd St. (Free.)

Philly Tech Week’s “Signature Event” brings out the gang for socializing and demos — from hacker projects by Hive 76 to locally produced video-game demos from Final Form, all happening April 27, 6-9 p.m. at Moore College of Art & Design, 1916 Race St. Open bar and refreshments come with your $30 admission.

Starry night

Much holding of hands is promised under the stars at PSF’s Astronomy Night, holding court at more than 20 locations on April 27. Among them are Bartram’s Garden (5400 Lindbergh Blvd.), Fairhill Burial Ground (2901 Germantown Ave.), Franklin Square Park (Race between 6th and 7th), the College Green at the University of Pennsylvania (34th and Walnut streets) and the Peter Van de Kamp Observatory at Swarthmore. Gather from 7 to 10 p.m.; the stars and telescopes come out at 8:20 p.m. (Free.)

The science of yum

How do beer and wine and cheese figure into a science fest? There’s a whole lot of chemistry in how these products are made, how they taste and how our body deals with them.

Bartram’s Garden hosts a DIY-minded “Grow It, Cook It, Eat It” Sci Fest event on Sunday, noon to 3 p.m. ($10.)

Those controversial gluten-free and dairy-free diet fads will be discussed as part of a PSF event Monday at 8 p.m. at Pure Fare, 119 S. 21st St. Samplings of gluten- and dairy-free desserts will be featured. ($10)

A “Food and Flavor” session with Shola Olunloyo deals with the taste trade-offs of new tech in the cooking process. Tuesday at 7 p.m. at World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St. ($25)

The Science Festival investigates “Wine Chemistry” with some of the best and worst pairings of food and drink at Di Bruno Bros., 1730 Chestnut St., 6 p.m. Tuesday ($35). Hey, you gotta kiss a few frogs to find a prince.

“Tabletop Science” takes over the Earth Bread and Brewery, 7136 Germantown Ave., on Tuesday, 5-9 p.m. We hope no noxious chemicals will be spilled on your food during the show-and-tell by scientists. (Free.)

Even the most careful of cooks/consumers might be startled by “It’s All Natural and Organic: What you Don’t Know Might Hurt You,” a session April 25 at 3 p.m. at La Salle University’s Holroyd Science Center. Ditto for another Science Festival delicacy, “From Farm to Fork: Dangerous Foods — Facts, Fears and Foibles,” at 6:30 p.m. April 25 at Rembrandt’s, 741 N. 23rd St. (Free.)

There’s even a Philadelphia Science Film Festival entry that deals with edibles — a documentary on a cacao grower in Belize called “The Chocolate Farmer” that digs into “fair trade” issues, Tuesday, 7 p.m. at the Trocadero. ($10)

There’s another PSF live (and lurid) event for the chocoholics. “Chocolate, Sex and Scandal” ponders “The Role of an Innocent Bean in the Courts of Europe” April 26 at 6:30 p.m. at Di Bruno Bros.’ Chestnut Street locale. ($5). Oooh la-la.

Beer buffs, meanwhile, get their due with the Fest’s “All About Ales: The Science of Beer,” 7 p.m. April 27 at Yards Brewery, 901 N. Delaware Ave. and with “All Things Fermented: The Science of Beer and Cheese,” April 28 from 3:30-5:30 p.m. at Triumph Brewing Co., 117 Chestnut St. Its $50 tab reflects the artisan delicacies you’ll get to sample.

Nerd skills

Consider yourself a science authority? Flaunt your knowledge at PSF’s Science Quizzo, Monday at 6 p.m. at National Mechanics, 22 S. 3rd St. (Free.)

Or dive into PSF’s “The Great Vaccine Debate,” April 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the Academy of Natural Sciences, 19th Street and the Parkway. (Free, registration required.)

Handy with pointy things? NextFab Studios, 3711 Market St., hosts Tech Week’s “Tool Lockpick Workshops,” starting at noon and 4 p.m. on April 25. ($10-$30) Don’t do anything we wouldn’t.

Then join a race around town for the Fest’s “Science Scavenger Hunt.” Clues will be posted on an optional iPhone app April 28 at 1 p.m. (Free, registration required.)

Truth is, we’ve just skimmed the surface. There’s lots more going at both Philly Tech Week and the Philadelphia Science Festival. For more information and reservations, dig in deep at phillytechweek.com and phillysciencefestival.org. n

Contact Jonathan Takiff at 215-854-5960 or takiffj@phillynews.com.

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