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R-MA Visits the USA Science and Engineering Festival

    On April 15, 2016, more than eighty R-MA students attended the 4th annual USA Science and Engineering Festival hosted in Washington D.C., an event that is described as “the largest and only national science festival,” with presentations from across the nation about the latest engineering projects and groundbreaking research. The goal of the festival, according to the festival’s website, is “to re-invigorate the interest of our nation's youth in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by producing and presenting the most compelling, exciting, educational and entertaining science festival in the United States.” A tiny sample of the organizations which participated in the annual event included NASA, Lockheed Martin, the Unites States Air Force, the National Security Agency, the National Institute of Health, Chevron Energy, Virginia Tech, and MIT.  R-MA students from physics, computer programming, ILS, and statistics classes attended with their teachers.
    Taking the escalator to the bottom floor of the festival, where the majority of displays were located, was certainly an exciting sight; with over 200 sectors to explore, there was no shortage of events to visit while at the S&E Festival. Indeed, topics ranged from the integration of arts into science and ecological conservation to computer science, 3-D printing, and space exploration. Some of the most interesting projects included the FORTIS exoskeletal suit developed by Lockheed Martin, capable of lifting thirty-six pounds of material with minimal effort while boosting worker efficiency from 200 to 2700%;  a zombie apocalypse simulator hosted by one of the many health organizations present at the event; a massive tower built out of Raspberry Pi’s to demonstrate the best method of data processing, hosted by Virginia Tech; a replica of the Enigma machine used to crack German encryption of its messages and orders during World War II; and finally, a motion-controlled simulation of Mars travel, hosted by NASA. Perhaps the only ‘non-advanced’ technology on display was the escalator to travel between floors; not sixty minutes into the festival, one had already jammed and was rendered useless for the remainder of the trip.
    Although we were unable to explore the surroundings for an extended period of time or attend the science conferences (which were being held for the next two days), the experience was nonetheless an informative one; the sheer variety of topics to explore meant that the one-and-a-half hours spent at the festival ensured that the time spent was exceptionally productive. The festival allowed R-MA students of all grades to explore the incredible variety of topics which the STEM field is currently researching and developing; from mainstream, soon-to-be-released technologies to obscure, unfinished topics that may nonetheless prove to be exceptionally useful in some field or another. Overall, the festival proved to be an exciting experience for everyone involved; the sheer high energy of the participants ensured that, regardless of whatever topics one had observed on that day, every R-MA student left the building a more educated person on the latest STEM technologies and research.