BYU Astrofest promotes science fun for families

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The BYU Department of Physics and Astronomy, along with the BYU Astronomical Society, will be holding their fifth annual BYU Astrofest on Saturday, May 18.

“We want to get kids to come out and interact with science in a way that is fun so they can see real science,” Jeannette Lawler, Royden G. Derrick Planetarium supervisor and physical science coordinator said.

Astrofest mainly reaches out to elementary and junior high school students. Lawler sees Astrofest as a way to get kids interested in science early on in their education.

“A lot of times in school you end up doing things that are very tedious and boring, like watching water boil,” Lawler said. “That’s not what science is about, so kids get a very distorted view of science.”

Lawler also emphasized that Astrofest is meant to help dispel some misconceptions about scientists in general. She hopes that kids will see that scientists aren’t only old Caucasian men in lab coats, but rather, anyone can be a scientist regardless of gender, age or race.

The Royden G. Derrick Planetarium makes stargazing possible during the day(Photo by BYU Photo)
The Royden G. Derrick Planetarium makes stargazing possible during the day. (Photo courtesy Jaren Wilkey/BYU)

Many student volunteers participate in Astrofest and hope that they can help kids see that many people decide to pursue degrees in scientific fields and that a career in science is a viable option.

“I think Astrofest is beneficial for kids because it gets them excited about learning and science,” Matthew McNeff, a senior from Orem studying physics said. “I volunteered because if I were a kid this is totally something that I would have loved to go to. It’s like a humongous, interactive science museum for free!”

Student volunteers are passionate about science and they hope to pass their excitement on to younger generations.

“I don’t study science, but I’ve always had a love for science since I was younger. I watched a lot of Bill Nye,” Alex Hale, a graduate student from Los Alamitos, Calif., said.

As children and parents come to enjoy Astrofest this weekend, BYU science faculty and students hope that the festival will be beneficial in changing attitudes and feelings towards the scientific fields of study.

Astrofest will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in and around the Carl F. Eyring Science Center on the BYU campus. Astrofest will feature different science activities designed for families.

The Royden G. Derrick Planetarium on the fourth floor of the Eyring Science Center will be open throughout the day. The Planetarium offers guests the opportunity to stargaze and explore space during the day. Planetarium shows will be held every half hour.

Other Astrofest activities include building and launching model rockets and paper airplanes, as well as a bounce house and a climbing wall, meant to show guests what the terrain of Mars might be like.

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