Attendance at BYU’s Astrofest reaches new heights


Kids of all ages came out to BYU on May 17 to celebrate astronomy through hands-on activities, demonstrations and tours, helping make this year’s Astrofest the most successful yet.

The fifth annual event reached record attendance, with nearly 1,000 people showing up.

“The first year we had about 400 people,” said Jeannette Lawler, a BYU physics and astronomy professor. “We’ve about doubled in size over the five years that we’ve been doing this.”

The 80-degree weather also helped in bringing people out.

“It rained in the morning last year so numbers were a little down, but today has gone really well,” said Clement Gaillard, a physics major from France who volunteered for the third consecutive year.

The event crawled with young children and their families both inside the Eyring Science Center, where many of the activities took place, as well as outside on the quad, where event organizers set up several interactive activities for participants. All of the day’s activities were free of charge.

One of the outdoor events was “astronaut training,” where guests could train to be astronauts journeying to Mars. Organizers set up a climbing wall and blow-up obstacle courses that simulated the rough terrain of the red planet.

A child loads a rocket he designed onto the launchpad at BYU's Astrofest. (BYU Photo)
A child loads a rocket he designed onto the launchpad at BYU’s Astrofest, Sat., May 17, 2014. (Photo by Ari Davis)

The most popular event was the rocket launching station. Participants designed rockets made out of PVC pipe and then journeyed outside, where volunteers could launch them sky high out onto the grass just south of the SWKT.

“My daughter loves the rockets,” said Jesse Roberts, who came to the Astrofest for the first time with his wife and three kids. “She keeps watching them launch the rocket and then comes running back to watch them launch it again. I’ve been standing here for a while.”

The rocket launching event was so popular that organizers had to rush out mid-day just to get more rocket supplies.

“This year we ran out of rockets,” Lawler said. “We started with 700 rockets and ended up having to go out and buy another 200 more at the last minute.”

The Astrofest is an annual event put on by BYU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy with the assistance of the engineering and geology departments.

“The reason that we do things like this is to let the kids come and have fun and see what kinds of things you can actually do with science,” Lawler said.

The event is geared toward helping children gain a greater understanding of the sciences, but a number of the 30–40 student-volunteers also gained valuable skills by participating.

“Many of the students are becoming great showmen,” said Elora Salway, an astronomy major from Las Vegas. “They’re the ones that are in charge of leading the tours and doing the demonstrations for the kids.”

Many participants said it was their first time attending the Astrofest, but it will likely not be their last.

“We would definitely come do it again,” Roberts said. “The kids loved it, and it’s more exciting to see them get all excited.”




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