Astrofest teaches about astronomy and physics

Ari Davis
Children enjoy launching rockets at Astrofest on BYU campus. (Ari Davis)

The Erying Science Center was a flurry of sights, colors and sounds last Saturday during BYU’s ninth annual Astrofest as hundreds of local children and parents participated in astronomy and physics themed games and activities.

Astrofest was started in the summer of 2009 by several BYU faculty members and students.

“The main purpose of the event is to provide opportunities for families and kids to learn about physical science and astronomy in a fun environment,” said BYU professor and event volunteer Darin Ragozzine. “We offer a variety of activities that are fun for a variety of ages.”

The ground floor of the Eyring Science Center was ground zero for activities as attendees signed in and experimented with all of the different displays available in the lobby. Tours of BYU’s Multiple Agent Intelligent Coordination and Control Lab and the Eyring Science Center’s Research Labs bounced in and out, creating a steady stream of parents and wide-eyed children.

The excitement carried up through the higher floors of the Eyring Science Center as stations with origami, paper airplanes and star wheels were crowded with children and adults alike. The fourth floor planetarium was packed with strollers and attendees as the Planetarium offered free shows every half hour.

“Oohs” and “aahs” could be heard on the center’s roof as BYU students, alumni and faculty taught about basic astronomy and positioned solar telescopes for attendees to view sun spots.

“Astrofest is a great way to introduce difficult concepts like astronomy to kids,” said recent BYU alumna and program volunteer Leanne Farnbach. “It’s a great way to really teach the science behind how the earth works in a friendly environment.”

Outside, the trees of the Joseph Smith Building courtyard were littered with homemade rockets thanks to Astrofest’s main event. Prospective astronauts were able to create and launch their designs hundreds of feet in the air under the supervision of local high school and BYU students.

“We have a modified sprinkler valve and an air compressor. Just put a rocket on top, press the button and the compressor will send them flying,” said Mountain View High School junior Timothy Taylor.

Between the indoor and outdoor events, Astrofest typically attracts between 2000 and 3000 attendees in a single afternoon said BYU physics professor Eric Hintze.

“We have the materials for about 1700 rockets and 550 patches for the Scouts,” said Hintze. “Almost all of them are gone by the end of the day.”

Astrofest is held annually and overseen by BYU faculty and studentsFor those interested in volunteering or attending, the event is held on an annual basis in the mid-spring.

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