STEM Fun for Everyone: Robotics, space exploration, chemistry and more!
Meghan Brown posted on February 26, 2016 |

Have you ever wanted to drive a cockroach with your cell phone?

No? Well, insects aren’t for everyone.

Maybe you’d rather see a battery powered exoskeleton help a paraplegic to walk again, or even learn how to build it?

Perhaps you prefer experimenting with chemical reactions to see what happens. (Hopefully not a Jekyll and Hyde situation!) 

Do you want to see the technology we use to explore the mysteries of our universe?  Immerse yourself in a virtual reality world?

What if you could do all these things, and many more, in a single weekend?

Welcome to the 2016 USA Science and Engineering Festival!

The USASEF features two full days of innovative, interactive, high-tech and educational talks and demonstrations. It’s all science, all engineering, all the time.  And it’s all awesome.

The Festival’s mission: to be the largest, most inspiring science event in the country, getting kids and youths of all ages interested in science, technology, engineering and math (known as STEM.)

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: learn, be inspired, explore and above all, have fun!

What’s Happening at the Science and Engineering Festival

The Festival celebrates engineering and science of all kinds with an exciting variety of programs and events not only during the Festival, but also leading up to the Festival weekend. With more than 1,000 exhibitors from STEM organizations across the US, a variety of stage shows, speakers and demonstrations, there will be something of interest to everyone. 

In addition, admission is free! This makes the Festival an ideal weekend event for elementary and secondary school fieldtrips. was lucky enough to attend the previous Festival in 2014. We had the opportunity to speak with many of the presenters and exhibitors over the course of the weekend.  This video has some of the highlights:


Forming the largest part of the festival, more than 230 different exhibitors will offer a wide variety of demonstrations, hands-on activities and educational experiences.  Here are just a few highlights from the 2016 exhibition list:

In a particular highlight from 2014, the video below has talking with Retired US Staff Sergeant Travis Mills, a quadruple amputee with advanced prosthetics.

Stage Shows

Over the course of the weekend, the Festival offers more than 30 stage shows, from demonstrations of science experiments to talks by science celebrities.  While the list is still growing, a few members of the 2016 stage show lineup are:

  • Don’t Try This at Home – The Wonders of Science with Science Bob
  • The Mathemagician, Art Benjamin
  • They Might Be Giants, the Grammy-award winning band with a penchant for science and tech-inspired music
  • SICK Science – Making Science Fun with Steve Spangler
  • Actor Wil Wheaton, from Star Trek and Big Bang Theory
  • Along with a host of Scientist and Engineer question and answer sessions with experts from NASA, Lockheed Martin and more.

The video below is’s short interview with Bill Nye, one of the famous scientists to speak at the 2014 Festival:

Discover STEM Careers at the Career Pavilion

For students who know they want to work in STEM careers, or those still trying to decide, the Festival also features a STEM Career Pavilion. Students can explore potential careers in areas like renewable energy, robotics, space tourism, nanotechnology, virtual reality, genetics and many other fields.

The Pavilion Hosts four different activities:

  • College Fair, where students can meet representatives from leading STEM-focused universities and colleges.
  • STEM Programs Exposition, offering a chance to learn about after-school program, internship, mentorship and scholarship opportunities.
  • Job Fair, where students can meet with companies that recruit for STEM careers.
  • Meet the Scientist and Engineers, where students can personally meet real-life role models in STEM careers.

For scientists, engineers, companies, STEM organizations, universities and colleges interested in exhibiting at the Career Pavilion, the Festival is still accepting applications.

X-STEM: Extreme STEM Symposium

X-STEM Extreme STEM Symposium is a bit of its own animal: a “TED-style” event for kids featuring talks and demonstrations from 40 STEM professionals representing top universities, corporations, government agencies and non-profit organizations. Unlike the main USASEF, X-STEM does carry a small price tag of $20 per person. X-STEM also takes place a few days before the main Festival weekend.

The events at X-STEM are aimed at middle and high-school students, featuring interactive presentations and workshops to inspire kids about STEM. Sessions cover a wide array of subject areas including space exploration, the Maker Movement, cancer research, oceanography, flying robots, movie science and more.

One of our favorites from the last Festival was Greg Gage and his cell phone controlled cockroaches.

The 2016 X-STEM list looks just as exciting so far, with speakers such as:

  • Spiros Michalakis – Caltech quantum physicist who served as the Hollywood science consultant to the movie Ant-Man explains how to break the laws of physics
  • Sara Volz – 19-year old biofuel researcher and MIT student who won the 2013 Intel Science Talent Search for her work to make algae a more feasible option in replacing fossil fuels
  • Helen Greiner – Founder and CEO of CyPhy Works, a leading robotics company developing amazing, futuristic flying robots
  • Dr. Geoffrey Ling – Former DARPA physician and scientist making ground-breaking contributions to neuroscience and battlefield medicine, including developing revolutionary prostheses
  • Dr. Carol Greider – a Nobel Prize winning pioneer researcher in molecular biology from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
  • Maj. Gen. Jacqueline D. Van Ovost – U.S. Air Force test pilot, and vice director, Joint Staff at the Pentagon

The X-STEM Symposium runs from 9:30am to 3pm on Thursday, April 14thRegistration information is available here.

When and Where

The USASEF takes place on April 16 – 17, 2016, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Centre, 801 Mt. Vernon Place NW, D.C. 

If you are interested in attending, visit the USA Science and Engineering Festival website for all the details.

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