The University of Texas at Arlington College of Science Fall 2011  

Sally Ride Science Festival

Kids have fun with science at Sally Ride festival

Top left, UT Arlington student and Science Ambassador Jesse Baum conducts a demonstration during the Sally Ride Science Festival. Middle left, teacher and former NASA astronaut Barbara Morgan talks with students during an experiment testing the buoyancy of objects. Bottom left, students look on excitedly during a demonstration of how to make ice cream using liquid nitrogen. They later consumed the results.
     Saturdays are normally a fairly quiet time on campus, but on October 30, 2010, UT Arlington was buzzing with activity. Almost 1,000 students — mostly girls — in grades 5-8 from across the Metroplex converged on UTA for a day of learning and fun at the Sally Ride Science Festival.
     The festival, presented by ExxonMobil and Sally Ride Science, brought together students, their parents and teachers for a day of science and socializing. The goal was to spur girls' interest in science and math and show them that science is a fun and exciting discipline. The festival focuses on young girls because girls are traditionally underrepresented in the fields of science and math.
     "The opportunity to generate interest in science among girls is always important, and we're proud to be part of that effort," Dean of Science Pamela Jansma said.
     The event began with a street fair which sprawled across the library mall, with hands-on exhibits designed to educate and entertain. Festivalgoers were then treated to a talk by former NASA astronaut and teacher Barbara Morgan at Texas Hall. The students then split into groups and went to workshops, each of which was led by a UT Arlington faculty member or area teacher and focused on a specific discipline. The workshops let the students learn various scientific concepts through hands-on, supervised experimentation.
     The festival, held at UT Arlington for the first time, was a rousing success according to all involved. The event travels to universities across the country, but UT Arlington and Rice University were its only Texas stops in 2010.
     "Most of our outreach to K-12 students is done on a much smaller scale. To see hundreds of middle school girls engaged in hands-on science and engineering activities with our faculty and students was really exciting, and their enthusiasm was contagious," said Lori Norris, special programs coordinator for the College of Science. "Our faculty and students had a great time, as well. We appreciate our partnership with ExxonMobil that makes this sort of program possible and look forward to hosting more events like this in the future."
     The day kicked off with a street fair, with groups from across campus and outside vendors displaying a host of science demonstrations. At one booth, the UT Arlington Science Ambassadors wowed the young audience with "chemistry magic" using props including liquid nitrogen, bubbling chemicals and even hands on fire — explaining the science behind each along the way.
     Morgan, a teacher who joined NASA's Teacher in Space program in 1985, was a member of the Space Shuttle Endeavour's crew when it flew to the International Space Station in August 2007. She recalled thinking science was no place for girls while growing up, but came to realize the error in that thinking as she got older.
     "I realized that girls could do anything that boys could do," she said. "I want everybody here to know that and never forget it."
     Morgan trained with Christa McAuliffe as the alternate for the Challenger mission on Jan. 28, 1986. The mission ended in tragedy when the shuttle disintegrated shortly after liftoff from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, killing all seven crew members aboard.