December 2010

Inaugural USA Science and Engineering Festival a Rousing Success

This past October, ASBMB participated in the inaugural USA Science & Engineering Festival. More than 2,000 people stopped by the ASBMB exhibits to learn about the molecules of life and make a tasty DNA treat.

Science Festival
At the ASBMB “A Taste of Genetics” exhibit, participants made DNA out of licorice and marshmallows.

This past October, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology joined 850 other science organizations and universities at the inaugural USA Science & Engineering Festival. Under beautiful fall skies, more than half a million visitors attended the festival, spread out at four different locations around the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to participate in the 1,500 different exhibits and performances.

Among the countless informative and interactive booths, visitors could speak with astronauts, play soccer using robots, look at cells under a microscope and even touch a squid. In between visiting the booths, they could take time to watch some science comedy, magic shows, juggling and other stage acts that both entertained and educated.

ASBMB’s two exhibits, “Molecular Machines” and “A Taste of Genetics,” were extremely well-received – more than 2,000 curious individuals stopped by during the two-day event to learn more about the molecules of life and make a tasty DNA treat.

“While it was disheartening that no one under the age of 15 has ever heard of Watson and Crick, we are happy to report that more than 1,000 moms, dads and kids now know that life happens in water, or more specifically, that proteins fold in the polar, watery media of the cell, following basic principles of chemistry and physics,” said Tim Herman of the Center for BioMolecular Modeling at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, who oversaw the “Molecular Machines” booth.

“Overall, it was a wonderful experience for all the CBM staff, who had the opportunity to ponder questions like, ‘How does the cell remember the exact amino acid sequence of each of our 30,000 proteins?’ with the visitors who came to the ASBMB booth,” he continued.


The festival’s mission was to reinvigorate our youth (and our adults as well) with the wonder of science and engineering while also sending a message about the value and importance of science for the continued success of our nation. Based on the size and excitement of the crowd, the festival succeeded tremendously, and ASBMB is proud to have been a part of this groundbreaking event.

However, the mission goes beyond that singular weekend. The turnout and participation clearly demonstrate that children are eager to learn about science, and the challenge now is sustaining the festival’s effect year-round and spreading it to other parts of the nation.

ASBMB will continue to do its part in promoting science education at all levels and certainly encourages all of its members to plan and/or participate in local events that promote science through activity. 

Nick Zagorski ( is a science writer at ASBMB.

Slideshow: USA Science Festival 2010

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