U.S. Science and Engineering Festival

Science Wednesday: US EPA at Inaugural U.S. Science & Engineering Festival – Safe Chemicals

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Maureen Gwinn

As someone who enjoys doing scientific outreach, the U.S. Science & Engineering Festival was like a dream come true! Kids interested in science, or parents who want their kids to be interested in science, flocking to the National Mall to learn more about science was an amazing opportunity to engage kids in something I love.

There were science-based performances, games and activities, all geared to showing the fascinating and fun side of science.  This festival was in response to the steadily decreasing leadership role of the U.S. in science, which the organizers hoped to change by stimulating an interest in science for kids at a young age.

For our part, the EPA brought some interactive modules to showcase the role of science in our work at the Agency.

Assessing the safety of chemicals is a big part of what we do at EPA, and we engaged kids to help us determine what caused the reactions when mixing simple, everyday chemicals (baking soda, rock salt, water).

Kids were amazed to see that mixing these simple chemicals together (along with a pH indicator) led to a change in temperature, created a gas and changed colors.  We set out to teach kids about the importance of understanding chemicals and how they interact with each other and the environment, and from their responses also showed them their potential to be future scientists.

About the Author: Maureen is a toxicologist with EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment, where she works in human health risk assessment to understand the toxicity of environmental chemicals. Maureen is also the K-12 Task Force lead for the Society of Toxicology, and often volunteers in education outreach.

Note: Give it a try! You can download instructions to try the “Baggie Science” demonstration

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Science Thursday: Come See EPA Research In Action!

By Maggie Sauerhage

When Fall blows in each year, it brings cooler temperatures, colorful leaves, and wonderful fall festivals. I find that festivals are a great way to spend the day outdoors with my family, enjoying one another’s company and whatever the festival has in store. This weekend, I will have the pleasure of attending the U.S. Science and Engineering Festival and working at EPA’s booth.

The festival, the culmination of a month-long celebration focused on inspiring the nation’s youth and people of all ages to rediscover science and engineering, will take place October 23 to 24, on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The EPA booth will have numerous activities and experiments waiting for willing participants.

I’m excited to help out with the various tables, such as the one highlighting chemical reactions. Here, EPA staffers will illustrate important scientific concepts by combining various products found in the average kitchen, creating reactions commonly used by chemists.

We will also have a lung capacity challenge where participants can measure their own lung capacity and compare it to national averages and other festival attendees. As an avid runner, I think I have pretty strong lungs. I’ll have to see how I measure up against the thousands of people we are expecting to host over the weekend.

When I first started at EPA, I thought of the agency as simply a regulatory body. I was amazed to learn of all the influential and groundbreaking research EPA scientists are performing. These same EPA scientists and engineers will be on hand both days of the festival using simple and complex activities to demonstrate the work they do and why it is so important to the environment and human health in our country and around the world.

Have you ever wondered how you can do a chemistry experiment in an environmentally friendly way or how your drinking water gets so clean? What does the number of bugs in a stream have to do with water quality? How do genes play a part in a population’s adaptation over time? Come by the EPA booth next weekend to find the answers to all these questions and many more!


About the Author: Maggie Sauerhage is a student at Indiana University majoring in Spanish. She is spending the fall working at EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Note: If you can’t make it to the festival, you can still follow us

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.