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Virginia Science Festival: "A Party Where Science is the Guest of Honor"


It's billed as a party where science is the guest of honor… this Saturday, the Virginia Science Festival kicks off its week-long celebration of science, technology, engineering, math – and everything in between. Hundreds of events and demonstrations are scheduled in locations all over the commonwealth – from a “brain scavenger hunt” in Alexandria to “rat basketball” in Richmond. 


As many ideas do, the Science Festival started small – it was initially slated to take place in downtown Roanoke, outside of the Science Museum of Western Virginia. But After recruiting Virginia Tech’s help, the sponsors continued to roll in – then…. a couple of grants and Senator endorsements later, it grew into the Statewide Virginia Science Festival. Michael Hemphill, with the Science Museum, has been behind the event from the start, working hard to include everybody.

Well if you call yourself the Virginia Science Festival, you better make sure you provide some mechanism where other parts of the state can be part of it – and that’s what we’ve done through the website - as much as we here in Roanoke can do”

On the website are lists of events happening next week at libraries and museums across the state –but the main events are in the Roanoke and New River valleys, with hundreds of exhibits and activities on the schedule. Museum executive director Jim Rollings hopes festival attendees leave feeling better acquainted with the world of science and technology.

I think a larger goal is to help everyone be comfortable and a little more conversant about the sciences and about the things that surround it – because our society, our innovative future, our economy – so much is based on technology”

And Michael Hemphill and Jim Rollings are PROOF that Science IS for everyone – they were both English majors.

And English Majors everywhere will respond to a new plan to stamp out fear of fractions by taking a whole different approach to it. It will be on display in Blacksburg as part of the Virginia Science Festival.

There’s something about those rhythmic beats that makes you want to tap along with them.  Well it might also be a good way to help struggling students learn math; Specifically  -- fractions, which are crucial for tackling more advanced concepts --and to meeting Virginia Standards of Learning or SOL requirements.

“We want them to pass their SOLs and we ultimately want them to truly understand fractions.”

At the Virginia Science Festival Chris Frisina will guide visitors through a computer program that uses the sounds of drums to demonstrate how fractions work; how each beat is a part of the measure.

So our approach is to throw away everything they’re used to learning, bring them into this environment  and try to understand both the parts and the whole at the exact same time.”

Instead of staring at lines on a page, users begin their work sessions by tapping rhythms on their desks while a computer records it. The beats can be seen and heard and moved around on the screen to solve problems..  The exhibit called ‘The Sound of Fractions” will be at Virginia Tech’s Moss Center for Arts this Saturday.

For maps, schedules, event locations - and a free smartphone app that will tell you what and where each event is with a touch - visit the Festival's website here.



Robbie Harris is based in Blacksburg, covering the New River Valley and southwestern Virginia.