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2018 Physics & Engineering Festival Set For April 7

March 23, 2018

a father holds his young daughter up to look through a telescope

By Shana K. Hutchins, Texas A&M University College of Science

Texas A&M University invites audiences across Texas, the nation and even the world to get up-close and personal with science and technology this spring at the 2018 Physics & Engineering Festival, an entertaining and informative weekend scientific extravaganza for all ages.

No fees or tickets are required for the free annual event (view promotional poster online), scheduled for Saturday, April 7, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the George P. Mitchell ’40 Physics Building on the Texas A&M campus.

Activities will begin at 10 a.m. with hands-on science exhibitions and engineering technology demonstrations and conclude with a 4 p.m. public lecture by astrophysicist and author Dr. Rocky Kolb, Dean of the Division of Physical Sciences at the University of Chicago and the Arthur Holly Comptom Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

All events are hosted by the Texas A&M Department Physics and Astronomy in partnership with several other campus units, including the Departments of Aerospace Engineering, Chemistry, Mathematics, Biology and Atmospheric Sciences as well as the Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History.

Throughout the day, festival participants are encouraged to unleash their inner scientists aboard a square-wheeled bicycle, run through a pool of cornstarch, and try their hands at generating electricity or shooting balloons with lasers — four of the nearly 200 fun experiments and displays illustrating basic scientific and engineering technology-related concepts and principles. All exhibits are manned by Texas A&M faculty, staff and students.

For the sixth consecutive year, the festival will showcase dozens of exciting new demonstrations built by student teams affiliated with the DEEP (Discover, Explore and Enjoy Physics and Engineering) Program. Hundreds of DEEP students, undergraduate and graduate, have been involved in creating the new demos during the years, and many will be on hand to present their work.

In addition to exhibits, the daylong festival will feature three fantastic performances of the Science Circus (11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m.) by physics showman Rhys Thomas, who teaches Newtonian physics through a rare blend of science, comedy and circus arts in a performance often compared to a Pixar movie. Attendees also will have the opportunity to meet NASA astronauts and Texas A&M professors Dr. Gregory Chamitoff and Dr. Bonnie Dunbar. Chamitoff, a former flight engineer and science officer aboard the International Space Station who in 2011 performed the final spacewalk of the overall Space Shuttle Program, and Dunbar, a veteran mission specialist and payload commander with the Space Shuttle Program who flew on five missions, each will present a public lecture, set for 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., respectively, in the Stephen W. Hawking Auditorium.

Other special events on tap include Large Hadron Collider virtual tours at noon and 1 p.m., tours of 1996 Nobel Prize-winning Texas A&M physicist Dr. David M. Lee’s laboratory, and five performances of the Low-Temperature Physics Extravaganza at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Finally, a Texas-sixed five-barrel depth charge featuring 1,000 plastic balls will close out the exhibition portion of the show at 3:30 p.m. on the south side the Mitchell Physics Building.

At 4 p.m., Kolb will deliver a keynote presentation, Mysteries of the Dark Universe, in the second-floor primary lecture hall of the Mitchell Physics Building. He will explore the 95 percent of our universe that is “missing” and believed to be composed of dark matter and dark energy — two puzzling phenomena that he says, once decoded, will illuminate the nature of space and time and connect the quantum with the cosmos.

Prior to Saturday’s events, Harvard University physicist Dr. David Weitz will team up with local celebrity chefs Mitch Siegert (Truman Chocolates) and Tai Lee (Veritas) for a free public lecture, Physics of Cooking, on Friday (April 6) at 7 p.m. in the second-floor primary lecture hall of the Mitchell Physics Building. Tickets are not required for the kickoff event, in which the trio will demonstrate some of their favorite cooking techniques and explain the underlying science of their delectable work. The talk is based on a popular course offered at Harvard that is a collaboration between science professors and chefs.

All events are sponsored by the Texas A&M University System, the Department of Physics and Astronomy, the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy, Dr. Charles R. ’62 and Judith G. Munnerlyn, ExxonMobil, the Willard and Anne Levin Foundation, Ahmed Mahmoud ’87, Michele Mobley ’87, Susan Sheskey, CC Creations, Schlotzsky’s College Station and Pepsi. The event is a member of the Science Festival Alliance.

For the latest details regarding the 2018 Physics & Engineering Festival, including event directions and parking information, please visit


This story by Shana K. Hutchins originally appeared on the College of Science website.

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