October 18, 2010

Nanomagic to super synapses: JHU exhibits at Science Fest

Six teams of Johns Hopkins researchers with expertise in nanotechnology, particle physics and other fields will participate this weekend in an ambitious event centered on the National Mall in Washington: a mammoth exposition at the inaugural USA Science and Engineering Festival.

The free two-day expo on the National Mall and in surrounding areas will feature more than 1,500 hands-on science activities, plus more than 75 shows on four stages. The family-friendly event was set up to encourage young people to become more interested in science, technology, engineering and math. To accomplish this, organizers said they planned to present “compelling, exciting, educational and entertaining” exhibits and activities.

The expo will take place from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 23 and 24. Among the exhibitors on the Mall will be the Johns Hopkins science and engineering teams, made up of faculty members, students and staff members who have volunteered to enlighten and entertain visitors.

“Johns Hopkins is so close to D.C., and we have a school [SAIS] located in the District, so we really wanted to have a strong presence at this festival,” said Beth Bolton, a Homewood campus staff member who is helping to organize the university’s participation in the event.

She said that a bus has been enlisted to transport the teams and their equipment, and that the teams have coordinated their T-shirts, banners and other artwork with logos that call attention to the university.

The Johns Hopkins exhibits will be:

• Networking Neurons: Making Super Synapses — Volunteers from the Undergraduate Program in Neuroscience will explain how brain cells called neurons connect to one another, forming a signal processing network. Visitors will be able to assemble alphabet beads into a model neuron, with letters spelling out a message. Location: Section NM-5, Booth 532.

• Nature’s Robots and Machines — This exhibit was organized by the university’s Institute for Biophysical Research. Visitors will learn how large magnets, X-rays and computers can reveal how nature’s most complex molecules are assembled and how they keep you alive. Location: Section NM-6, Booth 608.

• The Expanding Data Universe: From Galaxies to Sensor Networks — Organized by Johns Hopkins’ Institute for Data Intensive Engineering and Science, this exhibit will allow visitors to see how science is being revolutionized by an explosion of data across many fields. Applications exist in disciplines ranging from astronomy to environmental science. Location: Section NM-3, Booth 383.

• Self-Assembly Is Nanomagic — Volunteers from the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology will help visitors see how engineers use a technique called self-assembly at the nano- and microscale. Working with everyday objects and materials, visitors will learn how this technique may be used to address human health and environmental problems. Location: Section NM-6, Booth 610.

• Legos Can Show What Happens on the Nanoscale — This exhibit will be presented by the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Visitors will see how a popular children’s toy can be used to conduct experiments concerning the behavior of particles, cells and molecules in environments too small to see with the naked eye. Location: Section NM-6, Booth 612.

• The Science of the Large Hadron Collider — Volunteers from the Department of Physics and Astronomy will help visitors understand elementary particles by observing the cosmic rays that constantly pass through us. Visitors will also learn why physicists have built a giant particle accelerator. Location: Section NM-2, Booth 235.

To locate the Johns Hopkins exhibits on the expo map, go to www.usasciencefestival

More details are at the main USA Science and Engineering Festival website, www