2016 N.C. Science Festival: Experiment with fun

More than 100 activities for science-curious people of all ages will be featured April 24 at the UNC Charlotte Science & Technology Expo.
More than 100 activities for science-curious people of all ages will be featured April 24 at the UNC Charlotte Science & Technology Expo. John W. Adkisson

What’s new about the 2016 N.C. Science Festival? Look outside.

The statewide event – April 8-24, and now in its sixth year – has grown to include more than 400 events, most of them free and open to the public. The mixture of fun and learning is designed to collectively appeal to all ages and its offerings can be found from the Outer Banks to the mountains, usually in museums, schools, colleges and universities.

And now in parks, too. The N.C. State Parks system turns 100 this year, and while many centennial celebrations are scheduled for late summer, all 41 parks will offer hands-on science programming in April as part of the science festival.

Mike Murphy, director of the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation, said, “Our 200-plus park rangers are trained naturalists and outdoor scientists themselves and are a natural fit for this effort. On a daily basis, they conduct outdoor research, including cataloging rare species of birds, plants and insects, as well as leading educational programs.”

Here’s a look at some of our area’s highlights – indoor and outdoor – scheduled for the weeks ahead. Unless otherwise noted, they are free to attend.

April 8

RCCC Hands-on Science & Manufacturing Fair. Rowan-Cabarrus Community College invites all ages to its STEM open house at its facility on the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis. Science, technology, engineering and math come to life, 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., with interactive touches. (Also held 5-8 p.m. April 7.) Details:

Maker Friday: Making Cool Stuff with Technology. Makerspace Charlotte, 200 E. 36th St. in NoDa, is home to Charlotte’s open community lab – part machine shop, workshop, classroom and studio. From 7 to 10:30 p.m., tour its digs, try demos, build, play and check out compressed air rockets, 3D printers and more. Details: (type “Makerspace” in the search window).

April 9

UNCC Open Science and Technology Lab Day. Find out what goes on in science labs. At open labs between 11 a.m. and 8:30 p.m., researchers will show you what they do. You can also take self-guided tours of the campus. Details: (click “Special Events”).

April 9-10

N.C. Robotics Championships. See the state’s top 30 high school robotics teams compete, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. at UNCC’s Halton Arena, for a chance to advance to the world championships. Details:

S’More Science and 100 S’More Years of Parks. Camp out at Morrow Mountain State Park in Albemarle, where, for overnight campers, rangers will do some live science experiments involving marshmallows, chocolate and campfires. It’s 8-9 p.m. at the campground amphitheater (bring a flashlight). Details: 704-982-4402;

April 10

Dissection Day. Look inside dissections of different animals and compare them to our human anatomy in the Explore More Life Lab, 12:30-3:30 p.m. at Discovery Place. Admission charged. Details:

April 12

When Giant Snakes Invade Your Country. From 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library’s Cornelius branch, Davidson College biology professor Michael Dorcas will discuss the ecology of invasive pythons, what risk they pose, and what impact they are having on our natural ecosystem. Registration recommended. Details:

April 14

STEM in the Garden. At the South County Regional Library on Rea Road, ages 6-11 can attend a 4-5 p.m. presentation exploring the benefits of gardening in small spaces. Youngsters can learn how to become a small-scale backyard farmer. Registration required. Details:

April 16-17

Lego Robotics Workshops offer kids in grades 3-12 (and an accompanying parent) the opportunity to learn robotics with expert guidance in small, multi-instructor-staffed, age-appropriate classes. Workshops are 9 a.m.-3 p.m. both days in the labs of UNC Charlotte’s EPIC Building. Admission charged; registration required; space is limited; fee for lunch. Details:

April 18

Retro Weaponry Design Challenge. A teen can build a catapult or trebuchet as an idea starter to learn about such topics as acceleration, gravity, physics and energy. It’s 3-4:30 p.m. at the University City Regional Library on East W.T. Harris Boulevard. Registration required. Details:

April 20

Great Egg Drop Finale at ImaginOn. Throughout the preceding week, libraries in the city-county system stage challenges where contestants use science and skill to design a system that will protect a raw egg from cracking during a fall. The winners of those competitions now face off from 6 to 7 p.m., dropping their egg contraptions from ImaginOn’s second-floor balcony. (Registration for preliminary rounds at participating branch libraries is required.) Details/schedules:

April 22

Earth Day Huntersville! Kids can help plant vegetables and flowers in the Learning Garden – and learn about botany – at Discovery Place KIDS-Huntersville, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Admission charged. Details:

April 23

Young Veterinarians Day at the Carolina Raptor Center. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Huntersville bird-rehab center will offer tours and show kids what it takes to be a veterinarian. See more than 30 species of birds on the Raptor Trail. Admission charged. Details:

Wild Earth Day. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Schiele Museum of Natural History in Gastonia, you can meet heritage-breed animals, watch sheep shearing events and take part in activities and crafts. Admission charged. Details:

April 24

UNC Charlotte Science and Technology Expo. More than 100 activities for science-curious people of all ages will be featured noon-4 p.m in and near the student union, from displays to hands-on presentations (including robots in action). Details:

Bacteria 101: Microbes in Disease and Health. James Oliver, professor of microbiology at UNCC, will discus the world of bacteria – what extreme things they can do, the amazing environments in which they can survive, and how they play a role in disease and in our food. It’s 1:30-2:30 p.m. at the University City Regional Library on East W.T. Harris Boulevard. Details:

Want to know more?

Full schedule of 2016 N.C. Science Festival events: