Curiosity Unleashed: Wisconsin Science Festival 2014

Our buggy conversation starter at the Wisconsin Science Festival
Our buggy conversation starter at the Wisconsin Science Festival
“Oh wait Mom, look, bugs!”

And she was off. The next thing I knew she had a pale greenish-blue tobacco hornworm caterpillar in her hand.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before.” Nor had I.

She turned it upside down and started tickling its legs with a finger of her free hand.

“What does it eat? What will it turn into? How big will it get?” Rapid fire questions at the student who was manning the table of bugs. “Ooo cool. Look Mom he has a stick bug on his shirt. What does a woolly bear caterpillar become? What’s the name of that beetle? Where does it live? Why is that hornworm so much more active than the one I’m holding?”

We both took a really good look at the beating heart just underneath the dorsal skin of the very active hornworm that was about to pupate.

That was one adventure. There were many more.

Promega was one of many sponsors of this year’s Wisconsin Science Festival: Curiosity Unleashed 2014.

All around Wisconsin organizations, colleges and universities were sponsoring science-related activities for the community. No matter where you were in Wisconsin this weekend there was probably a science-related activity near you, either hands-on or lecture; indoor or outside: you could find something tailored to your interests. The academy was interacting with the community, and the interaction was incredibly rich.

The mentoring between the high school students and the elementary school kids was terrific. 3-2-1 Blast off!
The mentoring between the high school students and the elementary school kids was terrific. 3-2-1 Blast off!
One of the things that I especially appreciated about this year’s festival was the variety of organizations represented. Corporations sent volunteers to guide children and their parents through the homebrew isolation of DNA from strawberries, or they created transfection games and talked to children and adults about cells and the proteins you could put in them that could make the eyes of a fish fluoresce. High schools sent their rocket and robot clubs: high school students were teaching elementary school students about rockets and robots, and the mentoring was magnificent.

Participants were able to learn about work, power, potential and kinetic energy. They could fly a flight simulator or design a car to get down a “mountain” and cross “Octopus Lake”. There were workshops for teachers, so the science of this day could make a lasting impression in the classrooms around the state.

The learning didn’t stop when the exhibits closed down. Indeed my daughter’s curiosity was unleashed in a big way. When we returned home, she continued her bioaccumulation experiment, and interestingly the dye split into colors as her white carnation took it up. We had lots to talk about—a little chromatography along with the bioaccumulation. And her “lava lamp”? Well, she added some detergent to it, and it stopped being a lava lamp.

Curiosity Unleashed. I love it, and I am delighted to work for an employer that supports it. I can’t wait to see what the Wisconsin Science Festival is like next year. The curiosity is killing me…

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Michele Arduengo

Social Media Manager at Promega Corporation
Michele earned her B.A. in biology at Wesleyan College in Macon, GA, and her PhD through the BCDB Program at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. Michele is the social media manager at Promega and managing editor of the Promega Connections blog. She enjoys getting lost in a good book, trumpet playing, knitting, and snowshoeing.

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