Clear your calendar because one of the largest science festivals in the U.S. is coming to San Diego for a thrilling week of STEM-themed fun and learning! The San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering takes place March 3–11 throughout San Diego County. Read on for your insider’s guide to the best events for young scientists and budding engineers.

What is the Festival?
The annual San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering is a weeklong celebration with free community events for kids as young as toddlers to high school students. It includes interactive demonstrations, hands-on activities and dynamic speakers to engage kids and families in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The goal of the festival is to show how science and engineering are truly the “backyard” of San Diego. The week begins with the incredible EXPO Day at PETCO Park where over 100 local businesses, corporations and organizations provide interactive, hands-on science, technology, engineering and math exhibits and activities for budding scientists.

EXPO Day
As mentioned above, the Festival begins with the free EXPO Day on March 3 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., at PETCO Park. More than 130 local businesses, corporations and organizations will provide interactive, hands-on activities showcasing STEM from all parts of Southern California. Now in its tenth year, Expo Day has several new features. Here are a few things you don’t want to miss:

*NEW* U.S. Air Force Rapid Strike Simulator: Ever wonder what it’s like to soar the sky on a down-range Air Force mission? Well look no further! EXPO DAY and Festival Week will feature the U.S. Air Force Recruiting Service’s Rapid Strike Simulator. Rapid Strike is a state-of-the-art flight simulator that showcases the intricacy and capability of modern American airpower. Take a round in the sky and experience what it’s like to be an airman.

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*NEW* Healthy Lifestyles Area: New year, new you! Visit this booth area in Park at the Park to learn more about the science of healthy living. From exercise to healthy eating habits, this new area will teach festival-goers all they need to know about living a healthy lifestyle.

Pre-K Zone: Inspire even the tiniest innovators to ignite their love for science! Presented by STEAM Maker Workshop and Children’s Discovery Museum, the Pre-K Zone will give kids under 5 an opportunity to participate in STEAM-related activities. Visit the Pre-K Zone to excite your youngest scientists. Let their imaginations run free, they just might change the world.

TEDxKids@ElCajon Take the Stage: TEDxKids@El Cajon will join the fun for a second year for TEDx kids talks starting at 11 a.m. on the Dugout Stage. Hear inventive ideas from some of tomorrow’s future movers and shakers. You’ll laugh, smile and be proud of the skills these students are learning in public speaking and leadership. Organized by the Cajon Valley Union School District, these TEDx talks offer a unique platform for students to share their ideas. Connect with our future leaders and leave inspired.

Bright Idea Society Alley: No need to scour the map––the Bright Idea Society award winners will all be gathered together in their own row inside Park at the Park. The Bright Idea Society recognizes individuals (new this year) and groups at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Winners will be awarded stipends, t-shirts and a free booth space at EXPO DAY to showcase their ideas to thousands of festival attendees of all ages. Visit their activity booths and let these fascinating young minds teach you about science.

League of Extraordinary Scientists (LXS): Join some of the brightest minds in San Diego County at the Mercado area in PETCO Park. Have questions about Entymology, Nano Tech, Artificial Intelligence, Genomics, Oceanography, Science or Astronomy? Listen and engage with scientists from San Diego companies and organizations who are active in their industries at a Fireside Chat. Be sure to also stay for the LXS Science Tour, which offers hands-on activities for scientists of all ages.

EXPO DAY Stage Performances: Everyone’s favorite math rappers – The Music Notes – return to EXPO Day this year. Through rhythm and rhyme they break down math concepts from simple addition to advanced algebra.

Fleet Science Center, General Atomics, Mad Science and others captivate audiences with explosive STEM fun.

The experts at Ecovivarium give guests an up close and personal experience to reptiles who call Southern California home.

EXPO Know Before You Go Here are your insider tips to help you get the most out of your visit to EXPO Day.

  • Parking and Transportation — There are several parking lots in the area to choose from within walking distance. The Festival website states there is $5 parking available in the Tailgate Lot and Padres Parkade. If you don’t want to pay for parking, consider taking the trolley to EXPO Day. Exit the 12th and Imperial Transit Center, which is just minutes away from PETCO Park.
  • What to Eat — There is food available for purchase at PETCO Park, including a kid’s meal deal for $6 that includes a hot dog, juice box and cookie at Padres concession stands. But you can always pack a lunch to bring with you too. Just note that you need to eat food from home in the general seating or designated picnic areas. Outside food cannot be brought into any restaurant, club lounge, or suite.
  • Have a Game Plan — Once inside the Park, make sure to grab a map from an information booth so you can get familiar with the space. The map will also list all the performances on the stages as well as the industry experts speaking during the Fireside Chats. If your kiddo is in grade school, they may be eligible for extra credit for attending. Make sure to download extra credit forms from the website (pdf) and check in at the Expo Day Extra Credit Adventure booth presented by UCSD Begs Outreach located near the Fireside Chats in the Mercado directly up the large staircase at the Park Boulevard gate.
  • Dress for Weather — Weather in March in San Diego can be cool or warm. We suggest bringing plenty of sunscreen, dress in layers and bring a jacket.

Festival Week Events to Attend
Once EXPO Day ends, the science and engineering fun is only just beginning! Here are a few events we think are stand-outs for young scientists. Be sure to check out the full list of events too.

STEM in Your Backyard: This series includes free events that are mini versions of the science festival EXPO DAY, held in diverse communities across San Diego County, including Escondido, Chula Vista, Lakeside and Barrio Logan. Each STEM in Your Backyard event will feature 20 to 25 hands-on STEM activities led by educators and working STEM professionals. Through these four events, more families from neighborhoods all over San Diego will be able to experience the festival’s STEM exhibits in their own communities.

Super STEM Saturday: Explore interactive demonstrations and hands-on science activities including rocket launches, build-a-robot stations, model displays, scientist chats and an obstacle course. The event is free, open to the public and recommended for kids ages 5 and up and their families. Learn more at www.csusm.edu/superstem. Free parking is available in Lot F on the CSUSM campus.

It’s All About Water: Visit Ms. Smarty-Plants™ at the beautiful Water Conservation Garden for an outdoor learning adventure that includes a garden tour, music, magic and fun! Learn about local water supply, changes in the climate, conservation, adaptations and plant a water-smart plant to take home. Registration is required for this free event. Sign up here.

San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering
March 3-11, 2018
Online: lovestemsd.org

What are you most looking forward to doing at the San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering? Tell us which events your family will attend!

— Leah R. Singer & Beth Shea

Photos courtesy of the San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering

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