Record Attendance at the OIST Science Festival 2017
On a crisp fall Sunday, more than 5,300 people gathered for one of Okinawa’s largest science events. Excited chatter filled the halls at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University on November 19, 2017, during its sixth annual science festival—and its biggest yet. Visitors thronged to hear lectures by a handful of speakers and packed the seminar rooms to participate in more than 30 science activities.
Hundreds of people began to arrive at OIST early on Sunday morning in anticipation of the festival. A long line of visitors—many of them bouncing with energy and under the age of 10—filled the tunnel to the elevators, where artwork from the artificial intelligence exhibit awaited them, as well as live music from sanshin players and a musical ensemble comprised of OIST community members.
Upstairs, dozens of activities offered attendees a chance to learn about science. Events in multiple buildings included playing with robots, observing colorful flames, watching bees up close through glass, making sticky slime, and programming animated creatures.
Many first-time attendees expressed their enthusiasm for the offerings.
“Our kids like making things and doing crafts, so we wanted them to experience a science activity where they could do this,” said Mr. Katsushi Takamiyagi, a parent from Urasoe who had been to OIST before, but never for the science festival. His daughters, Hibari and Chisa, aged four and two, showed off paper caps they had made with a diagram of different regions of the brain.
Inside OIST’s auditorium, three scientists gave lectures, including one talk aimed especially at children. Guest speakers included Dr. Koichi Takahashi, of the Riken Quantitative Biology Center, who spoke about the societal effects of artificial intelligence, and Dr. Yuko Kakazu, of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, who took listeners on an oral tour of the universe. During a talk by OIST student James Schloss, liquid nitrogen covered the stage in a dense cloud, causing kids in the audience to jump up in their seats and squeal in delight.
The science festival was made possible by the many volunteers who worked through the day. More than 350 people—OIST students, employees, family, and friends—helped with booths, performances, and interpreting between guests and OIST’s non-Japanese staff.
On leaving, multiple attendees praised the festival and the OIST community.
“It was great just to be here talking to the well-informed staff,” said Scott Fosdal, who was accompanied by his two children. “I wish we could do this more often.”