In the spring of 2018, the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) launched the concept for a science festival aimed at exposing the community to science and technology. The festival was made possible by a significant donation, to the tune of $850,000, by Battelle, a science and technology nonprofit organization in Columbus.
The first festival was held this past spring in conjunction with 12 communities around Franklin County. The festivities, held from May 1-4, included three days of events and programs within the communities and ended with a “big science celebration.” The final celebration, which was free and open to the public, saw the streets around COSI in Columbus shut down for a festival that included a multitude of booths featuring different types of science-related projects and activities.
The festival was a huge success, so much so that COSI has decided to expand the festival to six cities outside of Franklin County in 2020. The city of Delaware was selected as one of those cities, along with Marysville, London, Circleville, Pickerington and Heath.
“We want to make sure everybody, regardless of their background or where they’re from, we want to make them comfortable around science,” Stephen White, COSI’s vice president of external affairs, strategic initiatives, and business development said of the festival’s mission. “We want to make them comfortable around science. We want to make sure they know that science is for them. Because if we do that, we know that they’re more inclined to pursue careers in STEM.”
White said there is a “skills gap” within the workforce around central Ohio for jobs related to science, technology, engineering, and math. He said the science festival is a vehicle that will help to bridge that gap, doing so with an emphasis on making the community comfortable by bringing the programs directly to them.
In doing so, he said the festival is preparing the “STEM pipeline for the future,” with an entire region coming together at the same time to understand the importance of science and technology in the workforce.
The three days of community events could include anything from “star parties” in parks, with astrologists on hand to discuss constellations, to events within the schools, to teaching adults the fermenting process of beer and wine for adult audiences, White said. He added the community events are meant to be all-inclusive, with both adults and the younger minds getting involved.
Delaware Vice Mayor Kent Shafer was present as the Delaware representative on Tuesday at COSI’s announcement of the festival’s expansion next year to the six cities outside of Franklin County.
Shafer said he reached out to COSI about the city’s interest in the festival after COSI President Frederic Bertley spoke at a meeting of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC). In addition to the interaction with Bertley, Delaware’s newly named assistant city manager, Kyle Kridler, saw the festival’s impact in communities firsthand earlier this year when he was serving as the economic development administrator for the City of Dublin, which was one of the 12 cities to host the festival.
“There’s a push nationwide to encourage young people to start thinking about careers in science, technology, engineering, and math,” Shafer said. “And our southwest community center, they have a STEM program there. So, this would be a great opportunity to engage them and Delaware City Schools.”
Shafer added City Manager Tom Homan has reached out to Ohio Wesleyan University President Rock Jones about joining in the program to make it inclusive of young minds of all ages.
Shafer also mentioned he has reached out to Main Street Delaware about partnering with the city to accommodate the programs next year. He mentioned the possibility of combining the program with a First Friday weekend to add to the fun.
“I think what COSI is doing is fantastic,” Kridler said of the festival. “Spreading awareness for STEM in central Ohio, making it exciting for the community and for the youth.”
Kridler said he believes now is as important a time as ever to get people thinking about what the future of work looks like from a technology education standpoint. He went on to say Dublin’s festival experience in May was two-fold in that it not only served to increase student awareness of STEM programs, but also in getting the local employers more engaged with local schools.
“It’s really not an education problem or challenge,” Kridler said of the need for STEM awareness. “I really see it as a societal challenge as the way in which we work is changing. Everyone needs to come together and open up the conversation and dialogue.”
White said COSI and the City of Delaware will take the next several months to discuss what the city wants its community event, which will be held May 6-9, to look like.
For more information on everything the COSI Science Festival has to offer to communities, visit its website at www.cosiscifest.org.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.