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1 Bringing science to the people of Waterloo on Sat Sep 11, 2010 8:03 pm

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May 10, 2010
By Greg Mercer, Record staff

WATERLOO — Around a cluster of tables in a movie theatre coffee shop, people are getting a crash course in nanotechnology from a university professor and a laptop.
In the next room, Styrofoam balls are floating in mid-air, a box frozen with liquid nitrogen is whipping around a magnetic train track and pink globs of cornstarch and water are dancing on speakers to the hip-hop sounds of Outkast.
Welcome to Science Rendezvous 2010, the weird and wacky expo of science for the everyman. For the first time, the provincewide event came to Waterloo Saturday, giving the public a chance to glimpse into the work of the scientists in their own backyard.
Over the course of the afternoon, there were exhibits, talks and movies at the Princess Twin Theatre on King Street and Williams Coffee Pub on University Avenue West.
“We want to get out into the community, to raise awareness, to create excitement about science,” said organizer Melanie Campbell, a physics and astronomy professor at the University of Waterloo.
“There’s a feeling there are lots of festivals around the arts and music, but in general, the public isn’t very aware about science. We need to communicate better so the public understands what scientists do and the importance of science.”
To help change that, the organizers held discussions on genetics and controlling atoms, screened the film The Quantum Tamers and displayed kid-friendly exhibits like a coffee cup engine, a superconductor train and a Bernoulli blower to catch people’s eyes. The exhibits may have been fun to look at, but they were all based on principles applied to real-world things.
The floating nitrogen train, for example, is a scaled-down version of a high-speed levitating train that runs in Singapore. And the Stirling “coffee cup” engine, which used a cold glass and a hot mug of water to turn a plastic disc, is a version of generators designed to tap the thermal energy within oceans.
Campbell hopes the day long exhibition will be expanded next year.
“We figured we’d start small this year and go from there,” she said. “I hope it’ll grow.”
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