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USA Science & Engineering Festival features 3,000 hands-on activities

USA Science Festival features 3,000 hands-on activities. (Mike Carter-Conneen/ABC7)

Science, technology, engineering and math are on display this weekend at the Washington Convention Center. The nation’s biggest science festival is designed to inspire kids to the stars and beyond.

Visitors to the USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo can experience a space mission through virtual reality, play tic-tac-toe with a robot, fly a military helicopter in a simulation or design a race car and see how fast it goes.

Organizers promise three thousand activities – mostly hands-on – at this year’s festival. At a sneak peek event on Friday, school kids from across the region also learned about the president's car, "The Beast,” 3D printers, wildlife and more.

Math teacher Thomas Stockert said, “Break it down to Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, it sounds kind of boring. And when they come to an event like this, they can really see how cool science can be.”

The sneak peek event attracted more than 45,000 students. Overall, this weekend, organizers are expecting a crowd of about 350,000.

“This is really fun because it's non-traditional. It's not just paper and pencil. It's hands-on. And they love it,” science teacher Norma Mann said.

Exhibits feature NASA, the military, universities and corporations.

“At Lockheed Martin, we're going to need 30,000 employees in the STEM careers in just the next five years alone," Lockheed Martin Space communications manager Gary Napier said. "So we need those young engineers, scientists, mathematicians working in finance, etc. It's really a growing need for that."

In fact, astronauts believe kids today could be the generation leading the first human expeditions in deep space.

“I think if you're in middle school today, you're probably in the sweet spot for getting a chance to be some of the first people to explore Mars,” astronaut Tony Antonelli said.

In the meantime, there's a whole world to explore at the festival. It’s free and open to the public Saturday and Sunday but attendees are directed to register online.

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