ASBMB at the USA Science & Engineering Festival

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When you think of a skeleton, most of your thoughts are likely related to things like death, or Halloween. Very little thought probably goes into the actual composition of the bones that make up the skeleton’s rickety frame. But far from being a static object, the skeleton’s orderly collection of bones is actually a dynamic system of cells, proteins and chemicals that is in a constant state of growth and repair.

The ASBMB “Bone: It’s Alive!” booth at the USA Science & Engineering festival

Looking to showcase the living biochemistry of bone, the ASBMB presented “Bone: It’s Alive” as an exhibit demo during the third USA Science and Engineering Festival, which took place April 15-17 in Washington D.C. Run by ASBMB staff and local members, the ASBMB booth welcomed thousands of visitors, who got a chance to learn about the process of bone growth, and even make their own bone from the basic chemical ingredients (calcium chloride and sodium phosphate). However, the true star of our booth was our beloved skeleton, Oscar, who posed for selfies as graciously as a Kardashian.

Selfies with our skeleton Oscar were a big hit

The ASBMB was one of thousands of organizations presenting at the three day festival. Groups came from across the country to showcase all sorts of science: robotics, 3-D printers, plants, glowing fruit flies, live penguins, and even a couple of fighter jets from festival main sponsor Lockheed Martin. The festival also featured live stage shows that featured explosions, bubbles and lasers, along with performances from They Might Be Giants (whose volume overpowered the entire convention center).

While the visibility of the current version of the USA Science & Engineering festival pales in comparison to the initial version (which was held outside on the National Mall in 2010), this year’s festival amazingly still drew over 365,000 attendees inside the Walter E. Washington Convention center over the course of three beautiful spring days. Attendees even lined up outside of the festival before each day’s opening. Says something about the draw of science. Or maybe they all just wanted a picture with Oscar.

A step-by-step instruction guide to the “Bone: It’s Alive!” demo can be found here.

Join ASBMB at the USA Science & Engineering Festival

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Held every other year, the USA Science and Engineering Festival is the one of the largest (if not THE largest) science outreach happening in the country. Over 300,000 attendees, from kids to parents to teachers, are expected to attend this year’s event, held April 16-17 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington D.C.

USA SEF logo

The three day festival features an overwhelming array of activities, including dynamic stage shows from NASA and the Mythbusters, meet and greets with science celebrities such as Bill Nye and Peter Agre, and, this year, a STEM-based musical performance from They Might Be Giants. But the festival’s centerpiece is the staggering array of hands-on exhibits, presented by over 1000 different groups and organizations. In the past, these have included robotics demonstrations, 3D printers, and even a full jet fighter!

BoneThe ASBMB will join in on the fun this year with “Bone: It’s Alive!”, our exhibit that explores the biochemistry of bone. Designed by the ASBMB Public Outreach Committee, the exhibit is a hands-on demonstration of the roles biology and chemistry play in the development of our bones.

Never been to a science festival before? This is a great chance to experience what outreach is all about. Who knows, you might just get hooked! If you are really interested in getting involved, we are looking for volunteers to help staff our booth during the weekend. Please contact outreach@asbmb.org if you want to help out. It doesn’t matter if you are a student or faculty, we want you to be involved!

See you in DC!