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Over 25 different booths fed the curiosity of people with beer, ice cream, liquid nitrogen-dipped marshmallows and a healthy dose of science at the sold-out Philadelphia Science Festival kick-off party yesterday night.

The party marks the beginning of the Philadelphia Science Festival, an 11-day festival celebrating science and technology with over 100 collaborating partners from Han Dynasty to the Franklin Institute. Penn has played an integral role as collaborating partner since the festival first started three years ago, and has expanded its involvement since. As a sponsor this year, Penn has over 30 affiliated departments and groups hosting over 30 events.

“Part of the idea of a science festival is that it’s super collaborative,” Gina Lavery, associate director of the Penn Office of Government and Community Affairs, said.

“For one, it speaks to our core mission of education, research and service. We’re sharing knowledge about what people at Penn are doing,” she said.

The kick-off party last night was hosted at the NextFab Studio, a fabrication studio with cutting-edge equipment such as 3-D printers in Center City. It was mainly geared towards the 21 and older audience, with a free flow of beer brewed specially for the festival and live electronic music at different booths each focused on a different aspect of science. Other booths aimed to explore questions such as the real dangers of texting while driving by using a simulated driving game and how to virtually augment reality and what sound waves look like.

Over the next 11 days, however, there will be a variety of events catered to different audiences from children to foodies to science teachers. On Saturday, there will be a free science carnival on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway that caters to science enthusiasts of all ages.

This year, different Penn-affiliated organizations and groups such as the Penn Museum and Penn Medicine are heavily involved in the festival, and will be hosting several events looking at science from their own unique perspectives. According to Karen Kreeger, senior science communications manager at Penn Medicine, biomedical graduate students have expressed an interest in reaching out to the Philadelphia community to showcase their scientific research.

“[The festival] gives them a good outlet to talk about their research in an accessible way to an audience that is interested in science,” she said. “[The biomedical grad students] are enthusiastic to share their sense of wonder about science.”

Moreover, non-science departments such as Penn’s South Asia Resource Center are also involved in the festival.

One of the most prominent events Penn is hosting during the festival is the “Big Ideas: Funding and Innovation” event, to be held on April 23.

The event will feature Subra Suresh, outgoing National Science Foundation director and incoming president of Carnegie Mellon University. It will consist of TED Talk-style presentations and discussions led by Penn and Drexel researchers to learn about the role federal funding plays in driving forward innovation.

Although this year’s festival coincides with reading days, Penn hopes to increase the involvement of the student body in the festival.

Citing this year’s theme of the Year of Proof, Kreeger said event organizers were working with the Office of New Student Orientation and Academic Initiatives to reach out to undergraduates.

“It’s fun for a lot of people on campus to be involved,” she added. “The enthusiasm has definitely grown, and is still growing.”

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