BEIRUT: Recycled art, robots and the magic of physics: Science Days return this Thursday to turn one of school’s most befuddling subjects into something accessible for all.
Science Days, the city’s largest public science fair, will start Thursday and continue through Saturday at the Hippodrome. Participants were required to present scientific topics in simple ways that allow the public – mostly parents and teenagers – to interact with the subjects at hand.
“We don’t want people to feel like they’re in a lecture,” said Lubna Haider, a doctor of anthropology and one of the event’s organizers.
Past projects have included arts and crafts stations where visitors used scraps of plastic and other materials to create while learning about recycling.
This year will be Science Days’ sixth annual event, which aims to promote science awareness and education among adults and children alike, Haider said.
Last year, Science Days was cut short after an explosion in Ashrafieh’s Sassine neighborhood killed Gen. Wissam al-Hasan and wounded dozens of others. The fair was up for only one day before tension in the city forced it to close early. Organizers have decided to feature many of the same projects as last year.
Technology-related projects will include things such as harnessing the sun’s energy in solar panels or learning about the practical uses of robots. Non-governmental organizations and universities will promote public health topics, including a booth teaching about obesity and the importance of nutrition and exercise, Haider said.
Master’s students at Lebanese universities make up most of the contributors to Science Days. NGOs and international museums are also playing a crucial role by using their booths to raise awareness about topics like nature conservation and health care.
“We set conditions, we needed the project to be interactive, simple and attractive,” Haider said. “Everybody must understand they have to make experiments in front of people. It has to be interactive.”
The event provides a space for master’s students to give potential startup projects some exposure. Though that’s not one of Science Days’ main goals, some of the technology on display has specific relevance to Lebanon. Last year, one student showed off a robot that could detect land mines based on metal detection.
The three-day fair also seeks to expose children to science in the hopes that they will be inspired to take up scientific professions.
And while local universities house strong programs in medicine, engineering and other sciences, public interest in those subjects tends to be low. Science Days offers an annual bridge for that gap, Haider said.
The general exhibitions target an age range of 14 and older. There will also be a physics magic show tent appropriate for younger children – Haider estimated 6 years old and up.
In an effort to be as accessible as possible, Science Days will house a food venue serving up inexpensive street items like manakeesh, cookies, popcorn and soda.
Science Days will run from Thursday to Friday at the Hippodrome, near Mathaf. Doors open at 3 p.m. For more information, visit their website at ayamalouloum.com.