Astronomical processes and changes occur slowly on a timescale of years, decades, and millennia. That was not the case at BYU’s fast-moving Astrofest, the annual Department of Physics and Astronomy event that brings elementary school children to the stars for an afternoon.
On Saturday, May 20, the atmosphere in and around the Eyring Science Center buzzedwith energy and motion as children wiggled the ripple rope under the hanging mosasaur’s jaw and launched rockets over the trees outside. Paper airplanes littered the hallway, and Elmer’s glue and construction paper marked where kids created their homemade rockets.
Even in the planetarium, little toddler heads popped up and down over seat backs. Deborah Allred is the grandmother of one of these young astronomers.
“This little Kaylie, who is three years old, is particularly interested in stars and moons. So we were really excited that we are going to the planetarium to see those things,” Allred said.
The free planetarium shows were presented all day long, providing families one more learning opportunity in addition to the live demonstrations and classroom instructions held throughout the building. Volunteer Rochelle Biancardi, an applied physics major with an astronomy minor, enjoyed learning with the kids as she operated the planetarium.
“It’s cool to watch the show with people and to watch people watch the show,” Biancardi said. “[Astrofest is] a good chance for kids to come and to learn to love science at a young age so that in the future they would consider it, if not as a career choice, even a hobby or something they enjoy.”
While Astrofest participants developed their minds inside, they exercised their bodies outside of the Eyring Science Center in the inflatable “astronaut training course” set up on the lawn.
Leah White, who brought her four children to Astrofest, knew her children were enjoying themselves on the inflatable obstacle course.
“How could they not? Especially when they can compete against their friends,” White said.
White had sky-high hopes for her kids at Astrofest.
“[I hope my kids get] a love for science and a desire to maybe even pursue something, a career, in science. I think that that would be really noble. I just hope they have fun, too,” White said.
Recent graduate and three-time Astrofest volunteer Garett Brown also believes in the nobility of science and astronomy.
“I know that there are a lot of problems in the world and that space is not necessarily one of them,” Brown said. “But whenever we try to solve problems that involve space, we end up making life better for everybody.”