Fourth edition of the French-American Science Festival in Chicago

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From Tuesday, April 28th to Friday, May 1st, 2015 the Office for Science and Technology (Chicago section), in partnership with the Rick Morimoto Laboratory and the Alliance Française de Chicago hosted the 4th Annual French-American Science Festival in the Lurie Atrium of Northwestern University’s Downtown Campus.

Over 40 renowned French and American institutions participated in this unique event, such as Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, the Field Museum, the Illinois Institute of Technology, the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and Argonne National Laboratory among many others.

Over 350 students from schools across the Chicago area and the Midwest attended, so they could observe “hands-on” booths on a wide variety of subjects such as sustainable energy, biology, nanotechnology, astronomy, mathematics, paleontology and robotics.

The festival also included two scientific conferences, where keynote speakers from France covered the topics of global warming and the journey of the Rosetta probe. Both of the highlights have been chosen in regard to the recent developments of sciences including France and the U.S.:

  • France has been promoting exchanges about climate change in the U.S. by launching the French-AmeriCan Climate Talks (FACTs) initiative. A conference series was held throughout all the U.S.;
  • ESA’s space probe Rosetta is a spacecraft on a 10-year mission to catch a comet and land a probe on it. Launched in 2004, the spacecraft arrived at its target, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, on Aug. 6, 2014. The lander, named Philae, made contact on Nov. 12, 2014.

The leading scientists involved were Dr. Laurent Terray, from the European Center for Research and Advanced Training in Scientific Computation and Pr. Bernard Marty from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Géologie.

Hands-on booths - 20 booths were managed by over 30 hands-on scientists:

  • Biology: Sue Fox, Gayathri Ramachandran and Renée Brielmann, from Northwestern University, worked with students to visualize DNA and the tiny world of cells;
  • Astronomy: Nicolas Dauphas of the University of Chicago and Philipp R. Heck of the Field Museum in Chicago made a presentation on meteorites and terrestrial rocks and explained how the planet was made;
  • Nanotechnologies: Joseph Muskin and Bren Pomeroy of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign used a photoactive polymer to “print” 3-D plastic objects using a technique developed to create nanosized structures called microstereo lithography;
  • Energy and Sustainability: Sunanda Prabhu-Gaunkar of Northwestern University made a presentation on the tools, the structures, the measurements and the materials employed in nanotechnology that contribute to sustainable innovation;
  • Biofuels: Christina Canter and Felix Adom from the Argonne National Laboratory showed the students the life-cycle benefits of different fuels and explained how to evaluate.
  • Urban Farming: Siobhan Beal and Malcolm Evans of the organization Growing Power, shared with students how urban spaces and buildings can be used to grow food, generate energy, raise livestock, etc.;
  • Math games: Frédéric Mahieu, Editor in chief of Mathématiquement Vôtre and math teacher at the Lycée Français de Chicago made a presentation on the real nature of mathematics and offered students KenKens, tangrams, enigmas, and other math-related games to play;
  • Superconductivity: Maxime Leroux and Karen Kihlstrom from Argonne National Laboratory presented how a superconductor can make magnets levitate and transport electricity without any resistance when it is cooled down to -320 Fahrenheit;
  • Imaging: Thomas Meehan of the Chicago Zoological Society and Jean-Manuel Nothias of Vizua 3D showed students various examples of veterinary cases and gave them the opportunity to interact with 3D renderings to better understand the anatomy and medical approach to these cases;
  • Robotics: Sabrina Fesko from the Illinois Institute of Technology came with several drones and robots built by the Illinois Tech Robotics;
  • Particle physics: Christophe Royon from CEA and Emilien Chapon from CERN, presented how to measure the speed of light with detectors of fast flying time, and also carried research at Fermilab on particle physics and the Large Hadron Collider;
  • Chemistry/Environment: Jean-François Gaillard and Sara Anne Thomas of Northwestern University and Laura Martin from the Ecole Centrale de Paris talked about the rise of Mercury and its toxic nature;
  • Zoology: Alexandra Heyn and Corinne Palmer form the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, presented live animals of different species to the students, as well as the supports of their studies;
  • Water technology: Michael Schuck from the iMet Center of the Gateway Technical college demonstrated in front of the students the basic principles of groundwater flow;
  • Les Petits Débrouillards: Ogier Maillard, Zoé Delepine and Sam Deman from Les Petits Débrouillards Association conducted fun experiments on the theme of climate change, showing the impact of human activities and some of the consequences of climate change;
  • Paleontology: Nizar Ibrahim from the University of Chicago presented “Hunting Dinosaurs in the Sahara.

Following the great success of this fourth edition in 2015, the Office for Science and Technology in Chicago is organizing the fifth edition of the French-American Science Festival, as part of the French Innovation Week organized by the Consulate General of France, the French-American Chamber of Commerce in Chicago and the Alliance Française de Chicago, to be held in April 2016. For more information, visit the website of the 2016 French-American Science Festival!