SIAM News Blog

SIAM at the 2018 USA Science & Engineering Festival

By Padmanabhan Seshaiyer

With a mission to promote awareness of mathematics and its applications, SIAM participated in the nation’s largest celebration of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics at the USA Science & Engineering Festival, held April 6-8 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. 29 volunteers from five SIAM student chapters came together to inspire thousands of students, teachers, and parents by presenting compelling and exciting educational activities that demonstrated the importance of mathematics and its real-world significance.

I had the pleasure of coordinating the event with officers from the George Mason University (GMU) Chapter of SIAM and other participating chapters, including North Carolina State University (NC State), University of North Carolina, University of Delaware, and George Washington University, with help from SIAM staff. During the course of the festival, SIAM booth attendees played a game of Shape Sudoku; tested their algebraic thinking skills with a balancing act activity; engaged in the paper-folding mathematics of origami; and learned about 3D-printed platonic solids, Archimedean duals, polyhedron building, and much more.

GMU student Ratna Khatri, student chair of the SIAM Festivals Working Group (FWG), reflected on the event. “As a female in STEM, I found the experience of working on the festival empowering,” she said. “Seeing students from various SIAM chapters come together to run the booth under one umbrella was also powerful. The energy they brought made the booth a great success.” Joey Hart of NC State—also a member of the FWG—spoke positively of his involvement as well. “Co-organizing the SIAM booth cultivated professional and organizational skills far beyond other experiences I have had organizing events as a graduate student,” he said. “The greatest delight of the festival is seeing someone’s facial expression during the “aha” moment when they connect the exhibit in front of them with the underlying mathematics.”

Always packed with excitement and energy, the SIAM booth attracted about a hundred attendees every hour through the entirety of the event. It served as a medium to celebrate the “M in STEM” through fun educational activities for a diverse audience of all ages, backgrounds, and mathematical expertise.

Padmanabhan Seshaiyer is a professor of mathematical sciences and the associate dean for the College of Science at George Mason University. He also serves as one of the USA Science and Engineering Festival’s Nifty Fifty Speakers. He is chair of the SIAM Diversity Advisory Committee.

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