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USA Science & Engineering Festival: The case for curiosity

By Raymond Russell, National Institute of Food and Agriculture
April 25, 2014

Ray Russell

I knew I wanted to go into science from a young age. I can remember walking in the woods with my grandmother, seeing the marvelous diversity of life out there, and always being curious about why things are the way they are. It is that interest in knowing more that drove me to college – both undergrad and graduate school – and pushes me to this day in my work with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

Science, at its core, is a quest for knowledge. This quest is exactly what this weekend’s (April 26-27) USA Science & Engineering Festival (USASEF) hopes to promote in the anticipated 350,000 attendees. The drive to learn, explore, and question is vital for making advances in any field. The excitement generated by that drive will highlight this event. 

NIFA’s Bob Nowierski sparks interest in bugs among youthful event attendees. (Photo by Scott Elliott.)

USASEF will have many hands-on displays, programs, and activities. There will be music, comedy, magic, and lots of science. Many celebrity guests will help promote the message that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are not only important, but fun! At the center of all the excitement is an important message: STEM is important and curiosity is essential.

The demand for students who have been trained in STEM is constantly growing. This is because career opportunities for STEM graduates are outpacing many other fields. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment in STEM occupations will grow by 20.6 percent through 2018, compared to 10.1 percent for all occupations. Events like the USASEF are important to help ignite the spark of curiosity in children of all ages. These events invigorate their interest in pursuing a STEM education.

The USASEF is an amazing chance for the public to get excited about STEM and learn. USDA is partnering with many other agencies to present this event to highlight our unique contribution to science. It is also an opportunity to emphasize the support USDA shows in strengthening the pipeline for science and engineering students.

Events like these always make me hopeful that more students will become as engaged in questioning the world around them as I did while walking in the woods as a child. I am sure that many of the attendees of this event will feel that spark I felt as a child. They can then nurture it and remain engaged in STEM. With support from events like this year’s USASEF and its partners like USDA, I am optimistic for the future of STEM and of curiosity.

To learn more about this year’s event, please visit the USA Science & Engineering Festival website.