Feustel back in Kingston's orbit

More than 3,000 attendees at annual science rendezvous

More than 3,000 attend science rendezvous.
Lauren Thomas
Last October, Queen’s alum Drew Feustel was commanding the International Space Station. On May 11, he came to Kingston to answer kids’ questions about what it’s like beyond Earth’s hemisphere.
More than 3,000 people showed up to the Leon’s Centre last month for Kingston’s ninth annual Science Rendezvous. More than 60 booths featured the work of scientists showing off the latest in chemistry, physics, biology, math, and engineering. 
The event was sponsored by multiple Queen’s departments and faculties, as well as St. Lawrence College, the Royal Military College, and other community organizations.
Visitors were able to interact with live beehives, championship-winning robots, and virtual reality pig operations, but the event’s biggest feature was the appearance of NASA astronaut Drew Feustel. 
“I think it’s important we have these local and regional events so students from the university and researchers can come out and share their stories and information with the kids and get them excited about their future,” Feustel said in an interview with The Journal.
Feustel, who’s spent more than 225 days in space and performed over 61 hours of spacewalks, took the stage to answer questions ranging from why spacesuits are white to whether he’d ever seen an alien.
“Well, I can’t tell you,” he joked. “I think that as we get better about sending technology and sensors and scientific equipment into space, especially in a place like Mars, that we might soon see evidence of either bacterial life forms or microbial life forms.” 
Feustel also said he hopes all humans will be able to go to space one day.
“Turns out, we’re not George Jetson. We’re kind of like Fred Flinstone still,” he said. “We’ve only been working on this program for 50 years, so eventually all humans will have much [easier] access to space, I hope.” 
Lynda Colgan, a faculty of education professor and lead organizer of the event, said she believes access to space starts right here on earth. 
“Scientists are not just old men with crazy white hair like Einstein,” she said in an interview with The Journal. “They come in all shapes, sizes, ages, genders, and it’s so wonderful that they can inspire, be mentors and give opportunities for children and adults and older people.”
For Colgan, one of the event’s successes was how much the younger attendees enjoyed it. She said she didn’t want the event to be “dumbed down” because it was for kids, but informative and entertaining instead. 
The event also included a “chemistry magic show” by the Queen’s chemistry department, which illuminated the main stage with chemical reactions throughout the day.
As well, live demonstrations from the Limestone Beekeepers Guild gave a presentation about honeybees and other local pollinators.
Melinda Knox, associate director of research profile and initiatives at Queen’s, was involved in the event’s organization. She told The Journal one of her hopes for the event is to inspire future Queen’s researchers.
“Seeing the looks of excitement and enthusiasm in the kids when we’re introducing them to the different research topics makes me really excited and hopeful for the future,” she said.

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