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Exploring Open Government at the Woodstock of Science (VIDEO)

10/27/2010 08:48 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

This weekend, the National Mall in Washington, D.C. hosted the nation's first USA Science and Engineering Festival. For science geeks, the festival was a paradise of experiments, robots, rockets, rovers, lectures, interactive exhibits and fellow travelers. For the thousands of kids exploring the festival, it was a valuable opportunity to learn about how the universe worked and become excited about potential careers in scientific discovery. There was even a TRON-themed exhibit.

How big was the first USA Science & Engineering Festival? Larry Bock, executive director of the event, estimated the attendance around 500,000 attendees for the weekend. The other statistics tell their own tale: there were some 200 robots were on the Mall, nearly 1500 hands-on activities, 75 stage shows, 550 participating organizations, 25 Nobel Laureates in attendance, 50 government agencies, 100 corporate sponsors, 30 high-tech and life science companies, 150 informal science outreach organizations and 450 participating schools. There were also 82 satellite events in 27 states. For a sense of what all of those people, places and things looked like, a Flickr slideshow of my pictures of the 2010 USA Science & Engineering Festival is embedded below:

For open government geeks, the Data.gov booth offered opportunity to learn more about one of the federal government's major open data initiatives. Below, Allen Vander Wallie, a program manager for Data.gov at the United States General Services Administration, talks about the potential for open data to create economic value in the private sector, drawing from the classic example of weather and GPS data.

One of the Department of Energy's flagship open government initiatives, Open Energy Information was also on display at the booth. In the video below, Ryan McKeel, an engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, talks about OpenEI.org, the open source knowledge sharing platform that provides access to data, models, tools, and information.