It's strange but true: some of the most prodigious innovations in technology are often not born in the corridors of rational thought and reality, but on the wings of fantasy.
I was reminded of this recently while reading the various tributes to legendary science fiction writer Ray Bradbury who died last year at age 91. Bradbury, whose best-known works include The Martian Chronicles, and Fahrenheit 451, was a master at using his imagination to bring us face-to-face with our growing love affair, fascination -- and, at times, wariness -- of technology and the price of being plugged-in.
Revered by legions of readers, his unforgettable, futuristic stories of sci-fi intrigue and fantasy are said to have helped inspire such contemporary high-tech advances as Bluetooth headsets and earbuds, flat-screen television, self-driving cars, artificial intelligence, e-books, and Facebook's "digital wall."
This is heady stuff when you consider Bradbury never went to college, but through the magic of fantasy and his fertile imagination has influenced future scientists, engineers and innovators in numerous ways through his work. In his typical direct manner, he once said: "I have fun with ideas; I play with them."
Which is my point: If we are to inspire the next generation of high-tech innovators, we must teach them not to be afraid to dream -- to dream as big as the world around them, and to "play" with and nurture their ideas. Such are the things that inspire technological breakthroughs.
As founder and organizer of the USA Science & Engineering Festival, I know well of the challenges schools face today in sustaining student interest and motivation in science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM). That is why in the Festival we surround kids with some of the nation's most inspiring minds in such fields -- giving students the chance to explore new ideas and frontiers through invigorating hands-on and interactive experiences.
As the Festival -- the largest celebration of science and engineering in the nation -- prepares to kick off another round of exciting events in 2014, we again look forward to reaching out to students, teachers and the general public across the country to wow them with the wonders of science.
With Lockheed Martin returning as our Presenting Host Sponsor, the Festival and its thrilling Expo celebration are ready-made to spawn dreams for future innovators. What's more, this is a free event!
The excitement for 2014 includes: Stimulating school programs, such as our popular "Nifty Fifty" speaker program and our new Role Models website that emphasizes inspiring innovators in science and engineering; Lunch With a [Nobel] Laureate sessions, prize contests, and nationwide affiliate events.
In addition, the Festival culminates in a two-day Grand Finale Expo on April 26-27, 2014 at the Convention Center in Washington, D.C., with a "Sneak Peek Friday" preview being held April 25.
And, to really ignite students' dreams and motivation, we've added a new Expo event: X-STEM -- an Extreme STEM Symposium for elementary through high school students on April 24, 2014. This unforgettable experience features such exciting visionaries as John Holdren, Senior Science Advisor to President Obama; Francis Collins, famed geneticist and Director of the National Institutes of Health; Anousheh Ansari, the first female private space explorer, and biotech venture capital powerhouse Kevin J. Kinsella.
The stage is set. So join us in DC as we inspire the dreams of tomorrow's innovators!
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