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Alaska's Science Ambassadors Take Thier Story to the Nation's Capital

Juneau, AK (April 24, 2012) – Alaska’s “Science Ambassadors” are taking their story of climate change in the Far North to the nation’s capital for the USA Science & Engineering Festival, held from April 27 to 29 in Washington D.C. This is the largest science festival in the United States and was developed to increase public awareness of the importance of science and to encourage youth to pursue careers in science and engineering by celebrating science in much the same way as we celebrate Hollywood celebrities.

The Alaska Big Ice team, led by STEM AK, a program of the Juneau Economic Development Council, will take science objects from the Far North as hands-on displays for kids, including Mendenhall Glacier ice, 30,000 year old permafrost wedge ice from Fairbanks, sea ice core samples from the Arctic, live ice worms from Portage Glacier and Ice Age animal bones from Alaska’s Interior. Wooly Mammoth and Steppe Bison bones on loan from the UAF Museum of the North will be a new and unique dimension to the 2012 Big Ice Booth. These artifacts have emerged from their ice age deep freeze with the thawing of Alaska’s permafrost.

Mary Hakala, education coordinator for STEM AK and JEDC Executive Director, Brian Holst, will be staffing the Alaska Big Ice booth, along with scientists from the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL). The goal of the Alaskan objects on display will be to highlight the climatic changes underway in the Arctic in a way that makes a lasting impact on current and future leaders. The plan is to also bring back ideas from the Festival that can be applied to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) fields in Alaska.

At the last USA Science & Engineering Festival, held in October 2010, thousands of people had the chance to examine first hand a 1,400 pound Mendenhall iceberg transported from Juneau to Washington DC with the assistance of Taku Smokeries and DC’s Ben & Jerry ice cream distributor. Unfortunately, this year’s display won’t include an iceberg because Spring break-up has yet to occur at Mendenhall Lake.

The Alaska Big Ice booth is made possible by funding from the U.S. Department of Defense, National Defense Education Program and CRREL, with additional support from University of Alaska Fairbanks Museum of the North and the U.S. Forest Service, Mendenhall & Portage Visitor Centers.  

Lockheed Martin is again the presenting host of the 2012 USA Science & Engineering Festival. The Festival Expo -- with its fascinating array of hands-on exhibits and stage shows, coupled with up-close interaction with renowned innovators, and top researchers and celebrities in science and engineering -- has rapidly evolved into a must-see event for families, students and others across the country and globe.

A free weekend event, the Expo, scheduled for the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, culminates a month-long series of Festival events taking place in April throughout the nation and in various foreign countries to encourage young students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

“We sincerely thank our Expo exhibitors, performers and other presenters for their valued role in the Expo’s mission to inspire the next generation of science and technology innovators,” said Larry Bock, Founder and Executive Director of the USA Science & Engineering Festival. “The Expo promises a fun and exciting weekend that allows kids, their families and others to participate in over 2,000 interactive exhibits and other activities, plus seeing more than 100 live performances by science celebrities, explorers, best-selling authors, innovative entrepreneurs and world-renowned experts,” he said.

For more information on the Festival, including its Expo exhibitors and stage performers, visit www.usasciencefestival.org/. To find out more information on the Alaska Big Ice booth, contact Mary Hakala at mhakala@jedc.org or 907-523- 2336. For media inquiries, contact Adrien Lopez, Communications Officer for the Juneau Economic Development Council, at alopez@jedc.org or 907-523-2323.

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