Science & Engineering Expo on National Mall: MindTrekkers from Michigan Tech Reveal the Science Behind the Mystery

By Jennifer Donovan | Published

MIND TREKKERS from Michigan Tech mix up a batch of oobleck.
MIND TREKKERS from Michigan Tech mix up a batch of oobleck.

Michigan Technological University’s MindTrekkers are taking STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) to the heart of the nation—the National Mall in Washington, DC.  And they’re making it so much fun that it might just turn casual onlookers into science geeks.

MindTrekkers, a traveling science road show produced by Youth Programs at Michigan Tech, will share some of the stranger mysteries of science with hundreds of thousands of visitors to the first USA Science and Engineering Expo Oct. 23-24.  It’s a completely hands-on experience: making and tasting liquid nitrogen ice cream, walking on (or is it in) oobleck—an odd substance that looks like a liquid but acts like a solid—and watching the flames in a Ruben’s tube flicker and flash to a musical riff.

“We want people of all ages to have fun learning the science behind the mystery,” says Steve Patchin, director of Youth Programs outreach and engagement at Michigan Tech. 

MindTrekkers, with four booths in Woodrow Wilson Plaza, Booths #1150, 1152, 1154 and 1156, is one of two exhibitors from Michigan Tech and more than 350 nationwide who were invited to Washington for the Expo. Their goal: to try to help hook the American public—and particularly their children—on science and engineering education, an area where the United States lags behind other advanced countries.

The Michigan Tech team brings to Washington two years of success at using the amazing things science can do to capture young imaginations.  MindTrekkers has taken its hands-on science show to more than 50,000 school children in Detroit, Minneapolis, Green Bay, Wis., and Grand Rapids, Mich.—and most recently to another 50,000 at the massive Boy Scout Jamboree in Fort A.P. Hill, Va.  Next year, with a new grant from AT&T and other partners, they will work with local businesses and schools to take the show to Escanaba, Sault Ste. Marie and Traverse City, Mich., and to the Girl Scouts in Jackson, Mich.

The hands-on science fun of MindTrekkers perfectly complements Michigan Tech’s mission—to prepare the next generation to create the future for an increasingly technological world. And the show exemplifies the state university’s commitment to hands-on education.

The Science & Engineering Expo is the grand finale of a two-week festival promoting public interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. More than 1,500 interactive activities for all ages hosted by more than 350 of the nation’s leading science and engineering organizations will expose attendees to a broad spectrum of science. All events are free and open to the public, and hundreds of thousands of visitors are expected to attend.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.