A Look Back at TouchTomorrow 2018
If Worcester looked a little less crowded this past Saturday, it wasn’t your imagination—around 10,000 attendees flocked to campus for TouchTomorrow, WPI’s seventh annual festival of science, technology, and robots.
Lucky number seven, indeed.
From humanoid robots and lab tours at Gateway Park to interactive exhibits and hands-on experiments on the Quad, it was easy for visitors of all ages to find something that sparked their curiosity during the day. Here’s a glimpse at some of the festival’s highlights, as told by those who know it best: the attendees and volunteers.
(Wondering how many balloons, cotton balls, or volunteers it takes to pull off an event like TouchTomorrow? The Daily Herd shared a behind-the-scenes look.)
“We came when my sons were younger and now this age is a perfect time to explore it,” said Cindy Fong of Grafton. “Christian [age 11] was on a LEGO robotics team and it sparked his interest to look more at life sciences and animal sciences. We figured this is a great opportunity to look at everything and expand their concept of what science and engineering is to see if that is something they want to pursue in the future.”
“I like the technology, engineering, and science behind everything,” Christian said. “There are so many possibilities seeing all of the exhibits and discovering things. I like the military equipment and robots.”
“I want to look for a station to try space food,” added Gabriel, 7, who loves engineering and building things.
“This is my first year volunteering, but I came with my kids the first couple of years,” said Patty MacInnes, operations manager in WPI’s Office of Financial Aid, who was working with other volunteers at the registration table. “I heard about it working here and I wanted my kids to see NASA and STEM experiments. A lot goes into setting this event up. When you come as a family, you don't realize that. It's nice knowing that people with young kids can have this experience.”
“I like for them to be exposed to STEM, and my husband graduated from WPI in 2001,” said Kristin Rainey of Grafton, who was checking out exhibits in the Sports and Recreation Center with her husband, John, and daughters Lucy, 7, and Daphne, 4. “I like learning about different programs at schools in the area and getting ideas for activities to do with them. It is very family-friendly and when they are older, I can see spending the entire day here.”
“I like making things,” said Lucy, who wants to be a teacher. “I like making slime. I tried on a spacesuit and headphones and gave a robot a high-five.”
“I saw a telescope and touched the kind of sand and rocks found on Mars,” said Daphne, an aspiring physician.
WPI chemical engineering graduate students Avery Brown (right) and Cameron Armstrong (center), dressed as wacky scientists, mixed hydrogen and oxygen in the presence of a catalyst in a closed environment, making “a lot of electricity” with a fuel cell demonstrator and bubbler.
“Lindsay Lozeau ’18 (PhD CE) (left) got us all involved. It’s really fun to do outreach and promote STEM education and majors to kids,” Brown said. “It's a great way for them to mobilize themselves from bad economic situations, and a great way to learn problem solving and engineering skills needed in the world they are going into. Even if they don’t become scientists, it will help them with anything—business or politics—and promoting that is a good thing ... it's why we do this.”
“This is my first year at this event. I’ve been on campus for multiple different things, but this is my favorite thing,” said 14-year-old Cole Parke of Leicester, a Boy Scout and a saxophone player in his school’s band. “I love science and robotics in general and I want to do so much with robotics. I love animals, too. I want to combine my love and passion for animals and robotics and get a 3-D printer and design prosthetic legs for animals or something."
“It’s just a fun event,” said Garcia Passley of Southboro, who, along with son Neigel Pinnock, 8, was attending their fifth TouchTomorrow. “There is always some special, new robot to see. I tell everyone we’re going to TouchTomorrow at WPI every year. It’s a nice Saturday.”
“I like to see the soldiers in their suits,” Neigel said. “And, I like to see the spacesuits.”
“I’m looking at the classes of 2025 and 2030 right now coming to visit us. It shows young people, parents, and grandparents that this technology is in their grasp," said Michael Gennert, professor of robotics engineering at WPI. "They could be here doing this. It’s not magic. Its good ol’ science, engineering, and hard work—and it’s a lot of fun, too. It's good for our students to work with the public as well ... fun for everybody!”
Michal Talmor, a NASA fellow and PhD student at WPI working on research in the Multi-Scale Heat Transfer Laboratory, was giving presentations to groups on her research. “Our lab does it every year,” she said. “I enjoy letting the public know what we're doing. The children coming in ask good questions and it's a good way for students to get involved with academia and see who they're building things for. We had kids asking if we used 3-D prototypes for experiments.
“Personally, as a woman, it feels great when girls get excited about this. I don’t know if eventually they’ll become thermo-fluid engineers, but at least they are interested right now and if I can keep that spark going, we’ll see more WPI students in the future.”
“It’s great seeing all the little kids checking out the technology and different majors and what they can become,” said Nick Sloat, a WPI custodian. “It's a perfect day ... I’ll take covering this event every time.”
“I like the 3-D printing,” said 9-year-old Jeffrey Zheng of Shrewsbury. “It is nice to see them print something right in front of you. I come every year. I like it because there’s a lot of robots and I like that you can make stuff.”
- By Paula Owen