Hayward science fair excites attendees

  • October 30, 2011

By Alan Lopez, Correspondent

HAYWARD -- Cal State East Bay geology professor Luther Strayer used slides Saturday to illustrate and discuss what he called "public enemy No 1" in the Bay Area: the Hayward Fault.

There's a 63 percent chance of a magnitude 6.7 earthquake or greater on the fault, which divides the flatlands from the hills in the East Bay from Fremont to Sonoma.

He said he expects the big earthquake to happen on the fault in his lifetime.

"As a result, you really should be prepared," he said. "We're overdue for a very big earthquake that would be devastating."

The lecture was part of Discovery Days at the College of Science at Cal State East Bay.

About 5,000 people were expected to attend the event, which included dozens of hands-on activities, experiments, demonstrations and lectures.

The college has held the biannual event since 1974. This year, it's part of the inaugural Bay Area Science Festival, a 10-day series of science-related events that will be held at various locations through Nov. 6.

Bree Grillo-Hill, a post-doctorate student at UC San Francisco in cancer biology, brought her 5-year-old son, Davis, who showed off some pink, sparkly silly putty he made in a chemistry lab.

She said the event was a family-friendly way of introducing kids to science.

"It looked like a fun event and a very nice day," she said. "It's nice to get out of the fog, too."

Scores of parents and children went to see performer Dave Rodriguez, otherwise known as the Astro Wizard, who gavea high-energy presentation dubbed a "Magical Tour of the Universe."

The presentation included pictures, some in 3-D, of space stations, solar flares, eclipses and other elements of the solar system.

Outdoors, he placed frozen carbon dioxide in water to create a foglike gas and used oxidized magnesium to create a flash of light and a burst of fog.

For a grand finale, fountains of cola rose some 20 feet high after he poured Mentos candies in jugs of root beer and Diet Coke.

"We live in a very magical universe" said Rodrigues, who wore a blue satin wizard's cap and robe. "Even though we understand the science of it, I think it's very magical."

At a computer lab, children and their parents used a programming tool known as Scratch, created by MIT to introduce children to computer programming.

Fourteen-year-old Fremont resident Jamie Crocker was busy creating a game where a cat had to avoid balls being dropped on its head. He came to Discovery Days with a friend because he enjoyed the "practical usage of ideas" related to science, he said.

In another darkened classroom, various panoramic scenes were projected, including the surface of the moon and Mars. The images were not in 3-D but seemed to envelope the viewer.

Computer science professor William Thibault said he brought the "wraparound immersive display technology" -- similar to what a planetarium uses but a lot less expensive -- to the school for research purposes.

He said the technology has been used for trade shows and advertisements and expects it to become more common.

"I really would like to get it in the classrooms to give students something to remember," he said. "Flat images are passé, boring -- this is the kind of thing people haven't seen, at least for now."

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