For the next week, you won't be far from a free, fun-focused event aimed at highlighting the Bay Area's premier role in scientific discovery.

The inaugural Bay Area Science Festival kicks off Saturday at Cal State East Bay, followed by some 100 other events around the region the following week. It culminates with a science and "edutainment" extravaganza at AT&T Park on Nov. 6, with numerous local scientists showcasing their work, accompanied by live music performances and stage demonstrations.

"The one overarching thing is I want (from the festival) is for people to take pride in the science that's all around them," said Kishore Hari, director of the Bay Area Science Festival and a UC San Francisco academic coordinator.

While Bay Area residents embrace the arts, music, theater and fine cuisine, far fewer realize the outstanding scientific endeavors underway in the region, Hari said.

"We don't celebrate science in the same way, and it's fundamental to the Bay Area," he said, noting that Bay Area scientists over the years discovered 12 elements on the periodic table -- the master list of elements -- and scarcely a year passes without a local researcher winning a Nobel Prize.

The National Science Foundation awarded UCSF a $550,000, three-year grant to launch the festival, which Hari said will now run annually. Some 20 corporations, universities, government agencies and nonprofit organizations also contributed money, and scientists at these and many other organizations are staffing the events.

The science foundation awarded grants to help start similar festivals in San Diego, Boston and Philadelphia.

In addition to fostering appreciation of the scientific gravitas of the region, the fact that all but a handful of events are free allows everyone to enjoy quality scientific experiences, Hari said. Another goal of the festival, he added, "is to make sure that kids and adults alike are energized by a topic that's sometimes considered intimidating or boring."

Among the festival's events:

  • Free "Discovery Days" featuring numerous booths and performances at Cal State East Bay on Oct. 29, at Infineon Raceway on Nov. 5 and at AT&T Park on Nov. 6;
  • A "Bay Area Star Party" hosted by more than 20 observatories from San Jose to Santa Rosa;
  • Science games, tours, hikes, performances, exhibits, hands-on activities and lectures, such as one on the birds of Alcatraz, held at venues such as cafes, parks, schools and libraries.

    For more information and a list of events, visit www.bayareascience.org.

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