By Steven Hyde and Nicole Reino
An estimated 50,000 people flocked to Balboa Park on April 4 for the inaugural San Diego Science Festival 2009 Expo Day.
"I never thought this many people would show up to see science, so I'm kind of blown away," said Larry Bock, who spearheaded and orchestrated the expo concept with the pretense to stimulate interest in science for children.
The Expo Day was the grand finale of the month-long San Diego Science Festival, which featured science-themed events all over San Diego County.
The Expo Day showcased some of San Diego's renowned advanced technology companies, school science clubs and many other enthusiasts. Approximately 250 different organizations created more than 300 different hands-on activities.
La Jolla Country Day was one of the schools that had a booth at the expo.
Peter Blanchard, a Del Mar resident who is a senior at Country Day, won top honors for his astronomy project at the Science Festival. Blanchard will be heading off to the International Science & Engineering Fair (aka "Gathering Genius") in Reno, Nev., May 10-16. He said he wants to be an astronomer one day.
Scripps Health showcased da Vinci Si Surgical Systems, an intuitive robot that assists surgeons during laparoscopic surgeries. Attendees could even try the multi-million dollar robot. Other exhibitors included Lockheed Martin. Attendees experienced virtual reality environments, discovered what it is like to fly a fighter jet, operated a submarine periscope, raced a robot and witnessed a car that drives itself.
"What we know is early exposure to science and technology instills that passion," said Dr. Ray O. Johnson, senior vice president and chief technology officer of Lockheed Martin. "That's important when children make a decision to go into a technical career field or not…and we know it's important for the nation."