SciFest attracts 12000 visitors in Finland to celebrate the Power of Light

The 9th SciFest Science Festival was held in Joensuu, Finland, on 23-25 April 2015, attracting 12,000 visitors this year. The SciFest is a festival where visitors can do and play with science. Hands-on rather than just boring presentations. And the concept seems to work. There were about 100 different workshops in the event from photonics and robotics to theatre where the visitors where able to participate. Of course, light was very visible in SciFest this year, and the Institute of Photonics at the University of Eastern Finland (UEF) was one of the organizers that helped the main organizer Joensuun Science Society. The theme this year was “Power of Light” to celebrate the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 (IYL 2015).

Sometimes photonics can be not so attractive-looking. So people needed to think about what kinds of activities kids would find interesting. This challenge was managed well. There were various activities from demonstrations of subtractive colours with shadows to shooting with a gun that uses light instead of bullets and gun-powder.SciFest is arranged in Joensuu Areena. It is a big sports hall and thus the basic atmosphere is cold as in a classroom. However, with proper lights, the place becomes totally different. Finnish light artist Kari Kola, who also did the light installation at the IYL 2015 Opening Ceremony in Paris, arranged the lights in the Arena. The empty space above people’s heads was dark and the lights were arranged with spots in places where light was really needed. The final result was amazing. As an example of creative thinking, some of the light spots were made of buckets.

The overview of the Arena can also be seen as a 360 degrees panorama photo. Photographer Rami Saarikorpi took the photo in the evening before the start of SciFest. He also had a workshop in SciFest where he showed how panorama photos are taken in practice. This was a very popular workshop among kids – and among teachers as well.

It seems that one can inspire light-related enthusiasm in people easily: Gather people from companies, universities, schools, arts, etc., and work together to create a playground for kids. If it works with kids, it works with everyone. And remember that science can be on stage together with art.

In addition, there were a very successful workshop, Crime Scene Physics, where kids solved a fictional crime by applying real photonics devices such as an industrial endoscope to a microscope accessory for a mobile phone. Also, several companies helped in the implementation of the workshop and they provided with the devices needed. The workshops were able to combine light-related research, education and industry. The main reason to include companies was not to advertise them or their devices, but to show that there really are companies behind those devices. And that means jobs to people.

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