It comes around every October, delighting children and their families in a whirlwind of excitement and celebration.

Halloween? Been there, done that. In geek-heavy Silicon Valley and other parts of the region, this is just as big: the Bay Area Science Festival.

In past years, the jamboree of science has attracted 50,000 people, from kids to adults, who visit dozens of Bay Area labs, museums, universities and other facilities to hear lectures, watch movies, and participate in hands-on experiments — ending with a huge Sunday event at the San Francisco Giants ballpark.

This year, with the coronavirus pandemic, all the events are online. But the show will go on, organizers say, and it will be fun. The first events began Wednesday, with more than 125 free events planned through Sunday.

“It’s a real opportunity to connect with science and engineering all around the Bay Area,” said Katherine Nielsen, co-director of the festival. “I was just sitting in on a session today with 10 scientists from different backgrounds, taking questions from the public about cells and how scientists look for cures for diseases. There is something for everyone. As much as we all want to be back in person, this is a great way to get excited about all the research and innovation going on around the Bay Area.”

To see the full schedule of events and to sign up, go to

There are roughly 100 similar science festivals that take place every year around the United States. The majority are still continuing this year, albeit online, Nielsen said. At a time when Americans are looking to scientists to solve many of the nation’s most pressing problems, from finding a vaccine for COVID-19 to helping develop new types of renewable energy, organizers hope to showcase the work scientists do and inspire young people to take up the baton in the next generation.

Kids observe the sublimation effect of dry ice dissolving in water as one of the activities during the Bay Area Science Festival at Cal State East Bay-Concord in Concord, Calif., on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

This year’s festival, which is hosted by UC San Francisco, has a wide variety of events. NASA Ames is giving a talk about the likelihood of advanced civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy. The California Academy of Sciences is hosting a teen science trivia night. UC Berkeley is hosting a discussion in Spanish for kids about COVID-19. The Tech Museum of Innovation is hosting daily activities, including building earthquake-proof buildings and learning about aviation physics through paper airplanes.

Other organizations participating are Stanford University, the Lawrence Hall of Science, the Chabot Space & Science Center, RAFT in San Jose, public libraries in Redwood City, Fremont and other cities, SLAC, the Oakland Zoo, and the Exploratorium.

One theme this year: showcasing women in science and the contribution of various ethnic groups.

Teachers and parents have been reaching out to organizers, thanking them for soldiering on, despite the pandemic, Nielsen said.

“We’re hoping, like everyone, that we’ll have a vaccine and we’ll be able to be back in person next year,” she said. “One thing is clear: We will still have some virtual events then too. We’ve learned a lot this year. It will be a great mix.”



By Kelley Wheeler

Kelley Wheeler is a Metro reporter covering political issues and general assignments. A second-generation journalist, worked with all major news outlet, she holds a vast expeirience. Kelley is a graduate of USC with degrees in journalism and English literature. She is a recipient of Yale’s Poynter Fellowship in Journalism.

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