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2018 Press Release

For Immediate Release
February 12, 2018
By Bonnie Stevens

Flagstaff Festival of Science: Accelerating into the Future

Driverless car expert to kick off FREE, 10-day event, Sept. 21 – 30, 2018

Raj Rajkumar, Ph.D.FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The 2018 Flagstaff Festival of Science: Accelerating into the Future will explore the astounding changes our lives may take in the next few years. For example, medical science is finding ways to reverse paralysis and replace bad genes; sustainable energy is becoming more efficient and affordable; computer recognition is tightening our personal security; and, artificial intelligence is getting smarter: our vehicles will soon be driving themselves!

Raj Rajkumar, Ph.D., a professor of engineering and leading expert in driverless vehicles, will roll out the 10-day festival as the keynote presenter, scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21, in Northern Arizona University’s Ardrey Auditorium.

“When vehicles can drive themselves, accidents, injuries and fatalities can go down significantly; one can be productive during commutes and when stuck in traffic; and, the elderly and the disabled will regain mobility options and their quality of life will up go up dramatically. That is the potential of driverless vehicle technology,” he says.

Rajkumar, the director of the General Motors-Carnegie Mellon Autonomous Driving Collaborative Research Lab, will share his findings and demonstrate how advanced automotive technology will save lives, prolong our independence, free up real estate in parking lots and on highways, create more hours in the day and perhaps, change our relationship with our personal vehicles.

The festival will also offer a glimpse into the not-too-distant future with smart materials, clever robots and brilliant scientists sharing their discoveries and innovations. Signature events include the Flagstaff Star Party, Science in the Park, NAU Science and Engineering Day, After School Talks, Twilight Talks, the Research Innovation Series, Fantastic Voyage and SCI Talks. The developing 2018 program will feature more than 100 activities including field trips, guided hikes, and open houses at museums, national monuments, research stations, observatories and labs.

“This year the Festival Board of Directors is very focused on providing more afterschool workshops and early childhood activities,” said Festival Board President Kathy Farretta. “What makes this festival such a treasure is its ability to offer opportunities for youth to make discoveries side-by-side with scientists in the very places where they do research. Northern Arizona with its dark skies, unmatched natural environment and rich cultural history is a mecca for world-class science, and our community’s commitment to STEM education makes Flagstaff so unique.

The Flagstaff Festival of Science is made possible through the generous support of businesses, organizations, foundations and individuals. Major sponsors include the City of Flagstaff/BBB Revenues, Flagstaff Arts Council, W. L. Gore & Associates, Northern Arizona University, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, the Arizona Community Foundation of Flagstaff, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and Peaks Audio Productions. For more information on the developing program, visit www.scifest.org or follow the festival on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/flgscifest.


The First 25 Years

At Northern Arizona University, researchers have been using drones—unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, to some—to study the landscapes of forests and sand dunes. Now they are working to develop an unmanned aerial vehicle to find animals in the wild that are carrying tiny transmitting tags. The technology has potential to vastly improve the ability to track small wildlife.

Photo by Kellan Rothfus

The First 25 Years

From snakes to microorganisms, new worlds to ancient cultures, Science in the Park offers hands-on activities for all ages. Science in the Park, one of the Flagstaff Festival of Science signature events, is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 19 at Wheeler Park.

Photo by Bonnie Stevens


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