Da Vinci Fest exhibits hope to spark interest

Gazette File Photo

Gazette File Photo

A long list of exhibitors, many of them new, are scheduled to appear at The Partnership Plan’s Da Vinci Fest Jan. 5 and some are from the St. Croix Valley’s backyard.

Paula Thrall, a parent volunteer for the festival’s exhibits committee is excited about what’s in store for people this year. One of the things that Thrall called both exciting and extraordinary is the line up of art and science together engaging in what Thrall calls STEAM, an extension of the STEM program that includes science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.

“It’s very exciting and there are so many businesses locally and nationally that help kids get interested in art and science,” Thrall said.

This year’s exhibitors include the artist and physicist team of Joseph Gianetti and Allen Lipke. Lipke is the outreach coordinator of the underground laboratory in Soudan, Minn., which studies neutrinos. The lab teamed up with Gianetti to put a mural up on the very large wall (60 feet wide by 25 feet high) of the lab to add color to a dark space. Hidden in it are optical illusions that Gianetti said include words, animals, and people if you look long enough at it. They’ll teach kids about neutrinos and show photos of the mural.

“If I can have just one kid see beyond what they see in front of them I will feel my work is complete,” Gianetti said. “If they become aware of the world beyond this world and become aware of their place in the universe I will feel I succeeded.”

Other exhibitors include toymaker Tony Morley from Stillwater and scientist Bill Petrich from Suntava Purple Corn in Afton.

Suntava is a company that grows maize corn used in food production and provides a purple dye that has been used in various soft drinks and foods to replace red dye 40, which Petrich says is linked to hyperactivity in kids.

Suntava was represented at last year’s Da Vinci Fest.

“It was a really great turnout at our booth and it was a lot of fun,” Petrich said. “Suntava displayed an experiment for the kids and we got both the parents and kids really involved. Everyone had a lot of great questions.”

Petrich said Suntava was working on some plans to engage kids again this year and wanted to keep them a surprise but said that the dying the 7-UP experiment would be back. What Petrich loves about Da Vinci Fest is the ability to get kids engaged in science and making it fun.

“Education is a part of who we are as a company and we want to teach kids the importance of science in the future,” Petrich said. “Things like Da Vinci Fest are opportunities to spark interest and benefit the world and we’d love to help kids take an interest in science and benefit the future.”

Morley, an award-winning toy designer from Stillwater, has also been to Da Vinci Fest in the past as an attendee. This year will be the first time the owner of Red Racer Studios attends as an exhibitor.

Morley said as a toy and game inventor, his task is making his exhibit visually engaging because he said the toy design process is hard to demonstrate. He hopes to walk kids through the process showing drawings and models and taking them through the presentation and manufacturing part as well as getting his toys on the shelves.

“Generally, I hope to get them excited and to motivate them to be involved in creative experiments and science. I also want them to know they don’t need to follow a traditional science path.” Morley said. “I want them to get excited about school and collaboration, and also help them find solutions for fun things and real world human issues going forward.”

Morley would encourage anyone interested to come to Da Vinci Fest.

“I think that people not familiar with it should give it a try,” Morley said. “The cold walk to the gym at the high school is worth the effort. It’s encouraging and energizing to see what the kids are up to and it’s an inspiring, delightful, and lively event.”

To learn more about these and the 60 other exhibitors featured at this year’s event check out the Partnership Plan’s website: www.partnershipplan.org

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If You Go

What: Da Vinci Fest

Where: Stillwater Area High School

When: Jan. 5, 1-5 p.m., awards are presented at 5:30 p.m.

Cost: Free

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