CHICAGO -- Over 1,800 kids and adults from across Chicagoland came to the first of two Family Science Days  at the AAAS Annual Meeting, where they extracted DNA from bananas, dug worms from bins of dirt, shot swirls of mist from vortex guns, and built structures out of dried spaghetti and mini-marshmallows.
Free and open to the public, Family Science Days features hands-on demos, shows, and other activities appropriate for K-12 children and their families. Held 15-16 February in the Hyatt Regency Chicago, the event offers a broad range of educators and scientists promoting an interest in science among the general public.
"A little girl told us that she 'played so much science,' which is a nice way to describe our desired effect," said Jeanne Braha, public engagement manager at AAAS.
Other activities at Family Science Days involved giant bubbles, lion pelts, and virtual reality headsets that gave kids the experience of flying through a three-dimensional landscape of fractals.
On the "Meet the Scientists" stage, experts gave lively presentations on topics such as "Your Brain on Video Games" and "Mr. Freeze!"
"I spoke with several parents who were thrilled to discover not just fun stuff for the day but also activities for future weekends and the summer," said Braha. "There were many people who spent nearly the entire six hours there -- and would have stayed all night, had we let them! The content was really rich and engaging for a wide range of ages."
Family Science Days continues on Sunday, 16 February, until 5:00 p.m. Visitors can pre-register online  to save time when arriving.