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AAAS Brings the Science of Our Senses to Science Festival

Most kids, when they’re about to eat a jelly bean, anticipate the taste of it, not the smell. But those who visited the AAAS station at the 2nd USA Science and Engineering Festival joined in an experiment: They held their noses while chewing the jelly bean, and found that, without their sense of smell, the flavor became simply sweet or sour.

AAAS helped families experiment with all of their senses at the festival in Washington, D.C., which opened to the public for a free weekend 28-29 April following a Sneak Peak Friday for students, teachers, and military families. Over those three days, 150,000 people joined AAAS and other science organizations from across the country in science festivities.

“The Science of Our Senses” interactive stations, hosted by AAAS Education and Human Resources, gave visitors a chance to learn more about how their senses work together. Visitors stopping by the AAAS booths were challenged to activities that tested their senses of sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch.

One of the most popular booths tested expo visitors’ sense of taste. Kids were drawn to the table by the candy machines full of jellybeans, but they walked away with a better understanding of how their sense of taste connected with their sense of smell.

Festival attendees also interacted with researchers at the AAAS Meet the Scientists! stage show. After the scientists’ presentations, audience members had the chance to talk with them and ask questions one-on-one.

“Providing opportunities for scientists to engage directly with the greater Washington, D.C., community, including families, teachers, and adults, was a highlight of AAAS participation in this event,” said Tiffany Lohwater, AAAS public engagement manager.