The St. Petersburg Science Festival returns on Saturday, Feb. 16, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg Campus. The free annual event includes interactive exhibits highlighting the fields of science, technology, engineering, art and math. MarineQuest, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute’s annual event held at the same time on the FWRI campus, will feature touch tanks with live critters and exhibits on sharks, rays, manatees, coral and red tide with top scientists on hand to answer questions.

“It’s designed for ‘K-gray,’” quips Howard Rutherford, associate vice president of development at the University of South Florida and a long-time leader of the science festival. “It’s for everyone, not just kids. We want to make science relevant and fun.”

With exhibits stretching from Poynter Park up through the FWRI campus, it’s a chance for participants to interact directly with scientists in nearly every discipline, from outer space exploration at a NASA booth to underwater demonstrations from NOAA.  Also part of the festival:  Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Mote Marine Laboratory, the Florida Aquarium, U.S. Geological Survey, Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, Eckerd College and the USF College of Marine Science with 12 separate exhibits in one pavilion.

Science-based entertainment also will include film screenings of short environmental programs to stage shows with science improv presentations and music that focuses on environmental education. Mad Science of Tampa Bay will present hands-on “gee-whiz” entertainment.

“It will be a day-long event for families of all ages,” Rutherford said.

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