Ohio State’s annual West Campus Science and Sustainability Festival will celebrate its fifth iteration with live and asynchronous virtual events.
The festival, known as WestFest , begins Monday and runs through Oct. 16, aiming to encourage community interaction with Ohio State research, Courtney Price, member of the WestFest Planning Collaborative and outreach specialist at the Arabidopsis Biological Resource Center and Center for Applied Plant Sciences, said.
“We just wanted to put something together that showcased science and sustainability and outreach and gave people the opportunity to have a bit of a behind-the-scenes glimpse at some Ohio State facilities, and also feature family-friendly, science-engagement activities,” Price said.
This year’s WestFest offers programs on topics such as pollination, life in the universe, campus energy and conservation, according to its website . Events will be live captioned.
Last year’s WestFest was moved online because of the pandemic and featured 22 virtual programs, Price said.
These events included tours of campus science facilities, demonstrations of DNA extraction and plant propagation and identification, according to the 2020 event schedule .
Price said the virtual format allowed for individuals from around the world to participate in the festival.
“One of the benefits of the pandemic was that, instead of just reaching audiences in central Ohio, we actually had people tuning in from multiple different countries,” Price said.
Price said organizers were hoping for a return to in-person programming in 2021, but were unable due to the pandemic.
“We thought that we would move forward from now on, as a hybrid event,” Price said. “We were moving ahead with that plan until the Delta variant really began to spike.”
To encourage direct community involvement at this year’s festival, Price said she and the WestFest Planning Committee assembled at-home science experiment kits to provide tools for children to follow along with the programming. Kits were donated to local community partners such as St. Stephen’s Community House, Gladden House and the Hispanic Coalition.
By providing resources for underserved communities to participate in WestFest’s virtual activities, Price said organizers will retain the local involvement they initially intended for the festival. This goal of community education has inspired the financial support of ENGIE — a French multinational utility company.
Zach Horn, a project manager at ENGIE’s energy conservation measure program, said he believes WestFest’s benefit to the community goes beyond typical campus-centric events, making research accessible and understandable for people unfamiliar with the energy sector.
“It has a lot higher emphasis on the Columbus community, rather than just, say, Ohio State students, faculty and staff,” Horn said. “It offers a unique opportunity.”
Individuals can sign up for WestFest events here .