BOZEMAN – Three races where participants run through an accurate model of the solar system will be held Saturday, Sept. 21, to kick off the first annual Montana Science and Engineering Festival at Montana State University.
A 5K Space Race, 1K kids’ race and 65-meter toddlers’ crawl will all be held on the northeast side of the Bobcat football stadium in Bozeman. Times are 8:30 a.m. for the toddlers’ crawl, 8:40 a.m. for the kids’ race and 9 a.m. for the 5K Space Race.
Participants in the 5K Space Race will start at a scale model of Neptune and run or walk past scale models of eight planets on their way to the sun. Registration currently costs $20 per person. It will rise to $22 on Sept. 7 and $25 on Sept. 14.
Children in the 1K race will run from the sun to Mars and back. On the way, they will pass four planets in the inner solar system – Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. Registration is currently $15. It will rise to $17 on Sept. 7 and $20 on Sept. 14.
The toddlers' race will take children from Mercury to the sun. Participation is free.
The races are designed to show the relative size of planets and the distances between them, said race director Lincoln Gulley. The model of the sun, for example, will be five feet in diameter, while the Earth will be half an inch in diameter.
“There’s no way to grasp the scale of the solar system in a normal picture. The scales are so different,” Gulley said. “That’s what’s so effective about a race like this.”
To register for the races and learn more about the events, go to www.bozemanspacerace.com.
After the race, competitors and spectators will have more time to learn about the planets and participate in many other activities to celebrate science and engineering in Montana, Gulley said. The Montana Science and Engineering Festival – organized by the Montana Space Grant Consortium -- will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the stadium.
Immediately following the race will be a 45-minute, kid-friendly presentation on the sun-Earth connection by Gulley, an MSU student and officer in MSU’s Space Public Outreach Team (SPOT). The club sends undergraduates around Montana to give free presentations about space to schools, youth organizations and community groups. This year’s topics are “Mission to Mars” and “Life in the Universe.” Last year, SPOT students presented space programs to more than 11,000 Montana school children.
Approximately 3,000 to 5,000 people are expected to attend the inaugural Montana Science and Engineering Festival, which is an MSU Year of Engaged Leadership event.
Organizers learned earlier this summer that the Montana Science and Engineering Festival is one of 12 science festivals in the nation to receive funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Other festivals will be located in Missoula; Jackson Hole, Wyo.; Jonesboro, Ark.; Fort Pierce, Fla.; Bowling Green, Ky.; Schenectady, N.Y; Dayton, Ohio; Youngstown, Ohio; Ashland, Ore.; Charleston, S.C.; and Roanoke, Va. All 12 festivals are new or dramatically expanded events serving communities with a relatively small resource base compared to major metropolitan markets.
Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or firstname.lastname@example.org