OH WOW!: Bringing People Downtown

By Laura McDonough

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Volunteers try out the walking on water exhibit at last year’s Silly Science Sunday.

Children of all ages will be able to try on space suits, walk on water and tour OH WOW! The Roger and Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science and Technology as part of Silly Science Sunday.

The fifth annual Silly Science Sunday is being held downtown on Sept. 20 to educate children and get kids outside for Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play.

For Suzanne Barbati, president and executive director of OH WOW!, September can be pretty slow for business with children going back to school.

“We picked September to have this big event to get a lot of people downtown and to get a lot of people in OH WOW!,” Barbati said.

The free street festival will take place from 11 to 5 p.m. and will have booths from many different areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Every booth will have a hands-on activity.

“We want to showcase local and regional STEM based educators, organizations and businesses and groups,” Barbati said.

Although the street fair is aimed at ages zero to 14, there will be something interesting for everyone.

“Something for children of all ages, from the very young to the very mature,” Barbati said.

The Phantoms will be sharpening ice skates, NASA will bring space suits for children to try on and OH WOW! will host a ‘walking on water’ station. The street fair will also include 3D printers, drones, robotics, photo booths, stage shows, demos and much more.

Ray Beiersdorfer, professor in YSU’s department of geological and environmental sciences, will be the star of Dr. Ray’s Amazing Sideshow of Science. He said his show is intended to entertain, educate and amaze.

“With faster-than-the-blink-of-an-eye feats that must be seen to be believed, you will journey around Earth’s spheres — atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and lithosphere. Science facts and carnival flair meet head-on,” Beiersdorfer said.

Attendees will also get a first look at OH WOW!’s newest exhibit.

“We’ll be unveiling our new exhibit, ‘Kids in the Kitchen,’ which is still under construction,” Barbati said.

The street fair is meant to be a fun experience for the whole family, but Barbati also wants to encourage the younger generation to take an interest in STEM fields to fill the gap baby boomers are leaving behind.

“There’s a lot of baby boomers, like me, retiring from the workforce. So how do we fill that gap? We fill that gap by letting people know what it takes to be successful in those areas and give them the resources to do it,” Barbati said.

Barbati said STEM isn’t just about becoming a doctor or engineer, there are a lot of areas they’re looking to showcase at Silly Science Sunday.

“We’re trying to get some of the trades down here, the pipe fitters, the plumbers,” Barbati said. “I mean those things all take skill and we just want to provide an opportunity for people who wouldn’t normally see that kind of thing.”

Last year around 2,000 people attended Silly Science Sunday and OH WOW! is looking to double it this year.

“We’re looking to have 5,000 people,” Barbati said.

OH WOW! is not just looking to boost its own business, the event will bring thousands to the downtown area and many local restaurants will be open.

“We’re really promoting the local food industry as well,” Barbati said.

For students needing more volunteer hours, OH WOW! is looking for a few more volunteers to set up and clean up during the three hours before and after the event.

“It’s a fun way to get volunteer hours,” Barbati said. “Volunteers get a free t-shirt, breakfast and lunch.”

Sponsors include the Youngstown State University College of STEM, 3D Vision Technologies, Youngstown Phantoms, Home Depot, NASA and America Makes.