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TENacious Engineering: Celebrating TEN Years of the Cambridge Science Festival

By Marybeth Martello, Ph.D.

TEN years ago, in the Cambridge, Massachusetts City Council chambers, a whimsical, Rube Goldberg-inspired chain reaction launched the first Cambridge Science Festival. The MIT students who built the intricate machine stayed true to the well-known, playful humor of MITers; they used an oversized red sneaker to perform the Festival “kick off.” Since 2007, the Festival has carried forth the spirit and creativity of that first chain reaction. In fact, the Festival is a chain reaction. Through community building and public outreach, the Festival has triggered a decade of interest, excitement, and fun around STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics). The ripple effects of its growing programs have steadily extended the Festival’s geographic boundaries. While still thriving in Cambridge, the Festival now touches communities across the Commonwealth.

TENacious Engineering is a project to celebrate the Festival’s TENth Anniversary. Inspired by the first kick-off, TEN teams, spanning the state from North Adams to Cape Cod, have been hard at work constructing TEN original and fascinating chain reaction machines. And these aren’t any old teams. They each reflect unique partnerships linking college departments, museums, organizations, high

schools, K-12 students, artists, and engineers. The machines echo the people, places, and collaborations from which they emerge. And there will certainly be some surprises. Billiard balls, pink flamingos, and drones – oh my! On the evening of April 15, at the Festival’s Big Ideas for Busy People event, Governor Charlie Baker will unveil a short film. In this film, the chain reactions will count down to the Festival’s TENth Anniversary opening via a meta chain reaction that links all TEN machines together. Machine TEN will set off machine nine, and the chain reaction will proceed in sequence until machine one sets off the Festival itself. Watch closely. You might even catch a glimpse of that red sneaker!

The MIT Museum team was the first to complete their chain reaction (see photos). The other nine TENacious Engineering teams are working, largely in parallel, with little knowledge about what the other teams are doing. They must, however, coordinate the exit and entry points that link neighboring machines in the meta chain reaction. What will the chain reactions look like? How will they all link together? We can’t wait to find out! In subsequent CSF blog posts, we will check in with these teams and learn about their chain reaction experiences.
Were you at the State House for the first Festival kick-off?
What do chain reactions mean to you?




Try your hand at chain reactions and other engineering feats at one of these Festival events…
Saturday, April 16

10:00am-1:00pm Everybody Loves Science! Lawrence
10:00am-3:00pm Central MA Science Festival
12:00pm-4:00pm Science Carnival & Robot Zoo – TENacious Engineering Lab – Check out the crazy
Contraptions built for TENacious Engineering, and try building one of your own!
12:00pm-4:00pm Paper Circuits in the Idea Hub

Sunday, April 17
12:00pm-4:00pm Chain Reaction Design Lab – Linking the Virtual to the Physical
2:00pm-4:00pm Intro to Web Development for Girls & Moms (or Aunts, Grandmas, Big Sisters…

Monday April 18
9:00am-1:00pm Steampunk Art & Design Workshop, Waltham

Tuesday April 19
10:30am-12:00pm Cardboard Automata: Mechanical Toys
11:00am-2:00pm Workshop: Mission to Mars with MIT Society of Women Engineers
12:00pm-1:30pm & 2:00pm-3:30pm Lego LEGO Workshops with Play-Well TEKnologies
3:00pm-5:00pm Developing & Delivering New Medicines: A Hands-on Nanocapsule Lab for Girls
3:00pm-6:00pm STEAM Maker Inventions, Belmont
4:30-5:30 STEM Exploration Party
Weeklong Workshop: Aesop’s Fabulous Machine: Design, Build, Race

Wednesday April 20
10:00am-7:00pm techXplore Workshop, Watertown
11:00am-1:00pm Workshop: Game Design and Play Testing with Harmonix
1:00pm-3:00pm Shake Things Up
1:00pm-4:00pm Sailing Science: Robotic Sailing & Environmental Science at Community
1:00pm-4:00pm Clubhouse Circuits, Museum of Science, Boston
2:30-4:30pm Workshop: Coding and Game Development
4:30-5:30pm STEM Exploration Party
6:00pm-8:00pm Circuit Hacking Night, Somerville

Thursday April 21
10:00am-7:00pm techXplore Workshop, Watertown
11:00am-1:00pm & 2:00-4:00pm Workshop: Introduction to Robotics
12:00pm-1:30pm & 2:00pm-3:30pm Pre-engineering Workshops with Play-Well TEKnologies
1:00pm-4:00pm Clubhouse Circuits, Museum of Science, Boston
3:00pm-6:00pm STEAM Maker Inventions, Belmont

Friday April 22
9:00am-11:30pm Earth Day Makerspace Mash Up: Aquarium Alive!
10:30-12:30 Imagine Boston with LEGO Bricks
11:00am-1:00pm Workshop: Fish ‘n’ Ships
1:00pm-3:30pm Earth Day Makerspace Mash Up: Robotics, Recyclables & Stop Motion
1:00pm-4:00pm Clubhouse Circuits, Museum of Science, Boston

Saturday April 23
9:00pm-12:30pm Greenlight for Girls Day at Bridgewater State University
10:00am-2:00pm Science on State Street, Framingham State University
10:00am-4:00pm Rocket Day
10:30am-12:30pm Chain Reaction Design Lab
1:00pm-3:00pm Young Makers Pop-up Space, Boston
1:00pm-4:00pm Clubhouse Circuits, Museum of Science, Boston
1:00pm-4:00pm Sailing Science: Robotic Sailing & Environmental Science at Community
1:00pm-4:30pm GRAPE: Grandchildren/Grandparent Robot Assistant Programming Ex…,Boston

Sunday, April 24
12:00pm-4:00pm Creative Kinetic Sculptures in the Idea Hub
1:00pm-4:00pm FabLabuLous!

Marybeth works for the Cambridge Science Festival. She has a background in the fields of Science, Technology, and Society and Civil and Environmental Engineering.

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