Air Force Research Laboratory scientists and engineers inspire the future workforce with experiments and hands on activities April 6-8 at the fifth annual USA Science and Engineering Festival at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Air Force photo/Brian Mitchell)

Scientists, engineers excite students about career opportunities

Washington, D.C. – Students across the country recently had the opportunity to connect with leading scientists and engineers from across the Air Force Research Laboratory and other government agencies, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) organizations and industry April 6-8.

The fifth annual USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo, held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, featured thousands of hands-on exhibits from the world’s leading scientists and engineers. The Department of Defense, NASA, Lockheed Martin, Seaworld and Parents Magazine were among multiple sponsors for the event, which was geared toward students from grades kindergarten through 12.

Inside the Defense Pavilion, scientists and engineers from the Air Force Research Laboratory held demonstrations for students to learn how AFRL breaks boundaries every day in areas such as unmanned vehicles, lasers and rockets, stronger materials and wearable sensors.

One demonstration showed a patented water-repelling material. It included two gloves that looked identical, but one has been treated with the invisible surface coating that made it impervious to water. When dipped in water, the treated glove kept the hand dry – appearing to bend the liquid around it – while water soaked through the untreated glove.

Students also enjoyed flying drones and doing chemistry and physics experiments, along with learning about lights, lasers and optics; navigation without GPS, and even building and launching their own straw rockets.

“We look forward to showcasing AFRL technology at these events to excite the bright young minds of the future, in hopes of encouraging them to study STEM disciplines and become DoD scientists and engineers in the future,” said Dr. Joseph Mabry of the Air Force Research Laboratory.

More than 370,000 people attended the event, which included more than 3,000 hands-on STEM activities and stage performances from celebrities such as 3M Visiting Wizards, Marine Biologist Danni Washington and the co-creators of “Wow in the World” Guy Raz and Mindy Thomas.

“STEM education and future workforce development are true national security concerns. Organizations such as AFRL are on the front line of innovation and engineering,” said Marc Schulman, the festival’s executive director. “Having AFRL exhibit at the festival exposed our students to the amazing careers available in the Air Force.”

For more information about AFRL participation in STEM events, visit the Wright-Patterson Educational Outreach Office online at For information about AFRL technologies that are available for licensing, such as the water repelling demonstration, contact the Air Force Technology Transfer Program at 937-904-9830.