Students and faculty from the Franklin College and other units staffed UGA's bioenergy exhibit at the second annual USA Science and Engineering Festival, held this spring in Washington, D.C.
During the event, [associate professor microbiology Anna]Karls and five graduate students from the microbiology department in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences showed visitors how microbes convert garbage and waste into energy capable of powering cars and homes.
The festival also featured technology demonstrations, contests, more than 3,000 exhibits and performances by television personalities, athletes and comedians.
In addition to showing how microbial flora in termite guts break down wood into car ethanol, the UGA exhibit, “The Power of Microbes,” also gave festival attendees a chance to observe how the microbes in garbage generate electricity-producing methane. More than 1,000 students and parents visited the UGA exhibit, said Karls. Festival organizers estimated that more than 150,000 people attended the two-day event.
Exhibitions like this are the perfect venue for engaging young minds with leading-edge thinking about renewable energy in ways that are practical and very hands-on. I don't think it's too hopeful to imagine that future scientists and engineers can get inspired in this environment - it might be one of the primary ways that they do. Plus, there is the added benefit of current students and professional scientists talking with the public about their work, its implications and the energy sources all around us. Kudos to the supporting units around campus for their efforts. The benefts of this kind of engagement are many and varied.
Image: Microbiology graduate student Julie Stoudenmire (right) helps one of the more than 1,000 people who visited the UGA exhibit get a look at termites. Photo by Emily Stubbs/Colella Photo