The Next Big Idea Festival kicks off Friday

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By Carol A. Clark

This weekend’s annual Next Big Idea Festival is designed to be bigger and better than last year.

More than 60 junior and senior high-school students from around the state are participating in the Next Big Idea STEM Student Day, 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. on Friday.

The all-day event has been organized by Los Alamos MainStreet in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Innovate-Educate New Mexico.

“The event is being supported by participation from a variety of businesses and organizations including Los Alamos National Bank, the Bradbury Science Museum, Los Alamos County, the Pajarito Environmental Education Center, Environx, LLC, Kinesthetic Wind, the New Mexico Department of Higher Education, New Mexico MESA and Central New Mexico College,” said Executive Director Kevin Holsapple of the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation. “The day will include a variety of interactive activities in a broad range of science and technology areas as well as a chance to learn more about science, technology, engineering and math-related careers.”  

The Next Big Idea Festival of Discovery, Invention, and Innovation takes place Saturday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at Ashley Pond, he said. The event will feature a day of family friendly exhibits, activities and entertainment.

“Researchers, businesses, educators, artisans, and innovators from Los Alamos and beyond will be sharing their ideas and hands-on activities,” Holsapple said. “One of the venues, the Next Big Show will feature two immersive visualization domes running simultaneous educational and entertainment programs throughout the day.”

The educational shows cover topics from space exploration to nanotechnology and are produced by a variety of science and natural history museums as well as by NASA.

The entertainment shows integrate the music of Pink Floyd and other popular musicians with creative, immersive visual effects, he said, and will offer multiple show times each hour throughout the day.  

A small admission fee will be charged for the Next Big Show presentations.

A grilling competition is set from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday at Ashley Pond.

The event invites both professional and amateur grillmeisters to impress a panel of judges with their creativity with charcoal, foods and seasonings, competition coordinator Katy Korkos said.

“Everything is fair game and it is rumored that there may even be grilled desserts, if you can imagine that,” she said. “We’ll also have a variety of food on hand for purchase through four food vendors.”

Stop by the Chamber of Commerce at 109 Central Park Square or contact Korkos at 661-4816 to register for the competition.  

The festival is a production of Los Alamos MainStreet and is sponsored by Los Alamos National Bank, Los Alamos County and Los Alamos National Security, LLC.

Otowi Station in Los Alamos is the official science and bookstore of The Next Big Idea.

“The idea of The Next Big Idea is to take a theme that is strongly associated with Los Alamos – ideas, creativity and innovation – and build an event around inviting both visitors and locals to celebrate next big ideas,” Holsapple said.

“We are promoting the event out-of-town and we think that getting visitors to share in our creative culture can help breakdown the stereotype of Los Alamos as a community that is closed to outsiders. The focus of Los Alamos MainStreet is downtown vitality... more people downtown more often.”

One of the ways his organization is approaching this is through events, he said.

In addition to The Next Big Idea, MainStreet is the producer of events such as the Fair and Rodeo Parade, Trick or Treat on MainStreet and Halloweekend and Winterfest.

MainStreet also supports and provides funding to enable many other smaller events downtown throughout the year, Holsapple said.  

Los Alamos MainStreet is a program of the LACDC. Event activities are financially supported by Los Alamos County through their business development contract with LACDC.

For information, access www.nextbigideaLA.com or call Los Alamos MainStreet at 661-4844.

Contact Carol A. Clark at lanews@lamonitor.com or (505)662-4185 ext. 25. Read her newsblog at www.newsextras.wordpress.com.