NIH Activities at the NIH Pavilion, 2014 USA Science and Engineering Festival

(listed by Institute, Center & Office)


Blast-Off Book Shows Real Kids Soared with Government Grant

Get the free Rocket Boys of NIH book. Discover what happened in 1957 when the National Institutes of Health gave two kids $10 to build a rocket. Check out author signings, readings and the rocket cartoon -- shown every 15 minutes.

Topics Addressed:  How the NIH grants and peer review system works. How kids can do great things.


You Can Make a Difference in the World: Experience Being a Cancer Scientist

Experience being a cancer scientist. Participants will conduct a simple chromatography experiment with a black marker, water, and a coffee what happens!

Topics Addressed:  Basic science, biochemistry, cancer research

NCCIH (formerly NCCAM)

Meet the Yogi (Match the Pose), Meet the Tai Chi Teacher (Match the Pose), and Complementary Health Approach Word Search

Stop by our booth to meet the Tai chi teacher and match different yoga and tai chi poses with their name. You’ll get to learn where to find more information on the science of Tai chi, yoga, and other complementary health approaches. You’ll also get to join one of our scientists as she explains how natural compounds are identified and researched for their therapeutic potential. And don’t forget to pick up a complementary health approach and herb word search for the trip home.  The mission of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) is to define, through rigorous scientific investigation, the usefulness and safety of complementary and integrative health interventions and their roles in improving health and health care.

Topics Addressed: Complementary health approaches, health and well-being


More than Meets the Eye

The NEI booth will explore how the brain and eyes work together to help us see. Visitors to the booth will learn the anatomy of the eyes using a 3D model, and can experience how people with the most common eye diseases see by using simulator cards. NEI staff will guide visitors through optical illusions, and games that trick the eyes, as a fun way of explaining how the brain processes visual information like depth, color, and motion. Another game that has been a big hit in the past involves throwing a ball into a hole while wearing goggles and shows how quickly the brain compensates for vision loss. This year, we will have a computer monitor to debut the new NEI kids website. Visitors can tour the site and institute staff will be on hand to answer questions.

Take-home message:  The human visual system is composed of many parts that work together. The eyes receive visual images and translate them into messages that are sent to the brain.  Scientists and eye health care providers are studying how vision works and trying to find treatments for eye diseases.

Topics Addressed:  Eye anatomy, visual processing, neuroscience, disorders of the visual system


Getting to Know DNA! 

Do you know what DNA looks like? We will give you an opportunity to see first hand what DNA isolated from strawberries looks like using household materials.  Volunteers will assist participants with preparing strawberries for the extraction and isolation of DNA.

Topics Addressed: Genetics


NIAAA Cool Spot Carnival

To promote youth understanding of the effects of alcohol on coordination and the dangers associated with these effects (e.g., accidents while driving under the influence, etc.) NIAAA will present its popular “Cool Spot Carnival,” which will use resources and messages from the Institute’s Cool Spot website geared toward young adolescents.

At the Cool Spot Carnival, young people will have the chance to play a ball-toss carnival game while wearing “fatal vision goggles.” These glasses distort the vision of the wearer to mimic the effects of alcohol on motor skills. This helps drive home the message that, even though adolescents may not feel alcohol’s effects as immediately as older individuals do, they ARE being affected and must be alert to the dangers of alcohol for their age group.

Topics Addressed: Neurology, peer pressure, alcohol use and abuse


The 3D Print Exchange

“3D printing . . . has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything,” said President Obama in his 2013 State of the Union address. Find out how researchers are advancing science with this new technology that transforms digital files into physical objects. Visitors will have the chance to see 3D printers at work, navigate through a brand new online library of 3D prints, and touch models made from 3D printers. With interactive activities for youth and resources for educators, this exhibit has something for everyone.

Topics Addressed: 3D printing, technology, STEM education, molecules, immunology


The NIAMS Health Zone

The NIAMS Health Zones features interactive activities designed to introduce young people to the health needs of the bones, joints, muscles, and skin.

Topics Addressed: Diseases, conditions and basic functioning of the bones, joints, muscles and skin as well as autoimmunity.


“Who Wants to be a Bioengineer?” Video Game Challenge!

Play our iPad game “Who Wants to be a Bioengineer?” and rack up points while learning about bioimaging, robotics and bioengineering!

Topics Addressed: Tissue engineering, biomedical imaging, rehabilitation engineering, electronic nerve stimulation, brain-computer interfacing


Brains Up Close

Children will have the opportunity to see, touch, and hold (we supply gloves) real human, monkey, sheep, and rat brains.  Scientists will be available to tell them what the different parts do and to answer any questions that they may have.

Topics Addressed: brain

NIDA Brain Derby

Children will find out what they know about the brain and how illicit drugs and nicotine impact the brain and body through this interactive game.  The game includes a series of fun questions on a variety of topics related to how drugs act in the brain.

Topics Addressed: brain and drug abuse


It’s a Noisy Planet. Protect Their Hearing.®

The Noisy Planet health education campaign targets tweens and their parents with a prevention message about noise-induced hearing loss, or NIHL. Using plain language and interactive activities, participants learn what NIHL is and how to protect their ears from noise damage. The activity includes hands-on demonstrations of how hair cells help us hear, a tabletop display, and a spinning wheel game to emphasizing ways to prevent noise-induced hearing loss.

Topics Addressed: Noise-induced hearing loss prevention, balance, and taste disorders


Where’s the Sugar? Be a Sugar Detective.

We’re looking for sugar detectives! Sugar is hiding in our food and drink—will you help us find it? A little sugar is found naturally in some things we eat and drink like fruits and milk. These items also have other nutrients—vitamins, minerals, and proteins (building blocks for your body)—that your body needs to grow and stay healthy. In most foods and drinks however, lots of sugar is added during processing and preparation. Too much sugar is not good for you—it can make you sick, gain extra weight, and hurt your teeth. NIH staff will help you compare foods and drinks to learn just how much sugar is in what we consume every day.

Topics Addressed:Healthy eating, nutrition


Lung Capacity Measurement (and bottle model lung)

To measure lung capacity, participants takes a deep breath, then exhale via a tube into an inverted 5 liter bottle that is filled with water. The amount of water that’s replaced is the participant’s lung capacity which will be charted based on the person’s gender and height. A soda bottle model lung will be used to demonstrate the anatomy of human lungs, mechanism of inhalation and exhalation, and adverse health effects caused by disease which constricts airway, such as asthma. 

Topics Addressed: Adverse environmental impact (i.e., ozone in the air, second-hand smoke, etc.) on the health of the human respiratory system


Networks are all around you

The NIGMS booth will focus on networks as an aspect of systems biology. Using hands-on activities and real-world scenarios, we will explain what networks are, how they function, and what relevance they have to biomedical research. We will use existing activities from a grantee institution, the Seattle-based Institute for Systems Biology.

Topics Addressed: Systems biology, networks, biomedical research


The "Phantom" in Your Limbs

Participants will be amazed at how their brain can be fooled through this two-part demonstration that explores the phenomenon of phantom limb pain. In this hands-on activity, NIH scientists will trick participants into thinking that a rubber hand is actually part of their own body while educating them on phantom limbs. The second part of this activity demonstrates how a similar brain and cognitive manipulation ("mirror therapy") can reduce phantom limb pain in amputees.

Topics Addressed:  Brain, neural connectivity

The Brain Arcade

This exhibit will feature various activities that will demonstrate the many wonders of the human brain. Participants will be challenged to "trust their brain" as they complete tasks involving memory and motor skills. They will also have the opportunity to handle colorful and life-sized brain models while researchers provide information on brain regions and function.

Topics Addressed:  Visual processing, brain function, and memory

Cognitive Bias Modification Therapy

Video games and apps are the next wave of psychotherapy. This exhibit will feature a computer game that participants can play to experience a form of therapy called cognitive-bias modification (CBM) attention bias modication therapy (ABMT).  In this form of therapy, individuals are trained to changed their way of thinking through the use of computer games. For example, when told to look at an image of people with mostly relaxed expressions, individuals with anxiety tend to fixate on hostile faces. By exposing these individuals to two faces on the computer screen (e.g., one with a neutral expression, the other a hostile one) and then asking them to perform simple tasks (i.e. passing a ball from one bar to another, like the old video game Pong), researchers have found that their anxiety levels have dramatically decreased. The game retrains the individuals' eyes to snap away quicker from the hostile faces than it used to. Researchers will demonstrate the computer game and provide information on brain regions and function.

Topics Addressed:  Cognitive-bias modification, brain function, anxiety

See YOUR BRAIN in Action!

Your brain coordinates how you think, feel, remember, behave and even move.  It does this through billions of nerve cells, called neurons that form connections or synapses.  These connections are actually chemical and electrical circuits that work together to control your emotional and physical well-being. This interactive presentation will demonstrate how the brain and spinal cord control your body’s movements and muscle contractions.  Children will get to see recordings of the electrical activity generated by muscles in their arms and fingers, and gain a deeper understanding of the extent of the human nervous system.

Topics Addressed:  Brain, neural connectivity


The NIH Brain Lobe-oratorium

The NINDS exhibit features award-winning graphics and hands-on models and activities.  At the the Brain Lobe-oratorium(TM), students can explore the brain’s many regions and how they work. The Lobe-oratorium’s interactive computer game provides a fun challenge that further reinforces students’ discoveries about the brain.  In addition, NINDS information specialists and neuroscientists will be on hand to talk about the brain and to answer questions.

Topics Addressed: brain, nervous system


A library is much more than books!

Learn about toxic substances and the environment while playing some fun games. We also plan to show you neat tricks and tips for preserving books, digital photos and other materials, using lessons from science.

Topics Addressed: Environmental and histor and preservation

OD - Office of Research Services (ORS)

Under Pressure

Many principles in physics can be applied to the proper operation of a laboratory. The objective of this activity is to explain how laboratories need to contain infectious agents with pressure. High and maximum containment laboratories use a specialized supply and exhaust system to maintain negative pressure. To explain the concept of negative and positive pressure, the visitors will compete in a contest to see who achieves the higher pressure value. The activity will also include an explanation of high and maximum containment laboratories. 

Topics Addressed:  Biosafety, biocontainment, physics, pressure, pressure differential, static pressure

This page last reviewed on December 9, 2019