NIH at the USA SciFest

NIH Activities at the NIH Pavilion, 2016 USA Science and Engineering Festival

(listed by Institute, Center & Office)


NIH Scientist Launch Game

Check out the new game app designed to launch tomorrow's scientists into the awesome world of health research. The game lets you experience the challenges and excitement of becoming a scientist, getting a research grant and having a blast advancing science and health.  This game is being developed by the NIH Center for Scientific Review, which receives all NIH grant applications and reviews the majority of them so NIH can fund the best research.    

Topics Addressed:  Cancer, the common cold, and heart disease


Treating Cancer with Light Therapy

Is it possible to treat cancer with light therapy instead of chemotherapy and radiation?  Researchers have designed a light-based therapy that allows the selective destruction of tumor cells in mice without harming surrounding normal tissues.  This method of cancer therapy could theoretically work against tumors in humans, such as those of the breast, lung, prostate, as well as cancer cells in the blood such as leukemia.

Topics Addressed:  Photoimmunotherapy (PIT)


Meet the Tai Chi Teacher (Match the Pose)

Complementary Health Approach Word Search

Natural Product Discovery Activity

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


Nutrition and Heart Health

Interactive activities to educate visitors on how proper nutrition can impact heart health as well as overall health.

Topics Addressed: Overall nutrition, salt intake, heart health


Getting to Know DNA! (Friday)

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.

Genetic Trait Tree (Friday/Saturday)

Can you roll your tongue?  Or do you have dimples?   Have you ever wondered why? Come explore the wonder of DNA with NHGRI.  Volunteers will guide the participants through some simple, hands-on and fun DNA-related activities designed to help us get to know our DNA. 

Topics Addressed: Genetics


Healthy Aging: You Can Make a Differance!

Visitors will take tests of grip strength, ability to detect smells, and reaction time, just like the tests being given to participants in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA).  Learn how scientists measure changes in these abilities over time and how such tests provide clues to living a long, healthy life. Scientists will share what they have learned so far.

Topics Addressed: Aging research, functional tests, longitudinal studies


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


“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

Infrared Imaging:  Seeing the Invisible

All objects, including people, emit invisible infrared (IR) light.  The warmer they are, the more IR energy they produce.  The presentation will demonstrate a special camera that detects this invisible IR energy and displays it on a computer screen.  An ice cube will be used to draw a design on volunteer’s forearm.  Even though the design will be invisible to the eye, it will be visible by IR camera.  Spectators will learn about medical applications of IR imaging, then be asked to apply what they’ve learned to interpret a mystery IR image.

Topics Addressed: Infrared imaging and its medical applications, heat, the electromagnetic spectrum


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.

Balance activity

Your sense of balance relies on a series of signals to the brain from several organs and structures in the body, which together are known as the vestibular system. The vestibular system within the inner ear detects the position and movement of the head to keep the body balanced at all times. The vestibular system interacts with the eyes and skeleton to maintain the body’s position. The brain receives, interprets, and processes the information from these systems to control our balance. In this activity, kids can learn about the balance system and test their balance.

Taste activity

Your ability to taste comes from tiny molecules released when you chew, drink, or digest food; these molecules stimulate special sensory cells in the mouth and throat. These taste cells, or gustatory cells, are clustered within the taste buds of the tongue and roof of the mouth, and along the lining of the throat. Many of the small bumps on the tip of your tongue contain taste buds. In this activity, kids can take part in a simple taste test to find out if they are among the 25% of people who cannot taste a class of bitter substances.

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 even 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)

Lung capacity measurement: participant 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. Bottle model lung: a soda bottle model lung will be used to demonstrate the anatomy of human lungs, mechanism of inhalation and exhalation, 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


Cell-e-bration of Science!

Come celebrate the cell, the basic unit of life. See amazing pictures of cells, take a selfie with a cell, and write your name with protein letters.

Topics Addressed: Cell biology, biochemistry, and research careers


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

NINDS will present the Brain Lobe-oratorium(TM) at the USA Science & Engineering Festival in April. The NINDS exhibit features award-winning graphics and hands-on models and activities.  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


Information Station! (Grades 6-12)

Students will have the chance to play and learn as they dive into three interactive, educational games. These free, readily accessible resources help students grasp concepts such as DNA base pairing, the Bohr model of the atom and environmental conservation. Designed in collaboration between high school educators and the SIS K-12 team, Bohr Thru and Base Chase reinforce content taught in the biology/chemistry classroom.  A third game, Run4Green, reinforces concepts like environmental conservation and introduces students to the value of “green” alternatives.

Topics Addressed: Genetics, chemistry, environmental health science

Test Your Toxins IQ

Toss it to Toxie (Grades K-5)

Loosely based on NLM’s ToxMystery online game, participants will learn about the hazardous substances found in and around your house.  This beanbag toss activity teaches kids about hazardous substances found in our homes and the potential risk to human health when not handled properly. Toxie the Cat will be on hand to receive these hazardous substances—well, in beanbag form, anyway!

Name That Toxin (Grades 6 -12)

Toxins are found in and around our community. When used properly, they provide benefit for industry and household use.  It is important to understand the benefits of these substances and the potential health risks associated with over exposure and misuse. Participants compete against each other by responding to questions about various potential hazardous substances. Questions for this game come from information found on NLM’s Tox Town and Environmental Health Student Portal Web sites.

Topics Addressed: Toxicology, environmental health, hazardous substances in the home and in other locations, such as schools, factories, and hospitals

OD - Office of Animal Care and Use (OACU) and Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW)

Animal Research Saves Lives!

Interactive activities to educate visitors on the important role that animals have played in biomedical research.

Topics Addressed:  animal models of disease, biomedical research

OD - Office of Research Services (ORS)

The Germ Stops Here

Mr. and Mrs. Germ cannot escape our mock lab designed by our engineers that demonstrates directional airflow. You are welcome to enter the lab to experience directional airflow yourself, just like how NIH researchers experience labs that research anthrax, tuberculosis and other nasty germs. Once inside the lab, you will look into a microscope and identify the germ. But before you can enter our lab, you will be required to put on the proper personal protective equipment needed so that you can be protected, just like our NIH researchers.

Topics Addressed:  negative room pressure, cross-contamination, personal protective equipment in high and maximum containment labs (BSL-3/BSL-4), and NIH work environment and safety practices

This page last reviewed on December 9, 2019