NCSciFest 2021 impact report

NCSciFest is the first statewide celebration of its kind in the nation. Every April becomes a showcase for STEM— science, technology, engineering and mathematics — with community-based events hosted by museums, science centers, colleges, universities, businesses, parks, libraries, and hundreds of K-12 schools.

Founded in 2010 by Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, NCSciFest has served nearly 3 million participants of all ages since its inception.

"Thank you to everyone with the NCSF team for all your hard work to make the Festival possible. It’s such a great resource for the people of NC!"

- Jory Weintraub, Duke University Science & Socity

A year of resilience and community

Dear Friends,

What. A. Year. What a year for Science. What a year for North Carolina. What a year for all of us. After canceling every in-person event for the 2020 North Carolina Science Festival, we cautiously looked to 2021 as a way back to some semblance of normal. Like experts predicted, masks and social distancing were working. Vaccines were on the way. But were our audiences ready? Were we? We didn’t know. But we knew we couldn’t just hunker down. Science communication and public science engagement are too important.

The NCSciFest team listened to our partners, adapted, and did what we always do: found ways to celebrate the incredible homegrown talent and science energy in our amazing state.

It worked. This April, we had more science celebrations in elementary schools than ever before. Thanks to virtual programming, we had more scientists visiting middle school classrooms than ever before. Our partners hosted the most innovative and dynamic events we’ve seen in the Festival’s eleven years. A drive-thru raptor event in Durham. Robot yoga for families via Zoom. A world record attempt in Washington thanks to a fire station’s ladder truck. A stargazing session at a county airport in the mountains—all that and so much more.

The 2021 NCSciFest wasn’t the one we envisioned. It was better. This final report serves as a huge thank you to our partners and supporters. The North Carolina Science Festival is about all of us. Let’s find ways to connect in the coming months so we can thank each other in person. Let’s talk about how we can continue to build trust in Science by making it fun, inclusive, collaborative, and accessible to everyone.

We have a lot of work to do and we’re just getting started. We’ll see you—really see you—in person, soon!


Jonathan Frederick, NCSciFest Director and Todd Boyette, NCSciFest Co-Founder
NCSciFest 2021 Theme Graphic

By the Numbers

Science For All

Connecting people with meaningful opportunities to explore science


UNC Science Week

presented by Morehead Planetarium and Science Center

Participant at Jurassic Park screening at Carraway Drive-In Theater; UNC scientist Alex Hearn doing field research in Galapagos
Morehead Educator, Amy Sayle, during live UNC Virtual Science Expo; Diana Pazmiño & Gills Club outreach group in field in Galapagos.

In a typical year, the UNC Science Expo draws 10,000+ people to Chapel Hill for a STEM street festival. This year’s celebration morphed into a week of activities highlighting the amazing research that happens at UNC. These events included a screening of Jurassic Park at Drive-in at Carraway Village accompanied by an interview with paleontologist Christian Kammerer; a virtual interview with Editor-in-Chief of the Science family of journals, Holden Thorp; and a day-long virtual expo for K-12 students featuring UNC researchers logging in from around the world! Check out recordings of virtual events from the UNC Virtual Science Expo on our YouTube.

"I cannot thank you and my scientist enough for providing such an engaging presentation."

- Indira Bhandari, Reedy Creek Middle School

NCSciFest Minigrant Awards

Every year the NCSciFest’s Event Sponsorship Program kick-starts innovative events—many of which end up growing beyond our wildest dreams. This year, 13,588 people participated in an event that received mini-grant funding.

Rocket Week with Cabarrus County Schools

Cabarrus County Schools launched an ambitious plan to celebrate rocket science at five STEM schools. Over the course of a week, 3,000 K-5 students built and launched their own rocket designs, plus heard from a real rocket scientist as part of a virtual field trip.

"Thanks so much for your support of our STEM schools in Cabarrus County!"

- Lara Cabannis, STEM Coach in Cabarrus County Schools

UNC Wilmington creates STEM kits for students with disabilities

Faculty and students at UNCW's Watson College of Education created STEM activity kits specifically designed for students with disabilities. They secured additional funding to expand the project, distributing 2,215 kits to students across southeastern North Carolina!

Increasing access by distributing STEM kits

Partners across the state approached the unique challenge of hosting an NCSciFest event during the pandemic by developing STEM kits for their communities. Over the course of April, over 45,000 kits were distributed to participants.

Commitment to STEM in NC

Generous sponsors help make NCSciFest possible each year. In 2021, our sponsors hosted and supported innovative events that demonstrate our business partners' commitment to STEM in North Carolina.

SciMatch sponsored by Biogen Foundation

Thanks to additional support from our presenting sponsor, Biogen Foundation, our SciMatch program was able to go virtual this year. 90 scientists virtually visited 254 middle school classrooms, sharing their passion for science with over 7,000 students!

Trivia with SAS

Our friends at SAS developed a new online trivia platform to engage audiences, and when the pandemic hit, we partnered to launch a statewide trivia series. Each week in April, online events featured questions and prizes from partner organizations including the NC School of Science and Mathematics, the NC Zoo, NC Aquariums, and Morehead Planetarium and Science Center.

Dr. Tyler Allen

Dr. Tyler Allen, a cancer researcher at Duke University who was recently named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, shared the secrets of cell biology with over 500 4th-7th graders. This signature event was made possible thanks to support from Honeywell.

Duke Energy Science Nights

The NCSciFest team designed and shipped 193 activity kits to elementary schools across 74 counties. These kits included the materials needed for 200 students and their families to do hands-on STEM activities. Thanks to support from the Duke Energy Foundation, 150 of these kits were provided at no cost.

"Despite the Covid-19 mandates, your program allowed our students to participate in a STEM program at home. It was the highlight of the school year."

Scurlock Elementary School, Hoke County

Statewide Star Party

Communities across our state participated in the Universe's largest star party in celebration of two of the most prominent objects in the mid-April 2021 evening sky: the Moon and Mars. Virtual and in-person events were hosted by 35 different partners. This program is made possible with the support of NC Space Grant.

Thanks so much for your work to put this together. We had a really nice time; it felt great to be out and about, safely downtown again!

- Winston Salem Science Bridge Participant

Homegrown Science Heroes

NCSciFest celebrated some of the amazing people working in science across the state! From March through the end of April, we highlighted our very own Homegrown Science Heroes who work directly to support science and science education.

Dr. Stephani Page; Darrell Stover; Dr. Enrique Gomez
Dr. Marcia Williams; Dr. Holden Thorp; Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett
Dr. Sue Kezios; Michael Regan

2021 Partners

As a native Wilsonian, it was so nice to see science still alive and well in our eastern NC community!

- J. Cook, Imagination Station Event Participant