Abu Dhabi Science Festival kicks off after much anticipation

The UAE capital's biggest science extravaganza, Abu Dhabi Science Festival 2012, opens its doors to delighted youngsters.

The Abu Dhabi Science fair kicked off yesterday at both ADNEC and the Corniche.
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Barnaby Wells was overjoyed when he got to dig up some dinosaur bones at last year's inaugural science fair in Abu Dhabi.

Since then, the eight-year-old has talked about little else, according to his mother, British expatriate Natalie Wells.

And yesterday, the capital's biggest science extravaganza, Abu Dhabi Science Festival 2012, opened its doors to delighted youngsters once more.

Organisers say it is even bigger and better than last year.

Mrs Wells, who has lived in the capital for five years, agrees. She said the event, held in various parts of the emirate - including the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (Adnec) and on the Corniche until October 20 - is "the best thing that has come to the city".

"The boys have been so excited, they have been counting down the days," said Mrs Wells, who also has a five-year-old son named Herbey. "It really struck a chord with them and they've been talking about it in the car all the way here."

Mrs Wells booked Barnaby and Herbey into workshops and shows for three days.

"This event is perfect for kids, as they get to have a go at everything - touch it and feel it - and that's how they learn," she said. She added that Barnaby now wants to be a scientist when he grows up.

Inspiring youngsters is why one Emirati science communicator, Ahmed Al Amimi, 20, signed up to volunteer at the event, helping out at the eye-dissecting workshop.

"I want to share my knowledge with people. We need to spread the word about science to young people and turn them into engineers," said Mr Al Amimi, who is studying at the Petroleum Institute.

Over the past few days, 800 students from eight universities across the emirate were given a crash course on how to communicate and illustrate various scientific ideas.

The event, organised by the Abu Dhabi Technology Development Committee (TDC) and Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec), aims to spark the curiosity of Emiratis about science and technology.

TDC's director general, Ahmed Al Calily, said he was "excited and proud to see the response" from children.

"To see them enjoy science and see a spark in their eyes is a wonderful thing," he said, adding that the science communicators were "the real stars" of the event.

Children were spoilt for choice yesterday. Those who ventured to the Corniche enjoyed a lightning show conducted by Dr Megavolt, while at Adnec they witnessed robotics, explosions, renewable energy and emergency lab surgery.

At the Blood Lab they used horse blood to learn about how scabs form when they cut themselves .

One of the lab's volunteers, Mohammed Hassiba, 20, a Palestinian student at Abu Dhabi University, said he would be showing visitors how the heart worked using real sheep hearts because they were "very similar to the human heart".

At the Crime Scene Investigation workshop, science communicator Amy Joslin, 26, helps the children figure out "whodunnit" after a crime is committed in a professor's laboratory.

"They are treated like detectives and we help them use their imagination to guess how it happened," said Ms Joslin, who is part of the team at the Edinburgh International Science Festival, one of the organising partners.

The festival is expected to attract more than 100,000 visitors this year but with less chaos than last year , according to organisers.

Simon Gage, director of the Edinburgh International Science Festival, said last year's event attracted more visitors than expected, which resulted in people being refused admission because the venue exceeded its capacity.

This year, Adnec has dedicated 20 per cent more space to the exhibition, which has also been extended by two days due to popular demand.

Organisers have advised visitors to book tickets using the online system, introduced to help avoid the oversubscription experienced last year.

About 45,000 tickets were made available online at www.abudhabisciencefestival.ae. Admission costs Dh5 for adults, Dh15 for children between the ages of 5 and 15, while under-fives are free of charge.