First Sequim Science Cafe set for Jan. 8

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Sequim Gazette

As part of its ongoing efforts to educate the community on science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects, the Sequim Education Foundation will kick off its first Science Café from 6:30-8 p.m. on Jan. 8.


Want to learn from a medical doctor firsthand? Or how about getting into computer game design and modeling? The SEF is working to bring these scientific experts closer to the public through the Sequim Science Café.


Unlike many of the foundation’s programs which are designed toward K-12 students, the Science Café will be geared toward Sequim’s adult residents to raise awareness of the SEF and its goals.


“Our goal is to raise money, we’re always trying to raise money, and we’re trying to raise awareness for the education foundation,” said Dick Hughes, SEF president.


Hughes says that the cafés are designed to provide the public with subject matter experts in science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects. Each month a speaker will present a 20-minute presentation on a topic and then spend roughly an hour discussing it with visitors.


“It’s not a lecture at all; it’ll be not geared toward scientists but toward people,” said Hughes, “so it’s a place where you can come learn about science and technology and you don’t have to be a scientist or an engineer.”


The topics, SEF Enrichment Director Jodi Olson said, range from anything from computers and technology to the role of music in people’s lives. Olson proposed the idea to the foundation’s directors after she visited the Open Mic Science events at Bainbridge Island’s Treehouse Café.


“I’ve been getting e-mails about that for a while now and been going down to see those,” she said, “and decided there’s no reason why we couldn’t put something like that together up here.”


After approving the idea, the SEF board assembled a committee of local scientists and academics, such as Kip Tulin and Bryce Fish, to find potential topics. After putting together a 24-item list, Hughes says they narrowed the list to three ideas for the first season of talks and started contacting speakers.


Conventionally it would be hard to find an expert to come to Sequim and speak, but thanks to the connections of the committee, it was relatively easy to secure speakers for the first three months.

Science Cafe lineup

The inaugural program will feature Ken Austin, the regional engineer for the University NAVSTAR Consortium, who will discuss the Consortium’s Plate Boundary Observatory on the Olympic Peninsula.


The PBO is a cooperative effort to track the motion and workings of the North American tectonic plate. Part of the measuring includes the use of more than 1,000 GPS sensors along the western side of the continent and Austin works for UNAVCO maintaining these sensors.


“There has been some stuff about the earthquakes in the news,” said the CWU graduate student. “I’m going to talk about how we’re involved in monitoring that with the observatory.”


While Austin lectured before at the University of Southern California and Central Washington University, it’ll be his first time at a Science Café.


“I prefer more of an informal, relaxed setting, rather than showing up to give up an hourlong presentation to a group of people,” Austin said. “It’s a whole different setting so I’m actually kind of  excited.”


Following Austin, the February Café will feature Darrell Plank and Nate Fox, both video game designers, to discuss computer gaming and modeling. In March, physical scientist Bill Baccus will speak about the Olympic glaciers in relation to climate change.


Hughes said that they work on the speakers one quarter at a time, but finding people isn’t tough.


“There are people here that are real movers and shakers in the world,” he said, “and they’ve just come here to retire, but they know people.”


The Science Café will meet on the second Tuesday of each month at Lippert’s Restaurant. Olson says the choice was natural considering the nature of the event.


“Lippert’s is a great community spot; everyone knows it,” she said. “Mike Lippert is an educator in the school district, so it’s just a good, natural fit.”


Barbara Lippert, for her part, is looking forward to the business that the Science Café will generate. She says she’ll be sure to offer a selection of desserts and refreshments but she’s also happy to see another community event in town.


While the first sets of discussions are planned out, Hughes says that residents should come and offer ideas for future topics. “After all, it’s for the community.”



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