Science Spark, a 501(c)3 non-profit science outreach organization based in San Diego, California, was originally founded in 2008 by serial entrepreneur Larry Bock to create the most compelling science festivals around the country. After stumbling upon the Cambridge Science Festival during a trip to England, Larry brought the idea to California. Teaming up with Ruth Kiefer, an experienced San Diego-based event planner and previous Program Manager for CONNECT, he organized the highly-successful, inaugural San Diego Science Festival, which took place in downtown San Diego’s Balboa Park in March 2009 and attracted over 75,000 science enthusiasts of all ages.
Based on the success of the first San Diego Science Festival, then Lockheed Martin CTO Ray O. Johnson, proposed a national science festival and suggested to Larry to organize the first USA Science Festival in Washington, D.C. Dr. Chuck Vest and other leading figures from the engineering community urged Larry to include “engineering” in the festival’s name, and thus the festival was renamed USA Science & Engineering Festival. The inaugural festival kicked off on 10/10/10 with a performance of science composer David Haine’s “Powers of Ten” and culminated in a 2-day Expo on the National Mall in October 2010 that featured thousands of hands-on science activities and attracted over 500,000 people, making it the largest science festival in the United States.
In 2010, Lauren Raymond joined the team as Co-Director and worked closely with Larry and Ruth to create the 2nd USA Science & Engineering Festival, which took place in April 2012 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington D.C. and was the second largest event in the Convention Center's history. The 2nd Festival also featured the first science festival Book Fair. At the same time, Science Spark recruited Nancy van Dillen to manage and further develop the festival's many school programs, including our signature Nifty Fifty program, and Carly O'Brien to manage our social media community, which has seen a tremendous growth in Facebook and Twitter reaching an audience of over 90,000 followers.
In 2012, Science Spark recruited Marc Schulman, previously with the X Prize Foundation, as new Executive Director. Working closely with Larry and the rest of the team, he lead the effort to create the 3rd USA Science & Engineering Festival which took place on April 24 -27, 2014, again at the Convention Center in Washington D.C. More than 325,000 people celebrated science over 4 days! With over 1,000 exhibiting organizations, the 3rd USA Science & Engineering Festival took over the entire Convention Center and featured many science celebrities on three stages. Planning for the 4th USA Science & Engineering Festival to be held in the spring of 2016 is currently underway.
Science Spark is grateful to Lockheed Martin for its continued support as founding and presenting host of the USA Science & Engineering Festival.
Most recently, Science Spark launched a new program for middle and high-school students called “X-STEM – Extreme STEM Symposium”. The first X-STEM Symposium took place on April 24, 2014, just preceding the 2014 Expo, and gave students the chance to explore the latest developments in science and engineering in a TED-style event. The next X-STEM Symposium is planned for 2015.
Science Spark is funded through corporate sponsorships, government grants, and private donations. ScienceSpark’s team members are located in San Diego, Chicago, New York, and Washington D.C.