Comic-Con and the Zooniverse

Guest post from Zooniverse participant Gracie Ermi:

San Diego Comic-Con brings together some of the biggest fans of the most popular shows, games, comics, and films. Science is a huge source of inspiration for a lot of pop culture, so myself and 14 other scientists from around the country decided that Comic-Con would be a great venue to showcase ways that science is making a difference in the world and how it relates to our favorite media. All 15 of us are national STEM ambassadors for the IF/THEN Initiative – a program focused on increasing access to diverse STEM professionals for students, especially young girls. In addition to putting on panels about the intersection of science and pop culture, we hosted a STEAM Fair (STEAM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) that families in the area could attend even if they didn’t have Comic-Con tickets. At the STEAM Fair, each scientist demonstrated something from their specific field with a fun activity.

As a computer scientist who has worked on many wildlife conservation technology projects where data collection and annotation can be a big challenge, I am a huge fan of Zooniverse and the incredible generosity and human-power of this community. I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if kids who came through the STEAM fair could contribute to a real, active science project? Zooniverse was the perfect tool to use to demonstrate the types of projects I work on and to show kids that they can make a difference right now in wildlife research. I had kids identify animal species in images from the Snapshot APNR project – they loved it! Families were super excited to learn about Zooniverse (I handed out stickers so that they could remember the website if they wanted to keep exploring it at home), and some kids spent quite a while at my table, meticulously narrowing in on the species they were identifying. Everyone seemed to really enjoy getting to help out the Snapshot APNR project, and in the end around 2000 people came through the STEAM Fair over the course of 4 days. It was a huge success!

IF/THEN Ambassadors at the Comic-Con STEAM Fair. Learn more about the team at ifthensteamsquad.org!

Gracie Ermi facilitating a Zooniverse data labeling activity at the IF/THEN Comic-Con STEAM Fair

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