Sci-fi con­ven­tion com­ing to Na­tional Har­bor in July

Mu­seum of Sci­ence Fic­tion looks to boost in­ter­est in STEAM

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES [email protected]­

Sci­ence fic­tion film fes­ti­val, doc­u­men­tary film screen­ing, gala din­ner, silent auc­tion, spa­tial aug­mented re­al­ity, in­door drone rac­ing, work­shops, hands-on chil­dren’s ac­tiv­i­ties, sci-fi bur­lesque show, book and au­to­graph sign­ings, vir­tual re­al­ity demon­stra­tions by NASA, an­i­ma­tron­ics and ro­bot­ics demon­stra­tions, mu­seum gallery ex­hi­bi­tion — the list goes on and on.

Those are just some of the fun events that will take place next month, from July 1 to July 3, at the in­au­gu­ral Escape Ve­loc­ity 2016 world con­ven­tion, hosted by the Mu­seum of Sci­ence Fic­tion. The con­ven­tion is ex­pected to draw in thou­sands of vis­i­tors at one of Prince Ge­orge’s County’s most popular at­trac­tions, the Gay­lord Na­tional Re­sort and Con­ven­tion Cen­ter in Oxon Hill.

The first of its kind, Escape Ve­loc­ity is a mi­cro-fu­tur­is­tic world fair that aims to pro­mote sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, engi­neer­ing, arts and math­e­mat­ics (STEAM) ed­u­ca­tion within the con­text of sci­ence fic­tion us­ing the fun of comic con­ven­tions and fas­ci­na­tion of sci­ence and engi­neer­ing fes­ti­vals, ac­cord­ing to the Mu­seum of Sci­ence

Fic­tion’s web­site.

“The mu­seum doesn’t ex­ist yet,” said Nico Pandi, di­rec­tor of ex­ter­nal re­la­tions for the all-vol­un­teer, non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion which was started in 2013. “The goal is to cre­ate and con­struct an ac­tual, real mu­seum of sci­ence fic­tion some­where in the greater DMV [Dis­trict of Columbia, Mary­land and Vir­ginia] or Wash­ing­ton, D.C., area. As we’re go­ing through cam­paigns, fundrais­ing and build­ing aware­ness, one of the ideas we had is to have our own con­ven­tion. So this is one of the steps on the way to get­ting the full mu­seum built.”

The Mu­seum of Sci­ence Fic­tion will be the world’s first com­pre­hen­sive sci­ence fic­tion mu­seum, cov­er­ing the his­tory of the genre across the arts and pro­vid­ing a nar­ra­tive on its re­la­tion­ship to the real world. Its mis­sion is to cre­ate a cen­ter of grav­ity where art and sci­ence are pow­ered by imag­i­na­tion; hence, the idea be­hind Escape Ve­loc­ity, ac­cord­ing to the mu­seum’s web­site.

“When you reach escape ve­loc­ity, that’s when you’re go­ing off into space and go­ing to be able to reach or­bit be­cause our speed is ex­ceed­ing the pull of grav­ity,” Pandi said. “This is our way of launch­ing the mu­seum, so to speak. That’s the idea be­hind it. … We didn’t price it in a way so that we’re try­ing to make money. It’s kind of like a proof of con­cept, show­ing peo­ple, ‘Yeah, this is what the real mu­seum would be like. Would you like to in­vest?’ So it’s that kind of thing.”

Pandi, a jour­nal­ist for a Japanese news agency in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., said Escape Ve­loc­ity seeks to make a mea­sur­able pos­i­tive im­pact by boost­ing STEAM ed­u­ca­tion while pro­mot­ing aware­ness about con­ven­tional think­ing.

“That’s the fun­da­men­tal mis­sion of the Mu­seum of Sci­ence Fic­tion,” he said. “What we’re re­ally try­ing to do with both Escape Ve­loc­ity and the mu­seum is to find a sweet spot in the mid­dle of real, hard­core sci­ence fic­tion fans and peo­ple who have a pass­ing in­ter­est and don’t re­ally know that much about it, as well as maybe peo­ple who are more into the sci­ence side of it, not the fic­tion but the facts. … Our de­mo­graphic is ev­ery­one and anyone who has any kind of in­ter­est in sci­ence or sci­ence fic­tion.”

Gigi “Pip” Ed­g­ley knows a thing or two about sci­ence fic­tion. An Aus­tralia na­tive who cur­rently re­sides in Los Angeles, Ed­g­ley is an in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned ac­tress best known for her role as Chi­ana on the sci-fi cult tele­vi­sion se­ries “Farscape” from 1999 to 2003.

Ed­g­ley is among one of over 20 in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als sched­uled to ap­pear and speak at Escape Ve­loc­ity’s three-day event.

“I’ve al­ways loved telling sto­ries that chal­lenged peo­ple, are com­plex and show us some­thing that we’ve never seen be­fore — some­thing that we can learn from, some­thing that ex­cites us and some­thing that teaches us about our­selves or the world that we live in,” Ed­g­ley said in a phone in- ter­view. “I love do­ing these con­ven­tions and I love get­ting out there and telling peo­ple, ‘look, if I can make it this far, anyone can.’ It’s all about believing in your­self and work­ing tire­lessly to achieve your dreams.”

Dur­ing her ap­pear­ance at the con­ven­tion, Ed­g­ley said she plans on in­ter­act­ing with fans, an­swer­ing their ques­tions and shar­ing some words of en­cour­age­ment to help them along their own jour­neys.

“I’m very blessed to be in this sit­u­a­tion. I want to be there and help them,” she said. “I think back to when I was get­ting started and the peo­ple who have in­spired me and stuck be­side me and said, ‘Yeah, you can do it.’ There’s go­ing to be chal­lenges and there’s go­ing to be sit­u­a­tions along the way where you feel con­fronted. But that’s what makes it ex­cit­ing and all of those happy ac­ci­dents that have put us in the place where we are right now. So in­stead of us­ing those con­stant chal­lenges to hold us back, you need to learn from them and grow stronger from them. I’m here for [the fans]. They can ask me any­thing they want and I’ll be there to lis­ten and in­spire them as best as I can.”

For Ed­g­ley, her life motto is “dream the life, live the dream.” She wants to en­cour­age oth­ers to do things that add value to their craft not only pro­fes­sion­ally, but per­son­ally as well.

“Ev­ery au­di­tion that I go for, I pre­pare so and I re­ally put ev­ery lit­tle part of my heart and soul into that mo­ment,” said Ed­g­ley, who be­gan act­ing steadily in 1999 af­ter she ob­tained her bach­e­lor’s from the Queens­land Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy in Aus­tralia. “It’s very re­ward­ing and spe­cial to make pro­duc­tions that’s from your heart and soul, and that you don’t lose your artis­tic in­tegrity be­cause there are other big pro­duc­ers in­volved and there are other big com­pa­nies. You can stay true to [who you are] in your heart and you can work with fans to achieve that. … It’s been a very blessed run for me.”

For other in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als like NASA God­dard Space Flight Cen­ter He­lio­physics Sci­ence Di­vi­sion As­so­ciate Di­rec­tor C. Alex Young, he plans to dis­cuss the re­ward­ing side of sci­ence and its re­la­tion­ship to the real world.

Young said he will give pre­sen­ta­tions about space travel and the con­text of he­lio­physics, which in­cludes the harsh en­vi­ron­ment in space, haz­ards, chal­lenges posed by sci­ence and the re­la­tion­ship be­tween sci­ence fic­tion and space travel.

“I’ll be speak­ing on a panel about ‘Star Trek’ and its in­flu­ence in my ca­reer as well as in sci­ence and sci­ence fic­tion in gen­eral,” said Young, a for­mer sup­port sci­en­tist at NASA for al­most 12 years. “STEAM ed­u­ca­tion is ex­tremely im­por­tant. I’ve al­ways had a love for ed­u­cat­ing the pub­lic and speak­ing to kids to try to con­vey the ex­cite­ment of what I do, as well as con­vey the pos­si­bil­i­ties and how ac­ces­si­ble it is to all kinds of kids.”

One of the things Young is pas­sion­ate about is com­mu­ni­cat­ing sci­ence not just to school kids our un­der­grad­u­ate and grad­u­ate stu­dents, but also the pub­lic at-large so it can be un­der­stood and in­ter­preted, he said.

“One of the over­all jobs of a sci­en­tist is be­ing a trans­la­tor,” Young said. “They take all the sci­ence and all of the jar­gon, digest that and then put that into a form of a mes­sage that makes sense and is some­thing peo­ple can re- late to and un­der­stand, es­pe­cially in their day-to-day life. … Part of the ex­cite­ment is meet­ing that chal­lenge and learn­ing how to con­tin­u­ally be a bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tor and I think, ar­guably, a bet­ter sci­en­tist.”

Escape Ve­loc­ity’s mis­sion is to re-in­vig­o­rate the in­ter­est of young peo­ple in STEAM by pro­duc­ing and pre­sent­ing the most com­pelling, ex­cit­ing, ed­u­ca­tional and en­ter­tain­ing sci­ence fes­ti­val in the U.S. us­ing sci­ence fic­tion as the pri­mary en­gine, ac­cord­ing to its web­site.

“This is go­ing to be our launch pad for get­ting more at­ten­tion onto the mu­seum and hope­fully mak­ing it a re­al­ity,” Pandi said. “We thought Fourth of July weekend is go­ing to be per­fect be­cause there’s go­ing to be so many peo­ple com­ing in from out of town. … The fa­cil­i­ties at Na­tional Har­bor are beau­ti­ful. ... We’re re­ally ex­cited to be there.”


In­ter­na­tion­ally renowned ac­tress Gigi Ed­g­ley is one of the guest pre­sen­ters sched­uled to ap­pear at the Escape Ve­loc­ity 2016 con­ven­tion, hosted by the Mu­seum of Sci­ence Fic­tion from July 1-3 at the Gay­lord Na­tional Re­sort and Con­ven­tion Cen­ter in Oxon...

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