Sci-fi convention coming to National Harbor in July
Museum of Science Fiction looks to boost interest in STEAM
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
“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...