The World Comes to Brooklyn

On June 1, the World Science Festival (WSF) came to MetroTech Center, transformed for the day into Innovation Square. Thousands of people strolled the plaza to interact with robots, play the latest video games, hear inventive and unusual instruments, and more.

The Festival drew exhibitors from private industry and numerous schools across the country, but the biggest crowd-pleasers just might have been the booths set up by the professors and students of the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly), whose campus is based right at MetroTech.

More than 50 NYU-Poly faculty members and students were on hand to inspire and amaze the crowd, which included 13-year-old Isaac Solomon, an enthusiastic budding scientist who was able to take an attempt at creating an augmented-reality Death Star and controlling a flying drone, among other exciting activities. “It’s awesome what you can do just by pushing a button,” he said. “I might have to consider becoming an engineer, because it seems like they get to work on really cool things all day.”

Everyone at NYU-Poly would agree with that assertion; in fact, Professor Katherine Isbister, who holds a joint appointment in the Computer Science Department at NYU-Poly and the NYU Game Center, was one of the featured speakers at the WSF’s aptly named panel “Cool Jobs.”
Besides Isbister, other NYU-Poly departments and programs took center stage, including Mark Skwarek, the creator of the app that allowed for the creation of that Death Star; Maurizio Porfiri, whose robotic fish attracted virtually every pint-sized visitor to Innovation Square; and Jin Montclare, whose Lewis Dots app makes learning chemistry fun.

Festival-goers also enjoyed a rare opportunity to visit NYU-Poly’s Game Innovation Lab to check out games that have not even hit the market yet. And if that wasn’t enough gaming, the Square was also the site of a massive contest featuring YaMove!, a  dance-battle game that uses technology to augment face-to-face dancing.

Considering the games, the robots, the music (produced in part by an Earth Harp, the world’s largest string instrument!), and the all-around good time had by everyone, NYU-Poly undeniably helped put the “festive” in the World Science Festival and got the message out that innovative science is cool, fun, and changing the world for better.