Science gathers STEAM with family outreach

Courtesy photo EXPO Day organizers say the day long event will have activities and booths that are appealing to students of all ages as well as other people interested in the sciences.

After a two-year hiatus from the pandemic, the San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering’s EXPO Day is back in full swing at PETCO Park on March 4 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Presented by the Illumina Corporate Foundation, EXPO Day is a full day of STEAM—science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics—activities provided by hundreds of San Diego County businesses, schools, libraries, and museums open to the public for free featuring hands-on learning, interactive experiences to inspire children to engage in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. More than 20,000 people are expected to attend the event.

Generation Steam is the 501 C (2) nonprofit that runs the SDFSE EXPO Day. Managing Director Sara Pagano said Generation Steam advocates for STEAM education being one of the most effective ways to build a secure socio-economic environment regardless of race, gender, and creed.

“Right now, occupations and jobs in the STEAM industries are continuing to grow,” she said. “It is a plethora of opportunity that will continue over the next few years and then some. We want to make sure that we expose students to these potential career options. It is extremely important that they see them, and see them as something they can achieve and accomplish.”

Pagano said much of this happens through exploratory events like EXPO day because students are able to talk to professionals who may look like them, have similar backgrounds, may be from a similar neighborhood, and who show them that this is a potential path for them.

“Something else that is extremely important that we do through this event is ensuring students see that they love science, but they might not be great at science academically,” she said. “But there are so many other jobs in the sphere of science that they could be. They could be a technical writer. They could be in marketing. All these companies are not only showcasing what they do, but the types of jobs that they have and teaching kids that they can take an academic skill they are good at, something that they love to do, and put it together and still find a career path in one of these industries.

Not only in the industry, but here in San Diego.”

Pagano said a big part of its mission is exposure to the universities, organizations, and companies in San Diego.

“While their work here is local, their impact for many of them is global,” she said. “Families that come to the expo, the companies and organizations that they engage with, it might be the first time they have ever heard of them. We have not had an expo for the past couple of years due to COVID. We are really excited to be back at PETCO Park for this event.”

There are many recognizable participants in the expo with Scripps Research, UC San Diego, Birch Aquarium, County of San Diego Parks and Recreation, the Fleet Science Center, and many more.

Two main stages will offer a variety of performances. From math raps sung by The Music Notes, to a Rainforest Rescue from the Zovargo Animal Show, there is STEAM fun for everyone.

Other notable events include a High-Temperature Fusion show from General Atomics, The Water Conservation Garden’s Ms. Smarty-Plants cooling the climate, an SD Mad Science-Fire & Ice performance, Fleet Science Center’s spectacle: Don’t Try This at Home, songs from the Discovery Elementary Choir, and a TEDxkids@ElCajon presentation.

“We have been working with TEDxkids from Cajon Valley School District for a while now,” she said. “They take over the dugout stage on top of the dugout inside the park where people can go down and watch them. They do this speaking series which is teaching them how to do public speaking leadership through the TEDx speaking projects. This is the TEDx kids’ version. The kids do talk events throughout the day. They are pretty amazing to watch and listen to.”

Pagano said for attendees they use the term “pre-k to grey” in that there is something there for everyone.

“It is a wonderful day for families to engage together,” she said. “We have such a selection of activities. From a booth perspective we have 100 different booths ranging in different levels. Many booths will have multiple activities so if you are coming to a booth with a toddler and a middle schooler, and high schooler, there will be something for all of them to do.”

Pagano said in addition to the booths, for the “little learners” it has a pre-k zone with the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum, the neighborhood association, and high school groups who volunteer to run activities in that space, along with face painters drawing scientific looking drawings.

“There is everything. The booths really range in diversity in terms of education levels,” she said. “It is great for families to engage together.”

For more information and an all EXPO Day “Know Before You Go” tips and updates are listed at