The search begins

Young scientists compete to see who can tell the best science tale

— A large stage, four curious judges and 10 contestants with only three minutes to perform.

It may sound like “American Idol,” but this contest is for young scientists, and it’s right here at RPI’s EMPAC Theater.


• What: ‘FameLab: Exploring Earth and Beyond’

• When: Tuesday, July 29, 7 p.m.

• Where: RPI’s EMPAC Theater, 110 8th St., Troy

• How much: Free

• Info: empac.rpi.edu

It’s called FameLab, and it’s a competition where scientists must communicate intricate topics in layman’s terms in three minutes’ time in front of a panel of judges. No slides or charts are allowed, and the stories must be interesting and hold the attention of everyday folk.

“The challenge to the FameLabbers is to communicate to a lay audience and craft an interpretation for what they do,” said Daniella Scalice, Education and Public Outreach Lead for the NASA astrobiology program. “We have three primary judging criteria — content, clarity and charisma. Obviously, science needs to be accurate, and ability to weave a story and message and convey the passion.”

Contestants may tell stories about why there are no aliens on Earth, how fish can help humans hear, the possibility of life on moons or the crusty white stuff often found on a showerhead. A panel of experts in science and science communication will do the judging. The stories cannot be dull or boring to a non-science audience, but must be entertaining — jokes are allowed. The topic of this year’s contest is “Exploring Earth and Beyond.”

The purpose behind the competition isn’t to find the best scientist, but to find new voices for science across the world. However, Scalice stresses it’s not their intention to take scientists away from doing science.

“Our intention is to provide an opportunity to enrich their communication skills and become better at explaining what they do to a variety of audiences,” she said.

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