Outreach Opportunities for Early Career Scientists at the Phoenix ComiCon

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 9:00 AM
Lev Horodyskyj1, Sara I Walker1,2 and Jennifer H Forrester3, (1)Arizona State University, School of Earth and Space Exploration, Tempe, AZ, United States, (2)Arizona State University, Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, Tempe, AZ, United States, (3)University of Wyoming, Elementary and Early Childhood Education, Laramie, WY, United States
The Phoenix ComiCon (PCC) is a rapidly growing annual four-day pop culture event, featuring guests, costuming, exhibits, and discussion panels for popular sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and anime franchises. In 2013, PCC began experimenting with science discussion panels. The popularity of the science programming resulted in an expansion of the track for 2014, which Horodyskyj was responsible for coordinating. Thirty hours of programming were scheduled, including 25 discussion panels, NASA's FameLab, and a Mars room. Panelists included industry specialists, established scientists, STEM outreach enthusiasts, and early career scientists. The majority of the panelists were early career scientists recruited from planetary sciences and biology departments at ASU and UA. Panel topics included cosmology, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, space exploration, astrobiology, and the cross-linkages of each with pop culture. Formats consisted of Q&A, presentations, and interactive game shows. Although most panels were aimed at the general audience, some panels were more specialized.

PCC 2014 attracted 77,818 attendees. The science programming received rave reviews from the audience, the PCC management, and the panelists themselves. Many panel rooms were filled to capacity and required crowd control to limit attendance. We observed the formation of science "groupies" who sought out the science panels exclusively and requested more information on other science public events in the Phoenix area. We distributed surveys to several select sessions to evaluate audience reasons for attending the science panels and their opinion of the scientists they observed. We will present the results of these surveys.

As the PCC continues to grow at an exponential rate, the science programming will continue to expand. We will discuss ideas for continued expansion of the PCC science programming both to serve the public and as a unique public outreach opportunity for early career scientists.