This is the second time InfoComm has served as a sponsor and exhibitor for the festival, which is held every two years. This time around, InfoComm plans to offer more hands-on experiences in its booth (937), helping those who visit understand the good-better-best continuum.
The USA Science & Engineering Festival touts itself as “the largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in the country.” This year’s festival is expected to attract more than 350,000 people who will participate in more than 3,000 hands-on exhibits, experiments and live performances by science celebrities, explorers, astronauts, athletes, physicists, musicians, authors and inventors. The festival is free and open to the public, with events and activities aimed at elementary, middle and high school students.
“In our first experience, we got to touch 500,000 people, from students to career counselors,” says Betsy Jaffe, InfoComm’s senior VP of member services. Students will immerse themselves in the science of audio and video technology and explore career possibilities.
That includes activities such as Guess the Sound, which uses sound waves to test attendees’ ears and comparisons of consumer and commercial grade headphones, along with videos of drones, says Jaffe.
Students visiting InfoComm’s booth “will experience audio and video technology through interactive activities that stimulate their eyes, ears and minds,” according to InfoComm’s announcement. The booth will feature audio discovery stations where students will be able to experience different audio samples to learn about sound principles, such as dynamic range, pitch and volume while watching a visual representation of the audio. Video displays throughout the InfoComm booth will showcase various advanced applications of audio and video technology, such as projector mapping, 3D modeling, drones and virtual reality.
“We’re hoping that will bear fruit in the long term,” says Jaffe. “If we can capture the imagination of these kids early on, that definitely helps to get them interested in and aware of this industry. We want to show students that the audiovisual industry offers exciting careers, whether it’s the staging of a major concert or being the technical expert behind a high-powered conference room.”
The number one obstacle for growth at integration firms is a lack of qualified personnel, says Jaffe. That’s because young people often don’t see a clear path to a career in the integration world, she says. AV provides opportunities for those with technical skills, creative skills, engineering skills and stagecraft.
“You don’t necessarily need a college degree to be successful in the AV industry,” says Jaffe.
InfoComm is looking to expand its degree and non-degree programs at colleges and universities, says Jaffe. By far, the most successful program is the one overseen by Zdi’s Jeremy Caldera at Columbia College Chicago. Zdi hires the top three people in Caldera’s program every year.
As part of its participation in the festival, InfoComm will provide high school teachers access to its classroom notes on classes focused on the basics of AV, says Jaffe, to help them expose students to the industry and whet the young people’s appetites for a future in the business.
Festival organizers enjoyed having InfoComm at the 2014 event so much, they sent representatives to InfoComm 2014, says Jaffe. That visit made festival organizers aware of the Women of InfoComm Network. This year, the group will be part of the festival’s Career Pavilion (booth C56) to discuss career opportunities.
In addition to the two-day event, InfoComm sponsors the festival’s Nifty Fifty program, a group of 200 science and engineering professionals who travel throughout Washington, D.C. and northern California to speak to middle and high school students about their work and careers. The program presents students with the latest in green technology, engineering, human health and medicine, astronomy and space exploration, nanotechnology, computer science and more.