Things will blow up and be set on fire at the Tucson Festival of Books.

And you might find some ice cream made with liquid nitrogen, said Joaquin Ruiz, dean of the University of Arizona College of Science speaking to the festival’s steering committee earlier this month.

Science City, the largest STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) event in the state, is a two-day celebration of science, technology, imagination and literacy, and is a destination within the Tucson Festival of Books, said Lisa Romero.

Romero, the senior director of communications and public affairs for the UA Bio5 Institute, chairs the Science City executive committee with Chris Impey, astronomy professor and associate dean of the College of Science.

“Science and technology drive the way we live,” Ruiz said. Science literacy must be encouraged, she said, and one of the emphases of Science City is to get kids excited about and engaged in science. It also aims to demonstrate the strength of the UA College of Science.

Science City puts science in practical perspective through play, presentations and performances.

“Science City is a must for people of all ages to discover and experience the impact of science on our daily lives and on our world,” Romero said.

The festival offers hands-on activities in six themed science and technology “neighborhoods” with more than 90 participants from campus groups, businesses and nonprofit groups, UA laboratory tours, demonstrations and performances. It is also a chance to meet science authors and researchers, Romero said.

It’s show time

Performances that bring jaw-dropping science into the everyday include:

  • Newton’s Laws of Motion are tested and demonstrated in high-speed action during a BMX show featuring former X-Games champion John Parker.
  • And fast and little things — that exist at speeds or scales that can’t be detected with the human eye — will be on the silver screen during the showing of “Mysteries of the Unseen World” at the UA Flandrau Science Center & Planetarium.

UA researchers share their work with interactive presentations on the Science Café stage, and panels of science authors talk about their books and trending science topics on the Main Stage, said Romero. Science City also has a focus on women in science this year. A few highlights include:

Nathalia Holt, who wrote “Rise of the Rocket Girls,” and Dava Sobel, who wrote “The Glass Universe” — books about women involved in astronomy and space programs and the gender-breaking roles they played — will be featured on the Science City Main Stage and in the Gallagher Theater.

Above the Glass Ceiling: Science operations engineer Kristin Block and authors Julian Guthrie, Holt and Nancy Atkinson share their experiences as women writing about other women in the sciences and their influences and challenges.

Zika: The Emerging Epidemic: Author Donald G. McNiel Jr., and UA researcher Kathleen Walker, discuss his exploration into the origins of Zika, current research on a cure, and what he learned about protecting oneself from the virus.

Incredible Stories from Space: Atkinson and Block share their personal insights from NASA space missions, going behind the scenes of the unmanned missions that are transforming our understanding of the solar system and beyond.

The play’s the thing

Put science in your — and your kids’ — hands in the activities of the Science City neighborhoods. Some of them include:

  • Play with virtual reality, 3-D models, and e-textiles at the UA Library.
  • Make a lung and conduct your own experiments with the UA Biochemistry Club.
  • Learn about proteins and extract your own DNA with the Ironwood Ridge High School SMART Team.
  • Create a scale model of the solar system and compare other star systems with the Vatican Observatory.
  • Cuddle cockroaches and dig for decomposers with UA Insect Discovery.
  • Learn how sharks, fish and other creatures play an important role in our oceans with the Marine Awareness and Conservation Society.
  • Watch photography develop courtesy of the Center for Creative Photography.
  • Learn how math is experienced in the real world by exploring harmonographs, paper folding and random patterns as demonstrated by the UA Mathematics Roadshow.
  • Volcano eruption — do you need to read any more? The spitting and spewing is provided by the UA Department of Geosciences.
  • Learn about Tucson’s venomous creatures, and get a (temporary) scorpion tattoo at the UA VIPER Institute Booth.
  • Explore NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid-sample-return mission heading for Bennu.
  • Build a paper rocket and launch it with members of UA 4-H and Raytheon.
  • See desert creatures at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Live Animal Show.

UA’s Bio5 Institute and College of Science co-host and co-organize Science City.

Up-to-date information on all tours, talks and activities is available at Science City online at and on Twitter and Facebook @TFOBScienceCity.

Contact Ann Brown at

or 573-4226. On Twitter: