National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., site of the first ACCelerate Festival
National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., site of the first ACCelerate Festival

If you were to visit the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History midmonth, you might be proud to encounter the expertise of UofL students and professors on free, public display.

From the ecology of the rainforest canopy to the promise of astrosurgery to an arts-based approach to improving community health, UofL projects are among the highlights of the first ACCelerate: ACC Smithsonian Creativity and Innovation Festival in the Washington, D.C. museum’s west wing Oct. 13-15. Virginia Tech is presenting the festival with the Smithsonian.            

The festival showcases “creative exploration and research at the nexus of science, engineering, arts and design” among the 15 participating ACC schools, according to the festival website. Organizers project as many as 30,000 visitors could attend during the weekend.

“I think it certainly shows that we have work going on here that has huge public impact,” said Paul DeMarco, associate dean of UofL’s School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies and a professor of psychological and brain sciences. DeMarco, who plans to attend, organized UofL’s involvement and oversaw the proposal process for the student-faculty teams involved.

Although the ACC is known widely for athletic achievements, “the intent here is to show these schools have research and work that’s being done by faculty, staff and students,” DeMarco said. “It was important for us to get the students involved.”

The festival will offer 15 dramatic and musical performances, including the 4 p.m. Oct. 14 performance about the intersection of art and public health by Project HEAL. The project leader is graduate student Tasha Golden, a former touring songwriter who directs the Center for Art + Health Innovation within the Commonwealth Institute of Kentucky, an entity of UofL’s School of Public Health and Information Sciences. The multidisciplinary presentation of works that reveal how arts address environmental and social toxins will include Smoketown poet Hannah Drake and Justin Golden.

Biologist Steve Yanoviak from the College of Arts and Sciences and George Pantalos, bioengineering and surgery professor with UofL’s Cardiovascular Innovation Institute, will be featured with their students in interactive exhibits and also as Oct. 14 panelists on the general theme of “Interdisciplinary Thinking and Collaboration.” There are 48 total exhibits.

Pantalos and students Audrey Riggs and Justin Heidel will exhibit two projects: the KardioKid pediatric cardiovascular simulator designed to train critical care pediatric hospital staff and a joint UofL and Carnegie Mellon astrosurgery project intended to help treat trauma and other disorders surgically in reduced gravity during space missions. Pantalos’ Oct. 14 talk (12:30 p.m. panel on health and body) will focus on the KardioKid.

Yanoviak, whose panel on environment and sustainability begins at 4 p.m., will exhibit with students Max Adams and Evan Gora about their work on the tropical rainforest canopy examining forest structure, lightning and insect diversity. The collaboration with other scientists from various disciplines is done primarily at the Barro Colorado Island field station in Panama administered by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.  

The museum site for the ACCelerate Festival is on the National Mall on Constitution Avenue between Twelfth and Fourteenth streets NW. Festival hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday-Sunday.