WestFest 2020 Finds Success in Virtual Outreach
The Ohio State University’s West Campus Science & Sustainability Festival, better known as WestFest, is an annual public engagement event that highlights STEM research, sustainability initiatives and outreach programs at Ohio State and beyond. Typically an in-person event, WestFest brings together STEM units from across campus and select community partners to present family-friendly activities and host facility tours that highlight the research infrastructure located on Ohio State’s West Campus.
The event is organized through the volunteer efforts of the WestFest Planning Committee. The 2020 Planning Committee consisted of staff from the Arabidopsis Biological Resource Center (ABRC), the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center (BPCRC), the Center for Applied Plant Sciences (CAPS), and the Museum of Biological Diversity (MBD). WestFest 2020 was made possible thanks to grant funding from the Ohio State Energy Partners.
Originally scheduled for Saturday, September 12th, WestFest 2020 was yet another in a long list of events impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Opting to transition to a virtual format in lieu of canceling, the WestFest Planning Committee took on the task of recruiting partners and planning the logistics for a large-scale, virtual public outreach event. The decision was made to limit participation in the virtual event to Ohio State units, with the understanding that when the event returns to an in-person format community partners will be welcomed back. A total of 17 units from across Ohio State came together to make WestFest 2020 a success.
The transition to virtual allowed the event to focus on new audiences and accessibility, with American Sign Language interpreters and live captioning available for each program. As such, the event was marketed not only through the traditional outlets but also to organizations working with the deaf community.
WestFest 2020 took place Monday, September 28th through Saturday, October 3rd. Collectively, the partnering units presented twenty-two virtual programs. The target audience for each program ranged from school-aged children to families and adults. Overall WestFest 2020 reached more than 443 program attendees (program attendee = a single Zoom connection). It is safe to assume that many of the Zoom connections reached more than one individual, so the overall program attendance was likely much higher. WestFest attracted attendees from eight countries, 11 states withing the U.S., and 57 zip codes across Ohio.