Science Cafe NH's Nashua debut big hit
NASHUA, Jan 17, 2013 (The Telegraph - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Rob Masek was happy that he brought his outdoor voice to the Science Cafe New Hampshire's Nashua debut Wednesday night.
Even before start time, Masek, a tech-savvy, do-it-yourself kind of guy whose expertise with 3-D printing earned him this month's guest speaker honors, watched fellow science and tech fans stream into a space adjacent to Killarney's Pub, fill all available chairs then begin standing in precious open spaces around the room.
Dave Brooks, Telegraph science columnist and Science Cafe moderator, called the turnout "two or three Concords put together," referring to the Barley House, which hosted the cafe from its March 2011 founding through November.
Co-founder Dan Marcek said the unexpectedly robust turnout greatly advanced one of the cafe's major goals: impact. "We had good success in Concord, but with Dave being our moderator and The Telegraph our co-sponsor, we felt we'd have a bigger impact if we had a venue in Nashua," Marcek said.
Bob Monteleone came with a small group of tech industry lifers who met as co-workers at the old Digital Equipment Corp. in Nashua. He said the convenience of the new site and his interest in 3-D printing combined to inspire his attendance.
"It's also a great opportunity to socialize," Monteleone said. "We've been friends for a long time, working in the tech industry together off and on for years."
"Yep, we're a bunch of nerds," Amherst resident Dan Mullen added with a laugh.
The youngest member of the group, who was probably the second-youngest attendee overall Wednesday, was drawn by her love of science and technology -- but also admitted that she'd be watching the clock.
"I'll need to leave early to get to my robotics team meeting," said Claire Cowan, a sophomore at Hollis Brookline High School. Her mom, Jan Schwartz, said the team has its own 3-D printer -- which team members built themselves.
So-called science cafes have been around for decades in Europe, where educators, scientists and enthusiasts began mixing socializing with topical discussions. The format has become more popular in the U.S. of late, frequently featuring university professors discussing their work while relaxing in restaurants or bars.
Locally, the idea for a science cafe grew out of a chance encounter between Marcek, who had plenty of time on his hands after losing his job at HP, and Hopkinton resident Sarah Eck, a recent Dartmouth College graduate and newly minted biochemist with a doctorate degree who was looking for venues where she could talk science with kindred spirits.
"I always wanted to start something like this," Marcek said of the cafe series. "But I didn't have the time when I was working and traveling a lot. After I was let go, I got busy on it."
Over time, cafe topics have covered a wide range of areas, including climate change, vaccines, biomass energy, Lyme disease, light pollution, nanotechnology and digital privacy.
Panelists have ranged from corporate executives and the state climatologist to graduate researchers and a 19-year-old concussion victim who spoke in November about the science of concussions, co-sponsored by The Telegraph.
Though a relatively new venture, growing interest in the Science Cafe has inspired fledgling venues in the Seacoast area, at Dartmouth and at Plymouth State University, Marcek said.
"I've found that people care about science," he said, adding that the cafe is catching on quickly as word gets around. "The Telegraph has done a fantastic job covering us ... to me, (the coverage) is a great community service."
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