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Port Jefferson tech festival showcases creations of young inventors

Chelsea Zhao, 5, of Mt. Sinai, pushes a

Chelsea Zhao, 5, of Mt. Sinai, pushes a ball toward a robot built by the Central Islip High School Robotic team during the Youth Science Expo in Port Jefferson on Sunday morning, June. 14, 2015. Open to all elementary school-aged students, the event includes 3-D printing workshops, hands-on science experiments, interactive programs that encourage art, musical and marine biology exploration. Credit: James Carbone

When Justin Garcia's turn came Sunday to experience a virtual boat ride in Port Jefferson Harbor, he carefully turned his head from side to side, taking in images only he could see.

"I felt like I was in a completely different world," Justin, 11, of Port Jefferson said.

The Long Island Maker Festival -- held at the Port Jefferson Village Center, Harborfront Park and Maritime Explorium -- celebrated art, innovation, and technology. The festival allowed children to learn, experiment and showcase their inventions.

Dylan Dugourd, 13, Lucas Rohman, 13, and David Rotunno, 14, all of Port Jefferson, worked together to create the simulation. The boys agreed that their favorite part of the project was presenting it.

"It's nice to give back to the community we all grew up in," Lucas said.

Lauren Hubbard, founding president of the Maritime Explorium, a nautically themed children's museum in Port Jefferson, said the event was an opportunity to "bring together all of the different, creative people on the Island." About 60 organizations participated in the event, she said.

Jacqueline Grennon Brooks of Setauket, who teaches science education at Hofstra University and is president of the explorium's board, said the idea for the event came from seeing similar festivals in other cities nationwide.

"The idea percolated amongst the board," Grennon Brooks said. "Maybe we could have one here on Long Island that would serve this community."

The Central Islip High School Robotics Team showcased a robot they had created that could pick up and throw a large bouncy ball. Stony Brook University physics and astronomy students passed out small cups of ice cream made using liquid nitrogen, and the Stony Brook University African Drumming Ensemble performed on the park lawn. Molly Hastings, the park ranger for the Town of Brookhaven, let people take turns holding a small horseshoe crab.

Stony Brook students facilitated three volcano-like eruptions. At 11 a.m., the gathered crowd was told to stand back for the first demonstration.

Steven Jaret, a doctoral student in the Geosciences Department at Stony Brook, poured liquid nitrogen into a soda bottle, sealed it, and dropped it into a garbage can filled with water and a handful of pingpong balls. Fifteen seconds later, the bottle exploded, spewing water and pingpong balls. The crowd cheered.

Event organizer Cindy Morris said the board hopes to make the festival an annual event.

"We really believe in this. We feel like this is big this year but it's tiny compared to what we want it to be next year," she said. "There's so much opportunity for growth."

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