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Neutrino Day: X-treme fun for everyone!

Nearly 1,500 people attended activities at Sanford Lab's free science festival in Lead, breaking the single day record
Room full of children at Neutrino Day

The day started with sunshine and ended with a rainbow—fitting bookends for Neutrino Day X, the tenth anniversary of Sanford Lab’s free science festival. Nearly 1,500 people—the most to ever attend in a single day—from several states and a handful of countries participated in the many different activities. 

It was a day of X-treme fun as children and adults toured the Yates Hoistroom, painted space rocks, watched geology demonstrations, “discovered” the different types of neutrinos, saw “wild science” demonstrations and learned about the science at Sanford Lab through hands-on activities and experiment displays. 

“We want to inspire people of all ages to get excited about science,” said Constance Walter, communications director at Sanford Lab. “Neutrino Day helps us do that in a fun and engaging way.”

Ariel Waldman gives her presentation

Science hacking

Ariel Waldman, founder of, served as the keynote speaker for Neutrino Day. Her presentation focused on how all citizens—whether artists, scientists or construction workers—can contribute to space exploration and scientific discovery. Waldman sits on the council for NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts, a program that nurtures radical, science-fiction-inspired ideas that could transform future space missions, and serves as the global director for Science Hack Day, a grassroots endeavor with a mission to get people excited about and “make things with” science.  

“If we are at the point where we are imagining alien life—life as we don't know it—then I think we can all imagine exploration as we don't know it. An exploration that is more diverse, more inclusive and involves people from different backgrounds and disciplines. I want space exploration and scientific discovery to look like a patchwork–more nebulous and less defined. There should be fewer expectations of what science is and isn't, who can and can't do it. Science is something truly collaborative. To me, true space exploration is the search for something multidisciplinary and collaborative–and that is something really precious.” — Ariel Waldman

Number of people who attended Neutrino Day

This is a single-day record for Neutrino Day. People came from all over the United States, including Texas, Illinois and Georgia, and from countries around the world, including Croatia, New Zealand and the Philippines. "We think it's really great that you can come to Neutrino Day and, while on vacation, mix in a bit of education for our kids that they really love. We're very happy," said a father from Texas.

Number of solar neutrinos that passed through our guests during Neutrino Day

Vince Guiseppe, a researcher with the Majorana experiment, estimated this number based on our understanding of how many neutrinos pass through an individual's body every second. "It's a big number, and there are some fun equal descriptions: 10 sextillion, 10 billion trillion, 10 million quadrillion or 10,000 quintillion." You can pick the number!

Kids enjoy wild science demonstrations

The Science Steve show

Science Steve Rokusek is a perennial favorite at Neutrino Day. And this year, he celebrated his 10th anniversary at Sanford Lab's free science festival with a special demonstration of inertia: He stacked 10 layers of cups and plates on a sheet then pulled the sheet from beneath them.

"This beats my personal record," said Rokusek when he successfully completed the demonstration. 

Hundreds of children enjoyed his show. But Steve was just one of many interactive activities held at the Sanford Lab. Other fun events included hoistroom tours, science displays and science cinema served with popcorn. 


Volunteer and child play with a plasma ball

Hands-on education activities a big hit

Families could take part in real science experiments at the All In One Events Center in Lead. Activities included programming robots, mending broken bones, using a geiger counter to measure radiation in people and objects, learning about electricity and taking a peek at molecules. They could even get a tattoo—temporary of course—and search for neutrinos. 

"This was our first time at Neutrino Day and the kids are absolutely loving it," said Julie Ewing of Spearfish. "We loved all of the hands-on activities, especially programming the robots."

Bags of popcorn consumed

Science Cinema featured fun science videos served with movie theater-style popcorn made at Sanford Lab. 

Gallons of nitrogen ice served during Neutrino Day

"We had so many people, I had to run to the store twice to get more supplies," said professor Mike Dowding from SD Mines.  

Chris Mossey talks engineering

Engineering big science

Chris Mossey, Fermilab Deputy Director for the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility, talked about the engineering behind the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, the largest international science project ever planned on U.S. soil. DUNE scientists hope to learn more about the properties of neutrinos, super novae and proton decay. Using the LBNF, they'll fire a beam of neutrinos from Fermilab near Chicago to massive detectors deep underground at Sanford Lab.  

It's a huge project that poses unique engineering challenges. But Mossey said engineers and scientists are up to the challenge. 

"This is going to be the world's flagship neutrino facility,” Mossey said. "And it's going to be the first internationally conceived, constructed and operated mega-science project in the United States. Hopefully, it will help us understand better why the universe is the way it is."

Visitors heard from scientists underground

Talking to scientists from underground

More than 140 people attended video conferences where they got to talk to scientists and engineers at Fermilab and deep underground at Sanford Lab. 

"You can tell people are really starting to pay attention to news about neutrinos just by the questions they ask," said Matt Kapust, creative services developer at Sanford Lab.

One audience member asked a Fermilab scientist about the recent discovery made by scientists with the IceCube experiment taking place in Antarctica. "IceCube and DUNE both look for neutrinos but are very different," said Kurt Riesselmann of Fermilab. "IceCube identifies high-energy neutrinos from sources billions of light years away, while DUNE will look for low-energy neutrinos from super novae within our galaxy as well as neutrino oscillations and proton decay."

Kids painting space rocks

"About 600 people stopped by the Lead-Deadwood Arts Center and we painted at least 300 space rocks. It was a huge Neutrino Day!"—Karen Everett, director, Lead-Deadwood Arts Center

Geology demonstration

Geology demonstrations always a hit

Many visitors wanted to know all about the geology of the Black Hills and David Vardiman, geotechnical project engineer with Sanford Lab, was more than happy to help them out. 

Looking through a solar telescope

A peek at the sun

Kids loved looking at the surface of the sun through a solar telescope on the observation deck at the Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center in Lead.  

Preparing to go on a hoistroom tour

Hoistroom tours draw more than 400

This little girl was plenty excited as she got ready to go on a tour of the Yates Hoistroom. 

Fire extinguisher simulations

ERT demonstration

Sanford Lab's Emergency Response Team demonstrated fire extinguisher techniques using a high-tech simulator.

Volunteer puts on wristband

Volunteers make event a success

This year, 170 people signed up to help out, including Roger Hudson, safety trainer at Sanford Lab. They staffed displays and activities, gave directions, handed out flyers, served as crossing guards and attached wristbands. They come in early to set up and stayed late to tear down. They are the heart and soul of Neutrino Day and we couldn’t do this without them.

Child forms x with arms in front of NDX logo

Save the date

Samantha Kapust loved Neutrino Day X, and she wants you to save the date for next year's Neutrino Day, where we'll  continue to celebrate exciting science explorations and discoveries. The free Super Science festival will be held Saturday, July 13! We’ll keep you posted as we get closer to the date. 

Over the past 10 years, we’ve been fortunate to receive generous financial and in-kind support for Neutrino Day. Without the help of corporate and individual sponsors, we would not be able to bring you so many exciting and fun events every year. 

We also had tremendous help from our partners—the Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center, the City of Lead and the Lead Chamber of Commerce. 

Thank you especially to all who attended this year. You are the reason we do this year after year. Stay excited and keep exploring. We'll see you next year. 

Feature story written by Constance Walter, Matthew Kapust and Erin Broberg.
Photography contributed by Matthew Kapust, Emily Costopoulos, Tom Regan and SD Mines.