The three-day Nerdland Festival is Valhalla for curious kids, geeks, and science lovers. The podcast of the same name also manages to get 250,000 listeners excited every month for science and technology. What is the secret of Nerdland’s success?
With more than 200 performances, talks and demonstrations, the Nerdland Festival aims to be once again the largest open-air science festival in Belgium. They target both hardcore computer geeks and casual scientists.
Festival tickets for this edition have been flying out the door in recent days. The Nerdland podcast is also very popular. Comedian Levin Scheer spoke to science watcher Hetty Helsmortl and computer scientist Jeroen Burt, among others, to discuss the most important science news of the past month. “We prove that there is more interest in science than many people think,” says Hetty Helsmoortel. There is an audience that hasn’t been served in years. Our festival started on a very small scale and we now have 20,000 visitors. They are certainly not just scientists and engineers. It is a very broad family festival for everyone involved in science.”
Levin Sher sees that interest in science is on the rise. “Basic technical knowledge is greater than before because we work with computers and the Internet on a daily basis. Plus, nerds have come out of the basement. Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg are full-blooded nerds with social disabilities who are now at the center of society, because technology matters.” Very socio-economic.Thanks for The Big Bang Theory and the Marvel universe The overlap between nerd culture and the mainstream has become too great.”
Gold nuggets and amazing moments
“Whether I am speaking on behalf of a 3-year-old, a 16-year-old teenager, or my 92-year-old grandmother, the gist remains the same. “You have to start with their environment,” says Hetty Helsmoortel. “What do they do on a daily basis? What fascinates them? Analyze your audience, feel what works and what doesn’t.” Toon Verlinden, co-organizer, presentation coach and science interviewer, agrees. “Start with something that sparks excitement, the little bits and wow moments in your story. You can build on that.”
The smaller the audience, the deeper you can dig. “We have big entertainments for almost a thousand people who stay more on the roof, while you can go very far in tents for 150 people. Last edition there was a lecture on sanitation and the place is crowded. It’s all very interesting if you convey it in the right way.”
The little ones will also get their money’s worth at the Nerdland Festival. They can get their hands dirty by digging up dinobots and making slimy aliens or finding out all about the universe in Cosmology for Kids. on the program Any questions? Curious kids talk. Levin Scheer: “A microphone visits the audience and only the kids are allowed to ask their burning questions. This is where the craziest things come in: Why doesn’t the glue stick inside the tube? Does my cat love me too? Then you can talk about awareness or the importance of social contact in evolution. This is the wonderful thing about kids’ questions: they’re so creative and you can always take a science direction with them.”
But the way Nerdland presents scientific topics, in a very simplistic manner, can sometimes cause discontent among scientists, who think you are doing science a disservice. “You have to be right,” Helsmortel replies, but not necessarily completely. The public isn’t interested in all the details, but for scientists who have spent years researching a single topic, this ingenuity is important. It’s a matter of finding the right balance.” Shire adds: “Criticism has decreased in recent years. We receive compliments from scientists who are delighted that their field is becoming known to the general public. We are always open to corrections and always put them straight. By not getting too defensive about This ourselves, we found a good balance.”
It’s a mixture of emotional storytelling, humor, and aha moments that ensure everything Nerdland touches turns to gold. Levin Scheer: “In our podcast, we want to talk about the science in the way they analyze the match in a football program. Simply explaining how it all works, we stay out of it. After a brief explanation of what has been scientifically discovered, it is mainly about Possible developments and our opinions laced with a touch of humour.
According to Helsmoortel, authenticity is one of Nerdland’s core values. “We’re all excited about science and staying true to ourselves. After the end of our previous edition, we got emails from people who had a feeling they really belonged somewhere for the first time.” Science can connect people, Levin Scheer says. “Our core audience sometimes comes over to help set up a week in advance. The community is created from people who have similar interests and really find each other. This is incredibly valuable.”
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