If you’re a space expert you know your science but explaining it in a way that excites the public is not always easy. Several of UCF’s faculty are rock stars in both areas, which is why they are back at Megacon this year.
Megacon is the Southeast’s largest science fiction and pop culture convention attracting up to 100,000 people to the four-day event. Visitors attend celebrity panels (including our faculty), shop for comics and collectibles, and dress up as their favorite character from Marvel, DC, Anime, and host of other fandoms.
This is the third time planetary scientist and Pegasus Professor Joshua Colwell will be participating in panels and the second time he and his colleagues will be taping the Walkabout the Galaxy Podcast, which the group started in 2014.
“This is a fun event with an enthusiastic audience,” Colwell says. “The conference is about science fiction, fantasy and comics. A lot of yesterday’s science fiction is today’s reality and it’s a great venue to share scientific discoveries which often are even more incredible than science fiction. I call Walkabout the accidentally educational podcast because we all learn something while having a fun time, and MegaCon is a perfect fit for that. It is a great opportunity to educate people and inspire future scientists and engineers at the same time.”
The goal of the podcast and the reason the faculty participate in MegaCon is to help people understand space science and why it matters in an entertaining way.
In 2019, Colwell took to social media to interact with Megacon’s attendees in a fun video where he interviewed cosplay players and talked about the science behind their favorite world. In 2020, MegaCon was canceled because of the COVID pandemic, but in 2021 it came back. Colwell was joined by Associate Professor Adrienne Dove and planetary scientist Phil Metzger ’00MS’05PhD, who all served on guest panels. Colwell and Dove also recorded the podcast with Brendan Byrne ’13, a radio reporter for WMFE and now a UCF communication graduate student who earned a bachelor’s in political science from the university. Byrne is the host of WMFE’s show and podcast Are We There Yet?, which focuses on human space exploration. Byrne joins the team again this year and will record an episode of his show as well.
“We love getting the chance to record the podcast in front of a live audience, to be able to do Q&A, and so we’re not the only ones laughing at our (terrible) nerdy jokes,” Dove says. “MegaCon is a great and unique opportunity for that. And it’s fun for me to go not only as a panelist, but also as a guest, to check out other panels and shows and admire the impressive display of cosplay creativity.”
Many of the same faculty are returning to Megacon for a repeat. Joining them this year is Hannah Sargeant a postdoctoral scholar at UCF whose research focuses on in-situ resource utilization on the moon. Her focus is developing resources that will be needed for future space missions. She will co-host the Walkabout the Galaxy Podcast with Colwell and Dove.
“This will be my first ever convention so I’m excited just to be there,” Sargeant says. “It’ll also be the first time I’ll be part of a podcast recording with a live audience, so I’m hoping they will bring some extra energy to the show and that they will come away from it knowing a little bit more about the exciting things going on in our universe.
Here’s the UCF schedule for those of you attending the conference.
5 p.m. Fascinating: The (New) Science of Star Trek – Colwell and UCF Physics Instructor Adam LaMee
6 p.m. Touring Tatooine – Colwell
Noon Pop Culture and STEM Education – Colwell
11 a.m. Walkabout the Galaxy – The Fun Astronomy Podcast, with Colwell, Dove, Sargeant and Byrne
11 a.m. Are We There Yet? Artemis and Beyond: The Return of Humans to Deep Space, with Colwell, Dove and Byrne