Science Saturdays start 2023 with sessions on robotics, roller coasters, human performance and more

The joy is in discovery. 

That’s what Nicole Esposito sees at Science Saturdays, IHMC’s weekend science enrichment series. She is an IHMC Research Associate who works in the robotics lab at Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in Pensacola. The team she is part of has an international reputation for excellence and innovation. 

IHMC Research Associate Nicole Esposito led a Science Saturdays session on 3D printing in 2022. Photo credit: IHMC staff. 

But Science Saturdays connects her to a larger purpose.  

“It’s always a joy to watch how quickly these kids learn,” she said. “It’s always fun to talk about a topic you enjoy, but doing so with these groups of kids, who are so eager and ready to learn, is a special experience.” 

Last fall, Esposito taught a session on 3D printing at Science Saturdays, giving students a safe and fun educational space in which to explore scientific topics and interests.  

“Exploring the ways they understand these topics is just as enlightening for me as it is for them, and it’s always fascinating to see how well they reason through certain puzzles and challenges and come to inventive and intelligent solutions,” Esposito said. 

Science Saturdays is a series of 90-minute educational enrichment sessions. Topics in 2023 will include robotics, roller coasters, animal adaptations, human performance, and more.  The sessions are free to the families who attend, thanks to the support of community partners.  

In 2022, each Science Saturdays session hosted about 100 students, said Dr. Ursula Schwuttke, director of educational outreach for IHMC. She surveys parents to gauge the impact of the sessions.  

All families report that the sessions boost their children’s scientific curiosity, motivation in science class, enjoyment of science and self-confidence in general. But families whose children qualify for free and reduced-price lunch uniformly report more impact on motivation and self-confidence in science class than other participating families, the surveys show. 

“Our goal with Science Saturdays is to spark a love of science in a fun, hands-on engaging way,” Schwuttke said. “It is so gratifying to hear that our students feel more confident and motivated academically as a result. We can’t wait to bring the 2023 season to families.” 

Sponsors for the 2023 series include NextEra Energy Foundation/Florida Power & Light, which awarded IHMC a $7,500 grant to support the program in Pensacola. Cox is a $5,000 grantor, and that gift supports Science Saturday in both Pensacola and Ocala.  

Pensacola supporters also include Florida Blue Foundation, Barnes Insurance and Financial Services, the Escambia County Sherriff’s Office (with Law Enforcement Trust Fund monies).  

Ocala supporters also include Lockheed Martin, Ron and Phyllis Ewers, Eleanor and Gary Simons, and Ocala Electric Utility. 


The schedule for Science Saturday for the Spring is complete. Use this link to stay up to date on dates and topics for these sessions. And share the link with friends with children in grades 3-6  

Pensacola Sessions 

Jan. 21: Dr. Marcas Bamman, IHMC, Stronger, Faster, Smarter.  

Feb. 25: Meredith Yeager, IHMC, Reaction Time. 

March 25: Dr. Lakshmi Prayaga, University of West Florida, Smart Cities.  

April 22: Dr. Gwen Bryan, IHMC, Robot Hands.    

Ocala Sessions 

Jan. 7: Scott Weeks, Florida Engineering Society, Paper Roller Coasters. 

Feb. 4: Erin Benavides, Silver River Museum, Amazing Animal Adaptations.  

March 4: Graham Young, College of Central Florida, Photo Editing. 

April 1: Dr. Peter Polack, Ocala Eye, Optics and Jell-O Lenses.   

IHMC is a not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System where researchers pioneer technologies aimed at leveraging and extending human capabilities.