“This looks like magic,” said Jyothi Balan, a class VIII student, standing inside a stall full of experiments demonstrating principles behind optical illusion. He was one of the enthusiastic participants at the Chennai Science Festival 2010 which opened at the Science City, Periyar Science and Technology campus, here on Wednesday.

Over 70 educational and research institutions have put up stalls demonstrating various facets of science and the fundamental principles behind many of the everyday applications we use.

An articulated manipulator used for handling radioactive material at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), models of satellites and launch vehicles, and experimental modules employed for research in university laboratories are some of exhibits on display at the five day event.

“Exhibitions like this broaden the horizon of children,” said Nirmala, a biology teacher at Omega International School. “They are exposed to a range of things beyond their textbooks and it is also an opportunity to learn from their peer group.”

She added that while some students might be receptive to a learning mechanism where they just observe a teacher, others might learn better through a participatory learning process.

Sriram Balan, a class IX student of PSBB, said “Our text books explain only the processes behind scientific phenomena. But here, there is an in-depth explanation of the applications.”

Students who had won a competition were given space to exhibit their projects on the theme ‘Biodiversity’. Many also participated in a ‘Treesure hunt’, in which students had to correctly identify seven species of trees, inside the campus organised by ‘Nizhal’.

“Our textbooks do not even have pictures of trees. There are only botanical names,” said A.Shilpa, a class IX student of Bharat Matriculation School. “I never knew I could learn so much just by running around looking at trees.”

The science festival was officially launched by Higher Education Minister K.Ponmudy. Entry is free for all and the exhibition is open till February 7 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.