The leaders of the Raw Science Film Festival: founder Keri Kukral, left, Will Nix and Michelle McIntosh. (Rochelle Rose / Noozhawk photo)
  • The leaders of the Raw Science Film Festival: founder Keri Kukral, left, Will Nix and Michelle McIntosh.
  • Cornell University student Elaha Mahboob, center, with Sahar Barakeay and Kahlsar Roshan from Kabul, members of the Afghan Girls Robotics Team, which traveled to Santa Barbara to participate in the festival.
  • The Afghan Girls Robotics Team is presented the Conrad Foundation’s Spirit of Innovation Award.
  • John Lucchetti, left, with UCSB professor Joel Rothman.
  • 3-D printing is explained at one of the exhibits.
  • Filmmaker Dr. Eliza Chin, left, Ph.D. student Mollie Marr and Francis Cosworth of Anacapa School at the Lobero Theatre for the awards ceremony.
  • The Santa Barbara-based La Boheme dance group performs.
  • Raw Science Film Festival award winners take the stage.
  • Entrepreneur Roya Mahboob of the Digital Citizen Fund speaks at the awards ceremony.
  • The scene outside the Lobero Theatre on awards night.
  • Raw Science attendees listen to an educational workshop Sunday at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.
  • Raw Science Film Festival signage.

iSociety: Rochelle Rose

For three days, all things science, space, creativity, art and film absorbed the attention of several hundred attendees at the fourth annual Raw Science Film Festival. It was the first year that the festival was held in Santa Barbara.

The weekend-long event held Jan. 5-7 started Friday with an opening night VIP reception at the University Club in downtown Santa Barbara, bringing together festival organizers, sponsors, scientists, students and attendees from all over the world.

The low-key patio reception was the perfect setting to welcome team captain Fatemah Qaderyan and the other members of the Afghan Girls Robotics Team, which traveled from Kabul to accept an award, as well as learning and networking with scientists and other robotics teams.

The Saturday film festival presented film screenings on science and technology, talks and outdoor exhibitions throughout the day at the Lobero Theatre. Raw Science TV founder and CEO Keri Kukral, along with festival co-producers Will Nix and Michelle McIntosh, opened the festival and announced the lineup of 17 short films and movies for the next seven hours.

“The mission of the festival is to ensure fact-based scientific experts stay at the forefront of popular culture,” Kukral said. “The festival brings science fiction to life during an inspiring weekend of fun, entertainment and public service.”

As a bioengineer and former ballet dancer, she is interested in the intersection of science and media. Kukral earned a degree in bio/electrical engineering from Purdue University and has worked in research and development with a focus on medical devices at Abbott Laboratories, EV3 Neurovascular and ViaCyte.

She started the Raw Science TV channel by winning an entrepreneurial pitch competition through Caltech and IdeaLab. Kukral created the Raw Science Foundation to promote STEAM education globally through access to energy and connectivity, particularly for girls and women.

Later that evening, a black-tie red-carpet awards ceremony was held that bestowed awards to a dozen filmmakers in the categories of fiction and nonfiction and to both students and professionals. For the second year, Paul Hynek, president of EZ Numbers, emceed the awards ceremony.

The Afghan Girls Robotics Team is presented the Conrad Foundation’s Spirit of Innovation Award.
The Afghan Girls Robotics Team is presented the Conrad Foundation’s Spirit of Innovation Award. (Rochelle Rose / Noozhawk photo)

The award presentations were interspersed with expert speakers on interstellar travel, human longevity, scalable health care, the ethics of space travel and the Afghan robotics team.

During the program, recent Nobel Prize winner Kip Thorne “virtually” rolled on the stage via Beam robot to present the annual Kip Thorne Gravity Award.

Entertainment was performed by former Supremes vocalist Susaye Greene, the WJM Band and Santa Barbara-based La Boheme Dance Co. Interspersed were short talks by NASA astronaut and Stanford University professor Yvonne Cagle, and Roya Mahboob, an Afghan entrepreneur and businesswoman who founded the Afghan Citadel Software Co. in Herat, Afghanistan.

Anacapa School of Santa Barbara won first place in the 10-minute Youth Documentary category for “Ocean Health.”

On Sunday, a series of workshops, with experts from the Hollywood and scientific communities, was held at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. The purpose of the workshops was to bridge scientific and educational art/media fields to engage global communities in science communication.

Participants included film producer Lynda Obst (Interstellar, Contact), writer/producer Jon Spaihts (Promethus, Dr. Strange, Passengers), Nancy Conrad of the Conrad Foundation, as well as theology professor Michael Waltemathe from Ruhr-University in Bochum, Germany, who discussed the ethics and sociology of interstellar exploration as well as the settlement of the moon and Mars.

UCSB physics professor and festival speaker Phillip Lubin told Noozhawk: “This festival created a wonderful opportunity for cross-fertilization between filmmakers, scientists and the public, stoking the imaginations of all who participated.”

Along with Kukral, the festival was produced by William Nix of Creative Projects Group and Michelle McIntosh of Willow Creek Pictures. Festival partners included the UCSB Department of Physics, the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, the Rosalind Franklin Society, the Conrad Foundation, Explore Mars, the Anti-Defamation League, the Santa Barbara Film Commission, the Santa Barbara Visitors Bureau, Vortex Immersion Media, Lobero Theatre, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, the University Club of Santa Barbara and Fraunhofer MEVIS. The 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor is Partnerships for Change.

Click here for more festival information, or email Kukral at

Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.