In its major annual fundraiser, the Putnam Museum and Science Center, 1717 W. 12th St., Davenport, will hold a virtual Mad Scientist Ball starting at 6 p.m., Oct. 17, on Zoom. Reservations are due this Friday, Oct. 9.

Putnam Museum To Hold Virtual Mad Scientist Ball Oct. 17

Nisha Ladlee is vice president of development at the Putnam Museum.

The event – originally planned to be held in person – will help the Putnam to raise necessary funds for the support of programs, services and collections such as summer camps, rotating and permanent exhibits, and virtual learning.

This virtual event includes an interactive science experiment, instruction from a local mixologist on crafting a signature cocktail, as well as a Q&A session from MIT aerospace engineer and Emmy-nominated TV host, Emily Calandrelli.

“The hope was to do it in person, but then obviously, Covid happened and we made the decision in June to just go virtual,” Nisha Ladlee, the Putnam’s vice president of development, said recently.

Calandrelli was not yet secured for the benefit when they made that decision. “She was excited that she could volunteer her services to help us out, given this is a new way of doing things,” Ladlee said.

“I think it’s exciting she has her Netflix show; it’s new, so it’s a really good opportunity to add in that other element of experiments and families being able to go and watch that with their kids and try things like that,” she said.

Putnam Museum To Hold Virtual Mad Scientist Ball Oct. 17

The virtual Mad Scientist Ball will be Oct. 17.

Putnam Museum To Hold Virtual Mad Scientist Ball Oct. 17

Emily Calandrelli. “The Space Gal,” is a popular guest speaker.

“She’s a perfect fit for the Putnam,” Ladlee said, noting the organization’s focus on STEM (science-technology, engineering and math) and encouraging girls to pursue STEM-related careers.

According to Calandrelli’s website,

“Emily is wildly passionate about space exploration. Through her show, she wants to prove that the space industry is more exciting today than ever before in history. As the host, Emily works to explain science-related topics in an easily digestible, and entertaining, way.

“Increasing the level of scientific literacy among the general public is also something Emily cares deeply about. She believes that everyone, despite their educational background, can understand scientific topics. Emily hopes to convince more people of this and foster a higher level

Putnam Museum To Hold Virtual Mad Scientist Ball Oct. 17

Attendees at last year’s “Decadence on Division” fundraiser.

of scientific literacy in society through various projects and speaking engagements.

“Lastly, Emily wants to inspire more females to pursue STEM careers. Over the years, many factors have deterred women from pursuing certain careers in STEM. Through her work, Emily hopes to address those factors and help make STEM a more welcoming environment for everyone.”

Calandrelli – who earned a master’s from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in aeronautics and astronautics,  as well as technology and policy – is an engineer turned Emmy-nominated science TV host. She’s host and co-executive producer of “Emily’s Wonder Lab” on Netflix.

Her educational background is in engineering and policy. At West Virginia University, she received her bachelor’s in mechanical and aerospace engineering.

Calandrelli is featured as a correspondent on Netflix’s “Bill Nye Saves the World” and an executive producer and host of FOX’s “Xploration Outer Space,” which airs in 100 million households each week. Her first science children’s book series, the “Ada Lace Adventures,” are now available for purchase. She recently launched the third Ada Lace book into space as part of the Storytime From Space program.

Calandrelli is also a professional speaker who has spoken at venues like Google, Pixar, MIT, Texas Instruments, CERN, and dozens of K-12 schools and universities around the country. She focuses her talks on the topics of science communication, space exploration, and women in

Putnam Museum To Hold Virtual Mad Scientist Ball Oct. 17

Entertainment last year included an aerial performer and jazz band.

STEM. Her 3 TEDx talks are available on YouTube.

 For the Putnam event, she will take about 15 minutes of questions from Zoom participants, Ladlee said.

In 2013, the Putnam held its first Mad Scientist Ball, to help raise money for a planned $2-million science center and raise awareness of what the project entailed. Then, the admission was $125 per person.

Last November, the museum’s major fundraiser was “Decadence on Division,” a 1920s-inspired party that raised a little more than $37,000. Decadence tickets were $75 a seat and $600 for a table.

This year’s virtual ball costs $20 a ticket and $150 for a table. There will be a fund-a-need portion of the program as well. It will begin with a mingle at 6 p.m., with the formal hour-long program starting at 6:30 p.m., hosted by WQAD meteorologist Eric Sorenson. The weather gallery is a new feature of the recently reopened Science Center, Ladlee said.

“Our Science Center is being reimagined, so it’s a work in progress of reopening the full Science Center,”

Putnam Museum To Hold Virtual Mad Scientist Ball Oct. 17

Entertainment last year included an aerial performer and jazz band.

she said. “A lot is being moved around.”

The Giant Screen Theater is not yet open.

The mixologist for the evening is Melissa Wilkie. a former bartender at Blue Cat Brew Pub. She participated in several of the Martini Shake Offs as well.

Wilkie will walk everyone through making the signature cocktail of the night. The program includes ComedySportz veteran Jeff Adamson, who will act as a mad scientist and do some experiments. Sponsors will have home party kits, where they can do experiments as well, Ladlee said.

There will also be a musical performance by Alan Sweet.

Elements of the Science Center recently reopened, months after the Putnam natural science wing reopened in July, with a new entrance and gift shop. There is a new weather gallery and “Science of Art” gallery.

Putnam Museum To Hold Virtual Mad Scientist Ball Oct. 17

Emily Calandrelli is an MIT-trained aerospace engineer.

The ball also will feature raffle prizes of donated raffle baskets and other prizes. People can purchase tickets ahead of time, and choose which basket they’d like. All the winners will be announced during the event. Raffle tickets are 5 for $20, 10 for $40 or 15 for $60. You can purchase your raffle tickets here:

The Putnam hopes to raise about $40,000 with the event, Ladlee said.

“Now is a more crucial time than ever, given the slow bring-back of guests and how everything was closed for several months,” she said. “The Mad Scientist Ball really is held to further our mission, to preserve, educate and connect. It’s going to go toward the preservation of our collection, educating our youth and adults, and our guests being able to connect when they come into the museum.”

The Putnam’s overall attendance has been steady since mid-summer, around 50-60 visitors a day, Ladlee said. “We put a cap on I believe 75 visitors a day, initially, so we could see what the reaction

Putnam Museum To Hold Virtual Mad Scientist Ball Oct. 17

Calandrelli’s series, “Emily’s Wonder Lab,” is on Netflix.

would be and the cleaning protocols. We have a mask mandate in place, so it’s been steady.”

The new weather gallery is a hands-on experience where guests will learn about different weather elements such as wind, tornados and clouds. The science of art gallery is another hands-on experience where guests learn about light play and how music can be played through a touch screen, as well as many other hands-on features in this gallery.

The Putnam-original “Liberated Voices Changed Lives” exhibit is open until the day after the election, Nov. 4. You’ll discover the Quad-Cites’ unique suffrage story, 100 years after the 19th Amendment gave many women the vote, through touch-screens featuring stories of men and women from the area, along with displayed artifacts showing the changes occurring in women’s lives at the time.

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Putnam Museum To Hold Virtual Mad Scientist Ball Oct. 17
Jonathan Turner has been covering the Quad-Cities arts scene for 25 years, first as a reporter with the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, and then as a reporter with the Quad City Times. Jonathan is also an accomplished actor and musician who has been seen frequently on local theater stages, including the Bucktown Revue and Black Box Theatre.