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Putnam Fundraiser - Mad Scientist Ball

Putnam Museum

In its major annual fundraiser, the Putnam Museum and Science Center, in Davenport, will hold a virtual Mad Scientist Ball starting at 6 pm, October 17, on Zoom. Reservations are due this Friday, October 9. 

The event – originally 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, live music, as well as a question and answer session with MIT aerospace engineer and Emmy-nominated TV host, Emily Calandrelli.

Nisha Ladlee, the Putnam’s vice president of development, says the plan was to hold the event in person, but after Covid happened and continued, they made the decision in June to just go virtual. Calandrelli – who’s known as “The Space Gal” -- 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 says she’s an ideal guest for the Putnam, given the organization’s focus on STEM and encouraging girls to pursue STEM-related careers.

Credit Putnam Museum
Emily Calandrelli

“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’s a perfect fit for the Putnam.”

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. 

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, 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 STEM. For the Putnam event, Ladlee says she will take about 15 minutes of questions from Zoom participants.
In 2013, the Putnam held its first Mad Scientist Ball, to help raise money for a planned $2-million science center and raise awareness about the project. Then, last November, the museum’s major fundraiser was “Decadence on Division,” a 1920s-inspired party that raised over $37,000. 

This year’s virtual ball costs $20 a ticket and $150 for a table. It will begin with a mingle at 6 p.m., with the formal 90-minute program starting at 6:30 pm, hosted by WQAD meteorologist Eric Sorenson. The weather gallery is a new feature of the recently reopened Science Center.

The ball also will feature raffle prizes. People can buy tickets ahead of time, and choose which basket they’d like. All the winners will be announced during the event.   

She says the Putnam hopes to raise about $40,000.

“Now is a more crucial time than ever, given the slow bring-back of guests and how everything was closed for several months. The Mad Scientist Ball really is being 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.”

For more information, visit Putnam.org.

A native of Detroit, Herb Trix began his radio career as a country-western disc jockey in Roswell, New Mexico (“KRSY, your superkicker in the Pecos Valley”), in 1978. After a stint at an oldies station in Topeka, Kansas (imagine getting paid to play “Louie Louie” and “Great Balls of Fire”), he wormed his way into news, first in Topeka, and then in Freeport Illinois.