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February’s First Thursdays event stars space-themed activities and education

A sign for February’s First Thursdays block party, Westwood Wonder, is pictured. First Thursdays are a monthly event hosted by UCLA and the Westwood Village Improvement Association to create connections between UCLA students and the Westwood community. (Brandon Morquecho/Daily Bruin)

By Sharla Steinman

Feb. 5, 2023 9:34 p.m.

Bruins and Westwood community members gathered on Broxton Avenue on Thursday for the First Thursdays block party, crowding Westwood Village with bright lights, vendors and space-themed attractions for the first time this year.

Launched in March, First Thursdays is a joint effort between UCLA and the Westwood Village Improvement Association to forge bonds between Bruins and the Westwood community. The monthly event started at noon with the Westwood Village Farmers’ Market and transitioned into the block party at 7 p.m.

February’s edition of First Thursdays, titled “Westwood Wonder,” featured immersive audio and visual experiences of the night sky such as a three-minute dive into the cosmos projected on a screen in the party area.

Mary Osako, vice chancellor for strategic communications, said First Thursdays are a chance for Bruins to come together to celebrate their community and their experiences at UCLA.

Students had the opportunity to get celestial makeup done at the galactic face painting booth, test their knowledge with planetary trivia questions and try an Orbitron ride that simulated an astronaut spinning in space.

“We’re really celebrating all of the wonderful scientific discoveries, UCLA being behind so many of them,” Osako said.

Professors and graduate students from the Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences attended to answer questions about the Milky Way, NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter, and Electron Losses and Fields Investigation, a NASA project involving the first UCLA student-constructed satellites sent into orbit.

Ashley Smith, a first-year public affairs student, said she appreciated how educational the event was.

“I learned more from this than in my science class,” Smith said. “This has really helped me, and it’s really fun.”

Attendees also watched a live DJ provide a soundtrack for the event as dancers wearing LED lights performed on a moonlit dance floor. Students and community members also had the opportunity to take photos in front of a UCLA-themed spaceship backdrop.

The event’s different themes attract community members and students month after month, said Marilia Angeline, a First Thursdays brand ambassador.

“I feel like it’s perfect with it being such a dark time of the year to bring light (to the community),” Angeline said. “It’s a cool way to have a different theme that’s not just a holiday theme.”

Vendors, food trucks and astronomy-focused educational booths further brought the event together. Design Build Fly, a student engineering club dedicated to designing and flying remote-controlled airplanes, presented flight simulations on a computer for passersby.

Booths along Broxton Avenue ranged from jewelry vendors to the International Educational Office, which featured students answering questions about study abroad programs offered by the university.

Amber Sackett, co-owner of Odd Flower Creations, said the event is an excellent opportunity for business owners such as herself to showcase their products to the community. The Odd Flower Creations booth had a wide array of sustainably made items for sale that featured organizational home decor, statement earrings and hair clips among other accessories.

Sackett, who is also a European languages and transcultural studies doctoral student, added that the monthly event also allows her to see what’s happening in Westwood Village.

“We meet a lot of people from Westwood that we might not get a chance to connect with,” Sackett said. “It’s a great opportunity to showcase our products and the things that we really love because we put so much love into everything we make.”

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Sharla Steinman | City and Crime Editor
Steinman is the 2023-2024 city and crime editor. She was previously a city and crime contributor. She is also a fourth-year political science student.
Steinman is the 2023-2024 city and crime editor. She was previously a city and crime contributor. She is also a fourth-year political science student.
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