In the Hollywood blockbuster ‘The Martian,’ Matt Damon finds himself stranded alone on Mars. There’s but one thing he can do to survive: “I’m gonna have to science the s@#$ out of this!”

That’s the formula being employed by 40+ teams featuring America’s finest scientific minds as they tackle two “Big Ideas” (Harnessing Big Data and Advancing the Future of Work) in a revolutionary National Science Foundation program.

“The NSF Convergence Accelerator is a first in government,” says Office Head Douglas Maughan. “We’re taking the results of basic research and moving them quickly into practice, so American citizens can benefit as they are developed and used.”

How quickly? Just nine months after inception, the program’s first “Cohort” was ready to showcase new technologies and concepts at a major live event. However, the script suddenly changed. The world was hit with a global pandemic, and ‘in-person’ became out of bounds.

The solution? Enter Loma Media, and a world-class virtual event.  A ‘digital expo’ that would use ‘edge’ technology to showcase innovative technologies.

As the Programs’ communication partner, our job is to help the 41 teams, which are spread across the country, connect effectively with a global audience of industry partners, investors and stakeholders.

EXPO 2020 would be the first test of an ambitious ‘multi-disciplinary’ model, in which teams are comprised of academics, industry experts, non-profits and social scientists. The diversity of the teams would be matched by the breadth of the audience. Critical engagement would need to develop quickly–and digitally.

“We wanted to create a ‘digital landscape’ where teams and viewers could connect virtually from anywhere in the world,” added Maughan.  “They would present, pitch, connect and chat live, in real time.”

Loma began by designing a uniquely branded microsite, with navigation supporting the EXPO’s every requirement.  To ensure everyone could participate without the stress of firewall blockers and the need for third-party platform applications, we employed a unique combination of technologies to embed a completely customized solution powered by Zoom.  This meant that each team (of up to 10 members from all across the country) would have the flexibility of presenting and engaging via video, while viewers could selectively enter and engage in any of the 41 team “booths.”

Creating a seamless user journey was of prime importance.  The solution needed to enable quick, clean interaction from all audience members globally via both chat and phone bridge, while still maintaining a highly secure environment. On July 1, EXPO 2020 went live–with outstanding results.

“We were hoping for modest success,” said Maughan. “We hit a grand slam. In just 4 weeks, Loma created, executed and managed a world-class virtual event that tripled projected attendance.”

Attendees from 25 nations can agree: EXPO 2020 scienced the ‘stuff’ out of it.

Designed for optimum flexibility, Loma’s customized model can now be used for effective virtual interaction across the entire spectrum of Program engagement. For more information about the NSF Convergence Accelerator, visit: