The Cal Aggie Marching Band-uh is joined by the California golden bear, Poppy, at the state fair to celebrate UC Davis’ celebration of the campus’s centennial. (Cara Allen/UC Davis photo)
Walk with us through UC Davis’ “Dream Big” exhibition at the state fair.[more…]
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State fair features centennial open house
UC Davis’ gigantic “open house” at the California State Fair is drawing thousands of visitors in a steady stream of student prospects and other interested folks.
Many of them already know a good bit about the university that is just beginning its centennial year.
“This is where I lived my junior year, Indio Hall (in the Regan housing complex),” said Ron Herdman ’75, of San Jose, one of many visitors whose first stop was a giant map of the campus.
Herdman next pointed to the Rec Pool, where he worked as a lifeguard. “And I used to ride on that bus,” referring to the Unitrans double-decker parked outside, beckoning people from the carnival midway.
Floyd Shimomura, ’70 and J.D. ’73, volunteering as a campus ambassador in the pavilion last weekend, said “all the alumni will stop (at the map) and try to figure out where they went to class and where their dorm was.”
Orienting yourself is not so easy, said Shimomura, immediate past president of the Cal Aggie Alumni Association, noting how the campus had grown quite a bit since many of the students had received their degrees and moved on.
“This exhibition is showing a lot of the different things that are happening, and really, how much things have changed,” said Shimomura, who lives in Woodland.
‘Our diversity is on display here’
Agriculture gets its share of attention, befitting UC Davis’ roots as the University Farm, but the 6,000-square-foot “Dream Big” pavilion also focuses on the university’s work on environmental issues, clean energy, sustainability and medicine, including brain research.
“Our diversity is on display here,” said Don Eckels ’65, of Sacramento, another campus ambassador last weekend. “This is awesome.”
Eckels spied a giant photo of Gerbera daisies. “Harry Kohl was working on those when I was there. He was still working on them when I left, but he was obviously successful because I can go into Safeway and buy ’em!”
‘Super, super creative’ exhibition
Ron Alves ’64 described the exhibition as “super, super creative, very well done with a lot of good things.”
Standing at a wall of alumni photos, he spotted someone he knew. “That’s John Harris (of Harris Ranch fame). I went to school with him!”
Alves, a farmer and beekeeper in Oakdale, in Stanislaus County, said he particularly enjoyed seeing Nature’s Gallery, a wall-sized ceramic mosaic showing plants and insects common to the UC Davis Arboretum.
The mosaic, a product of the Art-Science Fusion Program, was a featured exhibit at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C., last year.
“It’s good to see that the university is recognizing itself and touting itself—and what an appropriate place to do it,” Alves said.
From creamery practices to DNA analysis
Indeed, the idea for a University Farm sprouted at the 1899 state fair, when Peter J. Shields, then secretary of the California State Agricultural Society, engaged in a conversation about the dairy industry. That conversation led to his dream of founding an agriculture school.
The exhibition shows just how far the university has come, from early research in creamery practices to a world-renowned viticulture and enology program to the new Olive Center, and from animal husbandry on the farm to pioneering veterinary care for dogs and cats and exotic animals.
UC Davis also is at the forefront of human health, starting from the building blocks of life: DNA. At the exhibition’s Bottle Your DNA booth, fairgoers are invited to swab the insides of their mouths and put the specimens in solution in individual test tubes.
Ten-year-old Lily Lin looks for a tiny coil of her DNA, which will then be extracted and put in a vial that she can wear on a necklace. She did the science project at the UC Davis Centennial pavilion at the state fair. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis photo)
DNA in a test tube
“Turn the test tube in the same direction until the DNA starts spooling, or coiling onto itself,” Carey Kopay told the half-dozen or so people who had gathered for one of her presentations last weekend.
Kopay is executive director of UC Davis’ Edward Teller Education Center, which aims to improve science and technology instruction from kindergarten through community college.
At the center’s booth at the fair, she transferred the DNA from each person’s test tube to a small vial and then attached each vial to a colorful cord-making a DNA necklace. (The Bottle Your DNA activity is presented twice daily, noon-1:30 p.m. and 3:30-5 p.m., free of charge.)
Lily Lin, 10, was among those going away with a necklace. “It’s cool,” she said, describing the DNA project as “one of her best science experiments.”
Of course, the soon-to-be fifth-grader at North Davis Elementary School already knew a lot about DNA: Her father, Dawei Lin, who accompanied his daughter to the state fair, is director of the Bioinformatics Core at the UC Davis Genome Center, where he spends his days analyzing DNA data.
‘Yum, yum, yum, yum!’
Young visitors and their parents also had a fun time learning about UC Davis’ biodigester research, in which Professor Ruihong Zhang is turning food waste into energy.
The state fair exhibition features a whimsical simulator. It starts with a talking purple box: Toss in pretend food scraps (plastic fruits and veggies), and the box says “Yum, yum, yum, yum!”
Anthony Liu, 12, going into the seventh grade at Cooley Middle School in Roseville, explained what was happening next, as bubbling and gurgling sounds came from two large tanks in the biodigester.
“It’s turning it into liquid and then into gas and then into energy,” said Anthony, whose mother, Girlie Erfe, is a nurse at the UC Davis Medical Center.
Asked what he wanted to do when he grew up, Anthony replied: “I don’t know, save the planet, I guess.”
Hybrid gasoline-electric car
Nearby, a hybrid gasoline-electric car captured Tony Peterson’s attention. The Roseville man is an auto mechanic, after all. And his daughter’s name is Mary Chevelle Peterson, “Chevy” for short.
As Chevy slept in her stroller, mom and dad took a look at a large poster display of different kinds of alternative fuel vehicles and how their emissions vary, from a large puff of smoke from a gas-fueled vehicle to a smaller puff from a biofuel vehicle to an even smaller puff from a hybrid to hardly a puff at all from a plug-in hybrid and no puff from a hydrogen fuel cell car.
“I didn’t know anything about the different fuels, except for gas, so this taught me a lot,” Christa Peterson said. “I like that.”
‘This exhibition is showing a lot of the different things that are happening, and really, how much things have changed.’
— Floyd Shimomura, past president of the Cal Aggie Alumni Association
Underground and around the world
Elsewhere in the pavilion, people journeyed underground to learn about earthquakes, landslides and floods—all through the magic of a three-dimensional movie and special glasses. Fairgoers played the Seed Detector game and saw what goes into creating perfect tomatoes, olives, wine grapes and rice.
Other parts of the exhibition tell about irrigation, new lighting technologies and efforts to protect Lake Tahoe.
The exhibition also promotes UC Davis’ contributions “Across the Street and Across the Globe,” from the university’s many cultural celebrations to the sharing of the university’s expertise at home and abroad.
“I didn’t realize UC Davis was involved so much with Egypt, helping them with their rice,” said Don Arnell of Elverta, in northern Sacramento County, as he gazed at a poster of an Egyptian pyramid.
Assisting Afghanistan and Chile
Nearby, two other posters told of UC Davis’ agricultural assistance to Afghanistan and Chile.
Sandy Arnall said: “We’re hoping our granddaughter will go to UC Davis some day.”
Garnering the attention of future students is but one of the exhibition’s goals. Organizers also aim to give people a sense of all that is happening on campus, and leave them with an invitation to come visit.
“The state fair exhibit is a wonderful opportunity for people to connect with UC Davis, whether you’re an alum or someone who’s never connected before,” said Assistant Vice Chancellor Bob Segar, who leads the centennial planning team.
“ ‘Dream Big’ tells the story of an idea that has blossomed into an extraordinary university, of a student who dreams of higher education, and of research into subjects that matter for the health of people and the planet.”
Dave Jones is associate editor of Dateline UC Davis, the faculty-staff newspaper on campus.