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UC Davis Centennial
100 years of service, solutions, impact

UC Davis is State Fair highlight

What we are exhibiting at the fair

Drawing: Marston Golden Sunbeam

A century ago, people were riding this Marston Golden Sunbeam, the two-wheeled bicycle shown in this illustration that looks remarkably similar to the bikes of today.

UC Davis at the State Fair

What were people driving and riding in 1908-09, the year students first came to live at UC Davis?

The Ford Model T, for one, and the Marston Golden Sunbeam, a two-wheeled bicycle that looks remarkably similar to the bikes of today.

In fact, you can see the English-built, multispeed Golden Sunbeam hanging from the ceiling in the UC Davis Centennial pavilion at the state fair. The early 1900s Marston is from the UC Davis bicycle collection — a tribute to the campus’s long tradition as a place where bikes rule the road.

As for the Model T, which came to market in 1908, well, you can see a picture of one. The only car on display in the pavilion is a plug-in hybrid in a part of the exhibition called “Green Wheels,” showcasing the university’s research into alternative fuels — and attaining 100 miles per gallon in a combination gas-electric vehicle.

A sign explains the overarching goal: “Fueling the Drive Towards Cleaner Air.”

Other “Green Wheels” include the newest craze in campus bicycling: Aggie Cruisers, from a San Diego company that invites college students to “ride your pride.”

UC Davis shows off more of its bicycling pride with two other historic rides from the university collection: a high-wheeler from 1889 and Eric Heiden’s time-trial racer from the 1986 Tour de France. Heiden, an Olympic champion speed skater before turning to bicycling, went on to become a physician who worked for several years at the UC Davis Medical Center.

Here is a glimpse of the rest of the exhibition:

From farm to fork

Photo: Strawberry Basket

UC Davis scientists have made great strides in tomato, olive, wine grape and strawberry production, and fairgoers are invited to do the same — in jigsaw puzzle fashion. Different puzzle pieces represent different traits, such as color, juiciness and sweetness, and mold and pest resistance.

You will find the puzzles in a mini metal silo, representing a campus landmark — still in use today, as part of a dining area — that harkens to UC Davis’ founding as the University Farm.

Photo: Fluorescent Bulb

A Clean Energy Future

See the dramatic reduction in emissions from alternative-fuel cars. Fairgoers also can visit the “Illumination Station,” where at a touch of a button they can see incandescent, compact fluorescent and light-emitting diode lighting — and learn which one uses the least energy. (Hint: Its initials are LED.)

The university‘s California Lighting Technology Center also showcases its research into a kitchen lighting system that cuts electricity consumption dramatically; in fact, all this system needs is the amount of power that, say, a coffee grinder uses. Another conservation project takes advantage of daylight for interior lighting, in some cases cutting power consumption more than 50 percent.

A Sustainable Environment

Learn about a professor’s innovative approach to sustainability: a biodigester that converts food waste to energy.

Photo: Energy from table scraps

“Operation Biodigester” features a whimsical replica that runs on plastic fruits and vegetables instead of food scraps. The cartoon-like biodigester says “yum, yum, yum, yum!” when fed, then makes bubbling and gurgling sounds before finally announcing: “Congratulations! You’ve made energy out of food scraps.”

The exhibition’s environment zone also includes the continuous showing of California Calamities, a three-dimensional movie about earthquakes, landslides and flooding.

The movie from the university’s Keck CAVES, short for Center for Active Visualization in the Earth Sciences, will turn you into a geological “insider.” Your 3-D glasses allow you to take an underground tour during which you will venture into an earthquake fault and burrow into a levee, for example.

Longer, Healthier Lives

Showcasing the university’s medical breakthroughs, and different ways that caregivers are reaching out to the public with new treatments and healing strategies.

Photo: A human brain

Much of today’s medical research revolves around DNA — and it takes center stage every afternoon when fairgoers are invited to make DNA necklaces: you swab your mouth to gather some skin cells, put the cells in a solution, separate the DNA and put it into a vial. The vial then goes on the necklace. Hours for this free activity are noon to 1:30 and 3:30 to 5 p.m.

The human brain also has a starring role in the exhibition. Look up in the “Brain Lab” to see flashing lights that simulate the firing of synapses. Down below, fairgoers can tackle puzzles and memory games that demonstrate the university’s research into the mind — the visual cortex, the frontal lobe and the temporal lobe.

Across the Street and Across the Globe

All through the exhibit you can see examples of how UC Davis shares its knowledge in the region (in schools and medical clinics) and beyond (in places like Chile and Afghanistan and Egypt).

“We find real-world solutions to real-world problems” is how Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef phrases it.

The university also cultivates understanding of people and cultures. One part of the exhibition invites fairgoers to “Listen to the World” — represented by university musicians, poets and linguists, whose work has been recorded for replay through headphones.

For example, you can hear Pulitzer Prize-winner Gary Snyder reading his poem In the Santa Clarita Valley.

You can hear the phrase “Welcome to the UC Davis Centennial exhibit” in Mandarin Chinese and Yoruba, the latter originating in Nigeria, in west Africa. A sign explains: “UC Davis is interested in studying this language because learning about other languages and cultures increases our awareness and appreciation for the larger world.”

Some of that appreciation is on display in campus galleries, and you can see some of their artifacts in the centennial pavilion. Also included is an Oroville woman’s high school graduation dress from 1908 — a gown that is now part of the university’s Design Museum.

Ask a faculty expert

For anything you might want to know about these artifacts and others in the university’s collections, or about poetry or world cultures or science, UC Davis invites you to “Ask a Faculty Expert.”

A number of faculty-authored books are on display. They include Blessed Among Nations: How the World Made America, by Eric Rauchway, history professor and director of the Center for History, Society and Culture; California Rivers and Streams: The Conflict Between Fluvial Process and Land Use, by Jeffrey Mount, geology professor and director of the Center for Watershed Sciences; and To Be American: Cultural Pluralism and the Rhetoric of Assimilation, by Bill Ong Hing, professor of law and Asian-American studies.

Much more about UC Davis can be learned from NewsWatch videos showing continuously around the exhibit hall. The television segments, produced by the university for KVIE-TV, showcase UC Davis research and other news.

A monitor in the exhibit offers a live video feed of the happenings at the livestock nursery, which is run by UC Davis. You also can watch the nursery from your own computer, controlling the view remotely through your browser.

The centennial pavilion also invites people to “Go to a Game” or “Attend a Festival” — or both — to take advantage of all that UC Davis has to offer.

“This exhibition is our chance to share a slice of life at UC Davis, and invite people to come see the real thing,” said Assistant Vice Chancellor Bob Segar, who leads the centennial planning team.

Dave Jones is associate editor of Dateline UC Davis, the faculty-staff newspaper on campus.