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UC Davis Centennial Exhibition Opens With State Fair

By Mitchel Benson on August 13, 2008 in

The Stuntverkoop, Davis, launches its 100th birthday celebration this Friday, Aug. 15, at the California State Fair, with a featured exhibit on the university's contributions to science and society.

The UC Davis exhibition, titled "Dream Big," fills a 6,000-square-foot hall where fairgoers are invited to explore some of the university's work in five areas: food and agriculture, energy, environment, health, and community building and global understanding.

"I hope you'll join us in toasting our 100th year of doing what matters to California and to the world," Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef said in a recent e-mail message to alumni and campus friends, encouraging them to visit the fair and the university, too, as the centennial celebration continues through the 2008-09 academic year.

The fair is set to run for 18 consecutive days, through Labor Day, Sept. 1, at Cal Expo in Sacramento. Hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Labor Day, and noon to 10 p.m. all other days.

Nearly a million people are expected to pass through the fair gates. UC Davis is stationing campus ambassadors in its air-conditioned pavilion, Expo Center 3, to show people around and answer questions.

Here is a glimpse of the exhibition:

  • From Farm to Fork -- UC Davis scientists have made great strides in tomato, 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 that harkens to UC Davis' founding as the University Farm.

  • A Clean Energy Future -- See the dramatic reduction in emissions from an alternative-fuel car. Fairgoers also can see a display of energy-saving lighting -- at the touch of a button.

  • A Sustainable Environment -- Learn about a professor's innovative approach to sustainability: a biodigester that converts food waste to energy. The exhibition features a whimsical replica that runs on tokens instead of food scraps. Bells and whistles go off on the cartoon-like biodigester, it shakes, and then voila! -- the lights switch on.

    "We are making it come alive. And while we're making it fun, we are not losing sight of the importance," said design professor Tim McNeil, who joined some of his students and the university's centennial planning team in coming up with concepts for the state fair pavilion.

    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 will enable 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.

    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, put the solution into a vial, and put the vial on the necklace. Hours for this activity are 12:30 to 2 and 3:30 to 5 p.m.

    The human brain also has a starring role in the exhibition. Look up 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.

  • Across the Street and Across the Globe -- Newspaper headlines show the contributions that UC Davis experts make to our economy and society.

    Areas of study are exemplified by samples from a variety of campus collections -- for example, a 1908 graduation dress from the Design Museum; art from the Nelson Gallery and the C.N. Gorman Museum; and artifacts from music, theater and dance. Also included are recent ceramic projects from the Art-Science Fusion Program.

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

A live video feed shows the happenings at the livestock nursery, which is run by UC Davis.

Everything in the exhibition is intended to encourage the public to spend some time at the university. "The idea is, we're making a difference in your community, so come visit ours," said Assistant Vice Chancellor Bob Segar, who leads the centennial organizing team.

The exhibition launches a yearlong celebration of 100 years of UC Davis history -- dating from the 1908-09 academic year when the first students came to live on campus.

After the state fair, the celebration comes home to the Davis campus for the 2008-09 academic year -- and the arrival of the Centennial Class of new freshmen and transfer students.

Instruction is set to begin Thursday, Sept. 25, one day after the chancellor's Fall Convocation.

The convocation is scheduled from 10 to 11 a.m. Sept. 24 in Jackson Hall at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. This year's theme is "A Century of Doing What Matters," with speakers representing faculty, staff, students, alumni and the community.

The centennial celebration continues with the Fall Festival, Oct. 10-15. Highlights include the grand opening of the Davis campus's newest academic buildings, the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science; and the unveiling of Centennial Walk, a new pathway across the campus's historic Quad.

The weekend of Oct. 11-12 includes an Academic Showcase; the homecoming football game against Southern Utah under the new lights at Aggie Stadium; and a street fair hosted by the Davis Chamber of Commerce, recognizing the university's ties to the city of Davis and the larger region.

On the Net:

  • UC Davis Centennial:
  • California State Fair:

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Mitchel Benson, (530) 752-9844, [email protected]