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Science, art activities on display at West campus Open Door


Two young children look at a container with scorpions.
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February 05, 2023

On a gorgeous Saturday afternoon at Arizona State University’s West campus, it was imperative to follow the bouncing blue balloons. 

They were the signposts for exhibits and displays at ASU Open Door, which is a chance for the public to see everything there is to offer on the university’s campuses.

The West campus event was the second in the series, which began Jan. 28 with the Downtown Phoenix campus. The Polytechnic campus will host the event on Feb. 18 and the Tempe campus on Feb. 25. All Open Door events run from 1 to 5 p.m. and are free and open to the public.

“It’s been three years since we’ve done this,” said Todd Sandrin, vice provost of the West campus in referencing the pandemic. “It’s fantastic to be back in the communities talking about the programs we offer here. It’s an opportunity for us to showcase to the community what the charter really means; that is how we assume fundamental responsibility for the health of the communities that we serve.

“And we have a lot of fun in the process.”

Several blue balloons pointed families to the Secrets of Real Life CSI Investigations display. Tess Neal, director of the ASU Future of Forensic Science Initiative, told visitors that all the disciplines in the forensics “work together to improve the justice system.”

But forensics can be fun, too. Neal pointed out that the creator of the lie detector, William Marston, also created the Wonder Woman character and her truth lasso.

A few feet away, Vanessa Grifford watched as her 15-year-old niece, Kallie Rich, looked at fruit fly eggs and the insides of a dog’s stomach through several microscopes.

“I just wanted to show her what ASU has to offer, Grifford said, since her niece and her niece’s friend are getting ready to explore their college options.

At the CSI For Kids exhibit, Erin Moore, a third-year student majoring in forensic science, staged a forensic trivia contest, with winners getting gift bags.

One of the questions: “Someone can be identified based on their teeth, true or false?”

Daniela Reyes, a Tempe teenager, got the answer (true) right and the gift bag. She also liked what she saw of the West campus.

“I wanted to experience what this campus has,” Reyes said. “I like that it has a lot of science stuff. It seems pretty interesting. It’s pretty quiet and chill, too.”

Julianna Lenzi, a first-year student at ASU, showed a young girl how a solar oven can be made out of a shoe box, aluminum foil, saran wrap and black construction paper. When the box was done, Lenzi handed the girl two graham crackers, a marshmallow and some chocolate and told her to place the box outside in the sun for about 20 minutes. Then, viola, she’d have a s’more.

Down the walkway, Melissa Escalera was having pictures taken of her daughters, Gabriella, 16, and Melanie, 10, in an ASU cap and gown at the Future Sun Devil table.

“This is our first time here. We’re pretty impressed,” Escalera said.

As families walked around campus, they were able to satisfy their appetite with kettle corn from a food truck, cotton candy, popsicles and food from the Verde Dining Pavilion. Sparky was on hand, as well.

The sweets could be burned off at the Hip-Hop For Fun lessons, where ASU students were teaching basic hip-hop moves.

Inside the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation showroom, ASU journalism student Max Baker was overseeing the creation of First Aid kits, using items such as bandages, rubbing alcohol, lip balm and single-use thermometers.

Mackenzie Cotlow, who works at Edson College as a project manager, displayed items such as a journals, affirmation cards and stress balls that could be used in a “calming kit.”

“It’s like a little tool kit that encourages people who are in high stress situations to rest and recharge,” said Cotlow, adding that calming kits are for children and adults. “Everybody needs that.”

Children with an interest in science flocked to exhibits and demonstrations at the Herberger Young Scholars Academy, which offers a learning environment designed for highly gifted students in grades 7 to 12.

The academy has cutting-edge classrooms, a makerspace for collaborative projects, a black-box theater for drama, a fish tank that students are responsible for, an amphitheater and outdoor spaces with raised-bed gardens.

Michael Sarraino, an instructional professional at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, showed kids how to plant sunflowers and perennials that would attract butterflies, hummingbirds and bees.

Inside the makerspace lab, students Jonathan Holt, 14, and Emmett Unger, 13, were working on a robot operated by human remote control that, once functional, would prevent possible injury in catastrophic weather conditions.

“If power lines were down, it could pick up material and get it to higher reach places without someone risking getting electrocuted,” Unger said. 

Find more information about the upcoming Open Door events at opendoor.asu.edu. Guests are requested to have a ticket. Tickets are free and available online or at the door; tickets ordered by the Wednesday before each event will be entered in a drawing for a swag bag.

Top photo: Rakella Tso, 7 (left), and her brother Ramari, 9, look at bark scorpions on display at ASU Open Door on Saturday, Feb. 4, on the West campus. More than 1,000 people came to get hands-on experiences with 34 events ranging from learning about starting a lemonade business to CSI experiences and bugs. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

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