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Open Door is time to explore at Poly campus

Event offered the public a day to explore the campus' advanced lab spaces, learning experiences


Woman and small child hold a balloon over a large water bottle while smiling.
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February 19, 2023

Arizona State University’s Polytechnic campus put out a large welcome mat on Saturday afternoon, giving the public an opportunity to explore state-of-the-art labs and learning experiences as well as its beautiful, 600-acre campus.

The ASU Open Door celebration was the third in a series, with the final event taking place from 1 to 5 p.m. on Feb. 25 at ASU’s Tempe campus.

RELATED: Check out the Downtown Phoenix campus and West campus events.

“ASU Open Door is an opportunity for us to throw open our doors and showcase all the amazing things happening at the university on a daily basis,” said Darci Nagy, special events manager of ASU’s Office of University Events and Protocol.

Roughly 3,000 people came out for the event, which took place on a warm, sunny day. As a DJ cranked out upbeat tunes, families wandered among green grass and mesquite and palo verde trees. Some pushed strollers while others corralled kids as they chose from 50 interactive activities taking place, including competitive skeleton-building, indoor farming and flight simulators. An occasional roadrunner showed up for the event.

"We invite the community in to get a behind-the-scenes look at what we are working on, including tours of labs, research facilities and dozens of hands-on activities that the public typically doesn’t have access to,” Nagy added.

Polytechnic campus is located in southeast Mesa against the backdrop of the Superstition Mountains. It is home to the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, which offers multiple engineering, environmental, science, management and technology paths. ASU’s pre-veterinary medicine program is a popular concentration, as is their aviation program, where students train to become professional pilots.

In the early afternoon, Dan Pratt, 38, of Mesa and his four children built structures at a lab in the Santan Hall. The ASU alum watched as his son, Ethan, 12, created an intricate, hexagon-shaped tower out of spaghetti and marshmallows.

The Pratts are regulars at the yearly event and were glad to return after the pandemic.

“It gives the kids neat things to think about and cool ideas to consider,” Pratt said. “We always have fun.”

Families, photos and lots of lava fun

Josh Butler, 40, of Gilbert brought his son Jack, 4, to the Open Door. The ASU graduate got a glimpse of his son’s future when he donned a miniature maroon-and-gold cap and gown at a photo booth.

Butler and his son enjoyed watching a robot-building activity before posing for a picture.

“We’ll see what he wants to do,” said Butler. “Right now we’re thinking he wants to be an engineer. He loves to build things.”

For James Moore, 16, of Scottsdale, the event was part of a college tour. Moore wants to study astronautics and is considering The Polytechnic School for his future.

He marveled at a large 3D-printed, gear-driven hummingbird that was part of an event hosted by Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

“I haven’t seen a lot of these at this scale,” said Moore, a junior at Brophy College Preparatory high school. “It is very impressive.”

For Vinny Lima, a biology lab manager in Santan Hall, it was a busy but fulfilling day.

Lima manned the table where students were blowing up balloons without blowing into them.

“We always enjoy having the families together,” Lima said. “It is great to see their smiling faces.”

Next to the balloon experiment, 21 kids crowded around a small table waiting for their turn to create authentic lava lamps with Alka Seltzer and other simple ingredients.

Larry Woo, 57, of Gilbert, watched his son, Nathan, 11, who seemed entranced by the floating amber bubbles in his lamp. Woo said the experiments were valuable educational experiences and that each year his family comes to the event, his children grow in their understanding of the experiments.

“These activities are great because they have science behind them and they are fun to do,” said Woo. “The hands-on experience helps them look at different possibilities for study or college degrees. At least that’s our hope. That’s our plan.”

The aviation building was another huge draw as families crammed into one of four small darkrooms waiting for the opportunity to co-pilot a plane in simulated crew cockpits.

Izzy Robinson, 8, of Mesa, was fascinated by the opportunities before her.

“It must be tempting to just push all of the buttons,” said Robinson, as she sat down at the simulator, grabbed the yoke and made sharp turns before ASU student Colby Brooks guided her to a landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

“It’s been an awesome day,” said Brooks, a senior in the aviation program. “There have been a lot of different kids and a variety of ages. It’s been great to show them what to do and hopefully get them interested in aviation.”

Top photo: Smitha Pillai helps her daughter Suki Shinde, 6, blow up a balloon by mixing baking soda and vinegar at ASU Open Door on Saturday, Feb. 18, on the Polytechnic campus in Mesa, Arizona. Pillai is a chemistry teaching associate professor on the Tempe campus. She says that mixing Na2CO3 and CH3COOH produces CO2. The event was a day for the public to enjoy hands-on experiences with flight simulators, one-minute challenges, 3D-printed and laser-cut materials, lessons in chemistry, computer engineering, indoor farming and other innovation enterprises. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

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