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Tempe Open Door concludes monthlong series of 2024 events

Attendees get a taste of ASU’s innovative spaces with a big helping of STEM-related exhibits

Boy interacting with VR headset and hand sensors

Eleven-year-old Kaleb Richardson explores an alien world in a Dreamscape Learn demo during ASU Open Door at the Tempe campus on Feb. 24. Photo by Emma Fitzgerald/Arizona State University

February 25, 2024

Arizona State University’s Tempe campus took on an intimate and inviting atmosphere on Saturday, as it opened its physical and metaphorical doors to the public.

ASU Open Door 2024 held its final event of the year on Feb. 24, offering adults and children of all ages a behind-the-scenes look at a university committed to excellence and transforming higher education. 

With approximately 250 interactive exhibits to choose from, the annual event had something for everyone. Some came for fun and discovery; others came to explore the campus to see what it had to offer. Lyla and Kaleb Richardson of Mesa came for an adventure.

The first in line to enter the Dreamscape Learn lab in ASU’s Creative Commons, the brother and sister engaged with a 12-minute version of an immersive learning experience called “Alien Zoo.”

“I think it was really cool,” said 16-year-old Lyla Richardson, who attends Mesa High School. “It was very detailed and opened up a whole new world for me.”

She also liked visiting the campus and getting a taste of college life.

“It’s definitely a lot bigger than Mesa High,” said Lyla, who would like to study English when she graduates high school. “The buildings are spacious, and there’s a lot going on here.”

Her 11-year-old brother, Kaleb, was equally effusive about “Alien Zoo” and life at a major university.

“It was super interactive, and I liked flying around in the spaceship,” said Kaleb, who attends Mesa’s Poston Junior High. “It gets me excited for college.”

Girl participating in VR demo
Sixteen-year-old Lyla Richardson engages with a Dreamscape Learn VR demo during ASU Open Door at the Tempe campus on Feb. 24. Photo by Emma Fitzgerald/Arizona State University

That’s the very reason why Lisa Yu Ye of Chandler brought her daughter, Eva, to the Tempe Open Door event.

“We came here last year and had a very good experience. She (Eva) loved all the hands-on experiences, and it motivated her to learn more,” said Yu Ye, who looked on as Eva decorated a card for her mom at an arts and crafts table outside Hayden Library. “She’s in kindergarten, now but I want to bring here her when she’s in grade school, middle school and high school. It’s a very good way to introduce her to college.”

Even at 6 years old, Eva knows what she wants to do.

“I’d like to teach,” she said.

Young girl coloring while mom looks on
Six-year-old Eva An (left) and her mother, Lisa Yu Ye, work on a craft project together during the Tempe campus Open Door on Feb. 24. Photo by Emma Fitzgerald/Arizona State University

Six-year-old Isla Jones from Phoenix is also whip-smart. She quickly picked up on a sign language lesson taught by Hannah Cheloha inside Durham Hall.

“It’s a simple activity that teaches people how to finger spell their name and say, ‘Nice to meet you’ and give a basic introduction," said Cheloha, an associate teaching professor and director of the American Sign Language program in ASU’s School of International Letters and Cultures. “Little kids are fast to pick up on it because their brains are like elastic and more connected to the mind and body.”

Cheloha said it takes about 2,200 hours for someone to achieve proficiency in sign language, and Isla definitely showed promise.

“We learned sign language at my old school,” said Isla, who was accompanied by her father, Travor. “I learned the whole alphabet, so I know all that.”

Young girl learning out to spell sign from teahcer
Six-year-old Isla Jones learns to spell in American Sign Language during ASU Open Door at the Tempe Campus on Feb. 24. Photo by Emma Fitzgerald/Arizona State University

Six-year-old Raphael Hebie is showing an aptitude for engineering, which is why he plopped himself in the seat of an immersive Sun Devil Motor Sports – Formula SAE car in front of the Engineering Center G on Tyler Mall.

“It looked like a real car, so I thought it would be cool to drive it,” said Hebie, who took a virtual spin in the high-performance race car, courtesy of the Ira A. Schools of Engineering.

His mother, Leah, said Raphael has an “obsession” with engineering and that this activity, which blends cutting-edge automotive technology with the thrill of virtual racing, was perfect for him.

“It gets him to thinking and dreaming about all the different things he could do with engineering,” said Leah, who was visiting from Santa Barbara, California. “He likes working on circuits and building marble runs at home. He doesn’t just have an extraordinary interest in the subject but a real obsession.”

Young boy virtually driving a small race car
Six-year-old Raphael Hebie — whose mom says he is obsessed with engineering — virtually drives a Formula SAE race car during ASU Open Door at the Tempe Campus on Feb. 24. Photo by Emma Fitzgerald/Arizona State University

Eleven-year-old Nikhican Ramasamy has a developing interest in the field of cybersecurity, and learned — thanks to Sana Habib at a booth in the Biodesign Institute Building B ​​​— about the first computer virus ever launched.

“The virus was written by a boy who was 14 years old on an old Apple computer,” said Habib, a PhD student at the Biodesign Center for Biocomputing, Security, and Society. “This activity is an introductory to cybersecurity, which has several levels of severity. Some viruses are meant to bug or prank someone, and then there are viruses that extract data from businesses or your phone. Thousands are launched every day.”

This certainly piqued Ramasamy’s curiosity.

“What interests me about computers is that they’re complex and can perform actions from simple commands,” said Ramasamy, who attends Arizona College Prep Middle School in Chandler.

Ramasamy said he hasn’t thought about a major just yet, but higher education is definitely in his future.

“College seems like an extension of high school,” he said, “but when you look at what they’re actually doing, it’s a lot different than what you might expect.”

Woman teaches young boy about early computer programming
Sana Habib (right), research assistant for the Biodesign Center for Biocomputing, Security and Society, teaches 11-year-old Nikhican Ramasamy about bio-inspired cybersecurity research during ASU Open Door at the Tempe campus on Feb. 24. Photo by Emma Fitzgerald/Arizona State University

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