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One university, multiple locations and a plethora of research projects, but what exactly is happening in the classrooms and labs at Arizona State University? Block your calendar and invite your friends to take a sneak peek at what Sun Devils are really up to and why ASU is the most innovative university in the nation five years in a row.
Each year during ASU Open Door, ASU welcomes the community to visit the spaces accessible only to students, faculty and staff. Open Door is a signature event of the Arizona SciTech Festival and features all things science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) nearly every Saturday during the month of February.
1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1
Downtown Phoenix campus
1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8
1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22
1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 29
It’s a time where young learners outnumber the college students. There is no age limit on learning, and whether you’re new to school or a lifelong learner, you’re sure to find something you enjoy and learn something new.
“What makes ASU Open Door so unique is that visitors not only see the spaces and labs where students learn, our students and faculty are able to talk to the community about the exciting things they do here,” said Darci Nagy, ASU special events manager. “They share their research and knowledge in a fun and interactive way.”
Visitors can explore the spaces that house innovative research, discoveries and art: Pet a snake or two and find out what’s really in whale poop. Open Door highlights the purposeful research being done at ASU, the solutions being developed and the impact it’s making in communities — all while having a little fun.
ASU hosts hundreds of interactive, hands-on activities across the four campus locations. Each campus has a different personality, look and feel, making each feel like an individual, unique adventure.
Head to the green lawns of West campus. It kicks off the monthlong event with forensics, crime scene investigation, glow-in-the-dark rocks and sharks. Sharks? Yep — sharks in the desert is a real thing at West.
James Sulikowski is a marine biologist, professor and associate director at the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences. He studies aquatic life, including sharks, and visitors can see his collection of shark jaws at Open Door.
He’ll share interesting facts, dispel myths and how people can help shark conservation efforts.
“Sharks are incredible animals that both fascinate and terrify people,” Sulikowski said. “Unfortunately, misinformation and misconceptions have left many sharks unjustly vilified. I hope everyone walks away from our Open Door event knowing how import sharks are to the marine ecosystem.”
Humans are not on the shark menu, he added.
In the heart of downtown Phoenix, plenty of activities abound: Coral reefs, meditation and mindfulness tips, the World Press Photo Exhibition and even PBS Kids can be found. There are no elephants at the Downtown Phoenix campus, but there will be elephant toothpaste — a chemistry experiment that generates a colorful volcano of foam.
Cayle Lisenbee is a general biology and microbiology lecturer at the College of Integrative Arts and Sciences, and events like Open Door allow him to share science in a way that visitors might not otherwise experience.
“The elephant-toothpaste reaction is a super fun demonstration that is intended to generate excitement and stimulate the natural curiosity that kids and parents have about science,” he said. “I hope that they develop a renewed interest in asking questions and finding answers that add value to their day-to-day lives.”
Events like Open Door allow students, faculty and staff to give back to the community in a positive way and show people ASU’s commitment to education and research, he added.
Join Open Door at the campus where it all started, Tempe. Glassblowing, reptiles, art, dancing, poetry and NASA. Visitors should bring their walking shoes to explore activities spanning the entire campus and get ready for a deep dive with the students who are part of Underwater Robotics at Arizona State, a competitive underwater robotics team on campus.
Kira Tijerino, a senior studying mechanical engineering, has been involved with the student organization since she was a first-year student.
Tijerino says that part of their passion is inspiring the next generation of engineers and STEM professionals through events such as these, demonstrating their swimming robot and allowing visitors to guide it underwater.
“I think it’s important to share our work with kids and parents who visit this event because I can look back to my childhood and remember how activities like these became my inspiration to choose engineering as a career path,” she said.
Race into the last week of Open Door with Baja Sun Devil Racing at the Polytechnic campus. Visitors can talk to the all-female, award-winning Desert Wave robotics team; check out algae; and attempt a smooth landing at the air traffic control simulation lab.
Marc O'Brien, chair of ASU's aviation program at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, slowed down enough to say that Open Door at Polytechnic allows the community to experience the kinesthetic and collaborative events that the aviation program provides its students.
“I hope it inspires someone to consider a career in aviation,” he said.
“I hope kids leave with a renewed curiosity for all things science, technology, engineering, arts and math,” Nagy said. “And parents leave with a better understanding of the learning and teaching that takes place at ASU and why it’s considered one of the most innovative universities in the nation.”
For more information on dates, locations, free tickets and parking, visit opendoor.asu.edu.
Top photo: Five-year-old Elizabeth Unrein, of Buckeye, Arizona, looks at cancer-fighting superbugs at the ASU Open Door on the Tempe campus on Feb. 23, 2019. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now