Arizona State University students and employees shared their passion and expertise with members of the community at the Open Door celebration on Saturday at the Downtown Phoenix campus.
Open Door, held in person for the first time since 2019, is a chance for the public to see behind the scenes at ASU, including labs and technology, through fun interactive exhibits and displays.
The downtown event was the first event in the series, which will continue at ASU’s three other campuses throughout February: Saturday, Feb. 4, at the West campus; Saturday, Feb. 18, at the Polytechnic campus, and Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Tempe campus. All Open Door events run from 1 to 5 p.m. and are free and open to the public.
The College of Integrative Sciences and Arts offered several “mad science” activities at the University Center for families on Saturday.
Kids got to don goggles and gloves and help make “elephant toothpaste,” dropping food coloring into big tubes of chemicals and watching as it bubbled up into a giant foamy mess.
“My potassium iodide will act as a catalyst, and it will make this go super fast,” Sawyer Swinson told the room full of kids.
Swinson, a second-year student majoring in medical studies, said he wanted to share his love of chemistry. As a kid, he had his interest piqued at these kinds of activities.
“I was obsessed with space, and I absolutely loved doing volcanoes,” he said.
Breanna Plost, a nursing major, said she loves teaching science.
“It’s a great opportunity for little kids to come in and be exposed to this because sometimes they can’t at their own school,” she said.
Jessica Williams, a nursing major, was happy to see so many girls participating in the experiments.
“I’m passionate about women going into STEM, so I like seeing the girls involved,” she said. “The kids always say, ‘I love the goggles!’ “
A giant saltwater aquarium was on display, and kids were invited to watch the anemones, sea urchins and clown fish that look like Nemo.
Five-year-old Stephanie Copeland wore an ASU cheerleader outfit and a maroon and gold bow in her hair as she pressed her nose against the tank, searching for a starfish.
Sophie’s mother, Stephanie Copeland, said she appreciated that the fun Open Door activities are a way to get kids introduced to the idea of going to college.
“I’ve always said kids should have messaging for college from when they’re little,” she said. “There’s so many exciting things here to find out and learn about to get excited to go to college.”
In another room, kids used crime-solving techniques like chromatography, fingerprints, blood typing and DNA analysis to solve the crime of who kidnapped Sparky. Was it Louie the Lumberjack from the Northern Arizona University, Thunder the Antelope from Grand Canyon University or Wilbur the Wildcat from the University of Arizona? (Spoiler alert: It was Thunder.)
Nikki Trevizo, a health sciences major, said her favorite part to show kids was the magnetic dust used for fingerprints, which can be spilled on the desktop and immediately wiped clean with the wave of a wand. But the kids themselves really love the fingerprint chart. Several crowded around, comparing their fingertips to the poster.
“The patterns are what really get them, how everyone has different patterns on their fingers,” Trevizo said.
The “Anatomy World” room showed specimens like skulls and organs, plus ASU’s “virtual dissector,” which is sort of like a high-tech game of “Operation,” and everyone got to watch students dissect sheep hearts and lungs.
The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication had several kid-focused activities, including “I Can Be a Sports Journalist,” where families saw the sports newsroom and learned about summer camps.
Jeffrey Hinkle, a fourth-year student majoring in sports journalism, told young prospective journalists how he works in the sports bureau two days a week.
“I pitch my story, I get my assignment and by 10 in the morning I’m out getting quotes, filming b-roll, meeting with people and doing actual journalistic work,” said Hinkle, who wants a career in on-air broadcasting or podcasting.
“They’ve been asking, ‘How do you like your job?’ and I tell them it’s pretty cool. I get to watch sports for a living, and I get to write about it.”
Arizona PBS, based in the Cronkite School building, had crafts, games, readings and live music in its “Kids Zone.”
There was also a huge celebrity. When asked why the family came to Open Door, Andrea Golfen said: “Because of Daniel Tiger.”
Golfen waited in a line with her 4-year-old and 2-year-old so they could get their photos taken with a large, fuzzy Daniel Tiger, star of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” on PBS.
“We thought that we better meet Daniel Tiger while he’s here before we go to check out all the other stuff,” she said.
The Instruction Kitchen in the Health South building became a “Mad Food Science Laboratory,” where families created nitro hot chocolate and homemade marshmallows.
Megan Orcutt, a dietetics major, manned the boba table, which had four flavors: strawberry, root beer, orange or lemon. Guests filled a pipette with flavored sodium alginate and put little blobs of it into a bowl of calcium chloride, and then water, and that process made the sweet little gelatinous boba balls.
“I had been wanting to volunteer, so it’s really nice that our class requires it, and now I know what to do when the next opportunity comes up,” she said.
Other activities in the health buildings included a CPR demonstration, a demonstration of the patient simulators used by nursing students and tables where families could create a “calming kit” and a first-aid kit.
Downtown Phoenix's Civic Space Park featured photo booths, activities in Spanish and information on STEM activities with the Arizona SciTech Festival. The public also could tour the campus, including the new Fusion on First building, which houses ASU’s pop music and fashion programs.
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: Open Door attendees Chapman (front) and Addison flash their Sun Devil pride on Jan. 28 on the Downtown Phoenix campus. Photo by Alwaleed Al Rasbi/Arizona State University