The University of Illinois will be home to expos and open houses from several major units this weekend. Here's a preview:
1. Satisfy your natural curiosity at Naturally Illinois Expo
What bugs a dinosaur?
Mosquitoes, as Michael Crichton imagined in "Jurassic Park."
But the late author's idea of capturing their DNA is probably not feasible, says a Prairie Research Institute scientist who has insects as long as 2 inches that have been preserved in amber, a gem that owes its beginning to sticky tree sap.
Sam Heads, an entomologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey, says the DNA has degraded from specimens that are many millions of years old, though some small biological chemicals remain, as well as muscle fibers.
"Even the youngest amber is several million years old, and DNA is very unstable," he said.
"Bugging the Dinosaurs: 3-D Reconstruction of Fossil Insects" shows how researchers can use new three-dimensional imaging technology and software to study insect fossils preserved in amber from times when dinosaurs stomped the earth.
Heads said his group uses an accelerator called a synchrotron to record high-resolution three-dimensional data "using a fancy software package in 3-D."
Unlike clear jewelry amber, Heads is using many cloudy samples that hide the treasures within.
Though the study also includes Baltic and Dominican Republic amber, he said interesting data is coming from "Cretaceous amber from southern France 100 million years old with a wide range of different insects."
Heads is showing "Bugging the Dinosaurs" as part of the fifth annual Naturally Illinois Expo, which features 48 exhibits, demonstrations and hands-on science activities for the public, teachers and students of all ages.
Visitors can talk with scientists from the state scientific surveys who work on solutions to water, energy, climate, ecosystem, technology, and cultural resource issues, its website notes.
The open houses run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and 10 to 3 Saturday and are centered at the Prairie Research Institute Natural Resources Building and Grounds, 607 E. Peabody Drive, C.
Free parking and shuttle buses are available; more information is at http://www.prairie.illinois.edu/expo/.
2. Engineering, Beckman open houses will dazzle you
Robots and bombs might sound like a risky business, but this year's Engineering Open House will show how robots can make you safer.
Director Gloria Lin said the event, which runs Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., will have special visitors on the first day.
"We're excited to welcome the University of Illinois police and Champaign police to our event," Lin said.
You can see the Remotec Andros F6-B Bomb Squad Robot in action on Friday at 112 Transportation Building. Demo times will be at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 and 3:30 p.m.
The UI's Fire Safety Institute will also make an appearance.
The 260 student-run exhibits are scattered over the engineering campus north of Green Street in Urbana. It is the largest event of its type in the country.
Exhibits include everything from concrete crushing to a Tesla coil to Newtonian fluid demonstrations.
Engineering students from universities around the country travel to compete in the AMD Jerry Sanders Creative Design Competition. This year's competition features a "Tron"-inspired game where teams race to take control of sections of the course to create lines and gain points.
"There are 15,000 to 20,000 visitors a year," said Lin, a senior. "We take over every building on the engineering campus. There are 1,000 students from the Chicago area alone."
More information is at http://eoh.ec.illinois.edu/.
The Beckman Institute holds a biennial open house in conjunction with the College of Engineering. Bert the Robot is one of the stars; he doesn't dismantle bombs.
Beckman Institute is at 405 N. Mathews Ave., U. Metered parking is available in the parking deck across from the building on Mathews and Goodwin.
Its open house is 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and 9 to 3 Saturday.
Events include "A 3-D Journey through Molecules of Life," "Attention in Real-World Tasks," "Behavior Genetics and Drug Addiction" and "Bathroom of the Future."
More information is at http://beckman.illinois.edu/events/open-house.
And while you're on campus, you can take a self-guided tour of the National Petascale Computing Facility (Blue Waters) 1725 S. Oak St, C.
The facility is open for tours from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
3. ExplorACES offers two days of fun for visitors
One of the most venerable and crowd-pleasing events on the University of Illinois campus is the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences' open house, which runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday and 10 to 2 Saturday.
Friday events include "Building a Pizza Hut Pizza from the Ground Up," "Exploring the Sheep Industry" and "Travel the World in Our Greenhouse Tour."
Saturday includes "Floral Design to Music," "The Commodity Trading Group," "Eating Dirt!" and "The Cocoa Bean: Chocolate's Dark Past."
The events take place at Turner Hall, the ACES Library, the UI Stock Pavilion and other ACES buildings.
Parking is free, with free shuttle service to both ExplorACES and Engineering Open House available on Friday in Lot E-14, just west of the Assembly Hall.
On Saturday only, ExplorACES visitors are encouraged to park in the garage at the corner of Gregory Drive and Dorner Drive in Urbana.
More information is available at http://exploraces.org/exhibits/.
4. ExperienceAHS event provides a glimpse into college disciplines
ExperienceAHS, the College of Applied Health Sciences Open House, runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
It's free; most of the events are at George Huff Hall at the corner of Fourth and Gregory.
The mission of ExperienceAHS is to showcase the many unique opportunities within the college, offering a glimpse of what students experience in such fields as kinesiology, community health, recreation, sport and tourism, speech and hearing science and interdisciplinary health, its Web page notes.
LoriKay Paden, undergraduate adviser in department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism, said the college has "worked out a day of interactive activities, displays and information sessions.
"The prospective students and their parents will have the opportunity to engage in activities, talk to students, faculty and advisers," she said.
"We understand this is a very important decision, so we hope to clearly demonstrate to students and families who we are. Our college is an amazing opportunity as we mesh the world-class research with the 'applied' part of our industries."
More information is at http://www.ahs.uiuc.edu/ExperienceAHS/Schedule.aspx.