National Folklife Festival highlights OSU research

Jae Park and Matt Fowler with some future seafood experts, showing off their creations. (contributed photo)

Despite record-breaking temperatures, power outages, and a massive storm that damaged many exhibits, staff, faculty and students from Oregon State University spent two weeks on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. as part of the National Folklife Festival, sponsored by the Smithsonian.

OSU was one of 28 land grant universities who participated in the festival this year, which honored the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act, which created the land grant university system.

A number of OSU exhibits drew large crowds during the two-week event, with more than 10,500 people actively participating in some of the hands-on activities provided by OSU staff and students, and countless others observing the fun and listening to presentations by OSU faculty. A massive storm that blew through the area closed down the festival on June 30, but with the dedication and enthusiasm of exhibit staffers, the show was up and running again by July 1.

Among the most popular activities were a robotics demonstration by 4-H Tech Wizards, a miniature wave-flume created by the Hinsdale Wave Research Lab, and a Surimi seafood mini school.

While in Washington, D.C., OSU representatives also met with a number of Congressional staff to talk about issues important to the university, and to share with them some of the important research OSU is doing in areas critical to the health and well-being of the nation, and the world. The topics of Japanese tsunami debris and the emergence of invasive species along the West Coast were some of the issues highlighted during discussions with staffers.

A number of OSU alums in the D.C. area volunteered at the Folklife Festival and were able to learn more about some of the work their alma mater is currently doing. Marie Rietmann, a 1980 OSU graduate, worked with the OSU Tech Wizards to help participating children build rockets out of construction paper.

“The kids (and I) learned things like principles of thermodynamics and Newton’s Third Law through building our rockets,” Rietmann said. “OSU Extension personnel Octaviano Merecias-Cuevas and Miguel Cholula led this activity with great expertise and enthusiasm.”

Susan Smith Sedgewick, Class of ’66 and ’68, had fun working at the miniature wave tank.

“The big take away for me was the number of people who stopped in just because it was the OSU tent,” she said. “I had a great time chatting with alums, faculty from other schools who had professional connections with OSU faculty, grown children of retired deans, etc.  It all reminded me of the “friendly campus” of my undergraduate years.”

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