Science at Cal Day

The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and the kids were shooting 2L bottle rockets 30 feet into the air! Cal Day 2011 was an absolute hit with local families and college-seeking high school students. If you weren’t there, then you missed out.

Each year, the departments and museums of UC Berkeley open their doors to share all sorts of Cal-tastic projects, research, and activities with thousands of visitors. With the beautiful sunny weather, this year’s crowd nearly exhausted the hundreds of Cal students who volunteered their time… exhausted with fun, that is!

Outside McLaughlin Hall, a dedicated team of undergraduate students (CalSol) showed off their recently completed, street-legal solar car. With a price tag of $200k for the final product, this project brought together engineering undergrads from throughout the college, providing them with practical, hands-on experience in design. Meanwhile, in Hearst Mining Circle another group of undergrad engineers spent the afternoon grilling up hot dogs for hungry passersby. On Memorial Glade, kids posed for pictures with a larger-than-life Oski. And Sproul Plaza was packed.

The real fun, though, was in the Valley Life Sciences Building. At the Science@Cal tent, integrative biology graduate students taught small tykes how to “fish” for lizards with tiny lizard loops on poles–just like real biologists do in their field work. A few steps away, visitors posed for photos with a 10-foot-long albino python. Indoors, all of the life science museums were open to the public, which is a very special treat. Inside the Jepson Herbarium, visitors learned about pine cones large and small, and they had the opportunity to view some of the weirdest looking fungi around. The kids were very excited about pressing their own flower specimens to take home.

Across the hall, the Museum of Paleontology drew crowds so large that guests had to line up for tickets! As usual, T-rex was a wonderful family photo opportunity. Upstairs in VLSB, the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology opened its doors to let the public see some of their most precious specimens, including whale skulls and preserved fanged frogs. Volunteers also staffed a table with live rescued bats, where visitors could watch these adorable little guys have mealworm snacks and stretch their tiny membrane wings.

On behalf of science and Cal, I’d like to say a special thanks to the hundreds of volunteers who made this day possible. And to all of our special visitors from off-campus, thanks for joining us and see you next year!

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