Friday afternoon on the University of Arizona Mall looked more like science fiction than reality.
Students showed off a solar car that get 3,000 miles to the “gallon,” robotic insects crawled around onlookers’ feet, one student wore a brain scanner that tests athletes for injuries and another showed off a system the size your fist that generates as much power as three average rooftop panels.
In all, 27 booths featured a variety of UA expertise at the Expo of Excellence Friday. They gave visitors a peek at the groundbreaking research UA students are capable of – a hands-on way to show the public why supporting the University is so important.
The expo was part of a daylong event to kick off Arizona Now, the public phase of a campaign that aims to raise $1.5 billion for the University. President Ann Weaver Hart officially announced the campaign and its goals Friday evening. A fireworks display followed the announcement.
“This is our moment,” Hart told the crowd. “The possibility of what happens now depends on you, and together there are no limits to what we can achieve. Let’s show the world what the Wildcat family is made of, and let’s do it now.”
Arizona Now will support the UA’s strategic plan, Never Settle, which aims to advance the University's 21st-century land-grant mission and boost the state’s economy and beyond by graduating students who possess real-world experience.
During the kickoff event, campaign co-chairs Jeff Stevens and Sarah Smallhouse announced that so far, the UA has already raised $859 million through private donations during the quite phase of the campaign, which is the largest in University history.
“Modern athletic facilities, state-of-the-art laboratories, and high-tech classrooms are all important and necessary for our university to compete. You don’t put spaceships on Mars or win national championships without them," Stevens said.
UA Students are Making a Difference
In the psychology booth at the expo, graduate student Ezra Smith provided a glimpse into medical advances the UA is bringing to the world.
Sitting in a chair, wearing a cap covered in wires attached to a TV monitor, Smith explained how his creation, funded by an NCAA grant, will allow doctors to examine an athlete’s brain moments after the athlete suffers a head trauma. The monitor showed in real time Smith’s brain activity, which he was able to alter with simple actions such as deep breathing.
“It provides 1,000 data points in the brain,” Smith said. “We then take that data and run it through software we created. It tells us how parts of the brain are talking to each other.”
Farther down the UA Mall, senior Nick Kaczorowski and junior Clark Pederson, both studying mechanical engineering, explained how solar power could eventually “fuel” a car for 3,000 miles.
“There’s no gas motor in this,” Kaczorowski said as he pointed out features on a car he and other students built. “The panels charge a battery. It’s an electric car powered with solar.”
They built the car in 2008 and will soon start on their next solar car, which they’ve named Icarus. The previous car built by engineering students had the potential to maintain power for 2,000 miles.
Science had a big presence at the expo, but in one booth – the Eller College of Management – visitors learned that students are starting businesses long before they graduate.
Colton Cray showed off his new business venture, BottleKnows Wines, which he co-founded with a fellow classmate. The senior is about to graduate with four majors – finance, management information systems, operations management and entrepreneurship. After graduation, he’s headed to law school.
BottleKnows Wines is built on the idea of basic wine education through labeling. Labels on the bottles tell buyers what food to pair with the wine, what grapes are inside and include suggestions for other wines and even proper pronunciation guides.
“We wanted to make wine approachable. Not everyone can take a trip to Napa,” Cray said. “We make our own wines and feature them with tutorial labels. Everything is done locally – including the grape growing.”
The budding company’s Facebook page encourages wine buyers to “Never be embarrassed on a date or at a dinner party again. Just because you're busy doesn't mean you shouldn't know how to enjoy the king of all beverages.”
The UA, like most other public universities nationwide, relies on private support to maintain its competitive advantage and fiscal health. With state funding in continual decline, philanthropic support is critical.
Smallhouse, chair of the UA Foundation Board of Trustees, said the campaign will “focus on investments that yield new discoveries, provide opportunities for student and faculty study and support research on the most pressing and significant issues of our time.
“It will ensure that the University of Arizona will continue to be a vital local and global community contributor.”
To see a full photo gallery of Friday's events, go here.