UC Berkeley to welcome visitors, expand minds at Cal Day open house

Whether you’re a robotics enthusiast or a fan of children’s literature, a sports buff or a classical music aficionado, or someone who is simply eager to hear what a Nobel-winning astrophysicist has to say about our expanding universe, the wide array of activities offered at Cal Day will keep you busy.

Cal Day robot

Kids try to fool light-seeking Lego robots in a Cal Day demonstration at the College of Engineering. (Photo by Sara Leavitt)

On Saturday, April 21, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the University of California, Berkeley, will open the campus to the public, offering free access to more than 370 events at labs, performance halls, museums, classrooms and more. An annual event, Cal Day is expected to attract 40,000 visitors this year.

In keeping with this year’s theme, “Expand Your Universe,” Chancellor Robert Birgeneau will interview Saul Perlmutter, who won a Nobel Prize in Physics in 2011, on Cal Day. Perlmutter, a UC Berkeley professor of physics and a faculty senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, led one of two teams behind the discovery that the expansion of the universe was accelerating instead of slowing, as had been previously thought.

Backyard stargazers should also note astronomy professor Alex Filippenko’s talk about two rare celestial events that will soon be visible from California, and anyone wondering what went wrong with the 2012 Mayan calendar doomsday prediction should drop in on scientist Bryan Mendez’s talk at the Space Sciences Laboratory.

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More down-to-earth topics will be discussed by campus experts including former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, a UC Berkeley professor of public policy, who will analyze political civility during a campaign year. Ananya Roy, education director at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, will talk about how UC Berkeley students are addressing global poverty and inequality worldwide, and Jennifer Ahern, assistant professor of epidemiology, will explore how your neighborhood affects your health.

Other earthbound events include the mock dig site at the Archaeological Research Facility. Budding fossil hunters can also get up close and personal with Cretaceous era specimens, including turtle shells and dinosaur teeth, at the Valley Life Sciences Building, and hear integrative biology professor Kevin Padian, curator at the UC Museum of Paleontology, explain the growth of dinosaurs.

Cal Day lizard

A six-year-old Cal Day visitor stares down a mounted lizard specimen at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. (Photo by Peg Skorpinski)

Newly admitted students and their families make up a large proportion of visitors to Cal Day, where they will get a special welcome from the chancellor and campus leaders at 8:30 a.m. Sessions about financial aid will include details of new support for middle-class families. Tours of student housing, academic departments, and sports and recreational facilities, along with hundreds of informational booths showcasing student organizations, will help orient newcomers to campus life. 

Prospective students can also hear Anne De Luca, associate vice chancellor for admissions and enrollment, demystify the application process, and transfer students can drop in on special advising sessions.

Those who will not be college-bound in the near future will find plenty to enjoy, including performances of traditional Ghana dance, Taiko drumming, and a string quintet playing Franz Schubert compositions. Robotics will abound, including automated cars racing through obstacles, devices that can be controlled by users wearing sensors on their heads, and a robot that can fold laundry.

In addition to free entry to the Lawrence Hall of Science, the Botanical Garden and the Berkeley Art Museum, visitors will have free access to museums normally closed to the general public, such as the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology and the Essig Museum of Entomology.

Cal Day African dance

Student dancers and drummers perform music from Ghana on Cal Day. (Photo by Steve McConnell)

Humorist and author Mary Roach will give her take on UC Berkeley’s famous collections in her talk, “Shrunken Heads and Edible Spacesuits,” at the Valley Life Sciences Building.

Back by popular demand will be the Celebration of Children’s Literature and Literacy hosted by the Graduate School of Education. Families can learn about new literacy research, check out the book fair, and meet notable authors such as Thacher Hurd, Marissa Moss and Anne Nesbet, who is also associate professor of Slavic Languages & Literature at UC Berkeley.

The full Cal Day program and campus map are online at http://calday.berkeley.edu.

Other event highlights include:

Kid-friendly activities

  • Bug Doctor: Bugged by pests? Bring in live spiders, ants and insects – preferably contained – to Vernard Lewis and his team of experts from the UC Berkeley Urban Pest Management Center for help identifying the critters. Small prizes will be given to kids who correctly identify insects. 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., Wellman Hall front lawn.
  • Fun with Physics: Lab demonstrations, complete with sparks and explosions, will amaze spectators and illustrate concepts in physical sciences. 10-10:45 a.m. and 1-1:45 p.m., 1 LeConte Hall.
  • Making a Comet: Kids can make a model comet that goes from solid to gas without melting. 12-12:30 p.m. and 3-3:30 p.m., Space Sciences Laboratory.
  • Learn to Solve the Rubik’s Cube: Some of the world’s top speedcubers will be on hand to help you refine techniques for solving this popular puzzle. They are students and instructors from Democratic Education at Cal (DeCal), the largest student-initiated education program in the country, which runs a course on the Rubik’s Cube. 1:30-4 p.m., 110 Barrows Hall.

 Science and technology

  • The Fukushima Aftermath: More than a year after the reactors shut down at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, Joonhong Ahn, professor of nuclear engineering, will discuss Japan’s current nuclear fuel cycle policy. 11 a.m. – noon, 3108 Etcheverry Hall.
  • California Climate Past and Future: Lynn Ingram, professor of earth and planetary sciences, talks about the drought-prone state’s changing climate, and what it means for the future. 11 a.m. – noon, 141 McCone Hall.
  • ChronoZoom: Visualize the history of everything, going back to the birth of the universe, through a newly unveiled open source tool that brings together the history of the cosmos, Earth, life and humanity. 1-1:30 p.m., 141 McCone Hall.  
  • What’s Nano About My iPod? Own a smartphone or iPad? Computer science professor Jeffrey Bokor will lift the veil off of the nanotechnology used in today’s high-tech electronics. 12-1 p.m., 306 Soda Hall.

Art, music and culture

  • Atticus String Quartet: Music students will perform movements from Shostakovich’s String Quartet, No. 3 in F Major, op. 73 (1946). 1-1:45 p.m., 2nd Floor of Tolman Hall, and 2-2:45 p.m. at the Campanile Esplanade.
  • Mexican Art Demo and Outdoor Marketplace: Mexican artists will demonstrate wood carving, puppet making, textile weaving and more. Rugs, pottery and other arts and crafts will be on sale. From 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., there will be a live Mariachi band playing. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Hearst Museum of Anthropology.
  • UC Jazz Ensembles Performance: The UC Jazz Alumni Big Band will play traditional big band arrangements, followed by current student ensembles performing standards and originals. 2-4 p.m., Lower Sproul Plaza.
  • Cal Day Concert: Cap off your day with a free outdoor concert by rock band Dr. Dog. The event is being sponsored by the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) and SUPERB, the Student Union Program, Entertainment, and Recreation Board. 4-6 p.m., Memorial Glade.

Sports events

  • Baseball – Cal vs. Utah: Sports fans can cheer on Cal’s baseball team – reinstated last year thanks to a remarkable fundraising effort – as it faces the University of Utah. 1-4 p.m., Evans Diamond.
  • Cal Football Spring Practice: Catch the team’s final spring practice, held at Edwards Stadium for the first time this year because of ongoing construction at Memorial Stadium. 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., Edwards Stadium.
  • 43rd Annual UC Open Taekwondo Championships: Cal’s Taekwondo team has won 32 out of the past 36 National Collegiate Taekwondo Championships. Note: Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for students, and free for Cal students and kids 6 and under. 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Haas Pavilion.

Parking will be limited, so the best way to reach campus is by public transportation. Free cable cars and shuttles will transport people around the campus and up the hill to the UC Botanical Garden, Lawrence Hall of Science and Space Sciences Laboratory.