Cal Day open house promises laughs and learning aplenty

Fun-seekers and fact-finders of all stripes and ages should mark their calendars for next Saturday, because UC Berkeley’s annual Cal Day open-house extravaganza is right around the corner.

Come hailstorm or heat wave Saturday, April 20, Berkeley will throw open its lecture halls and research labs, museums and libraries, galleries and gardens to the general public — from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — as Cal Day invites visitors to engage and experience the everyday people and projects driving the nation’s No. 1 public university.

Expand your knowledge of the universe and space exploration with an interactive visit to the Space Sciences Laboratory, then come back to earth and learn how Berkeley’s Energy Biosciences Institute is developing biofuels to help wean the world from its addiction to fossil fuels or burn off some excess energy at Lawrence Hall of Science exhibit “Run, Jump, Fly & Spin.”

Wander the exhibits and collections of the historic Bancroft Library or discover the fascinating connections between art and science from world-renowned origami master Bernie Peyton as you learn how to fashion your own paper animal. While away an hour or two puttering about the world of plant life at Berkeley’s sprawling botanical gardens or take a leisurely stroll through the modernist galleries of the Berkeley Art Museum.

With more than 300 free events and activities shoehorned into one unforgettable day of music and dance, arts and science and fun and games, Cal Day has it all.

Take your front-row seat as Berkeley superstar astrophysicist and student favorite Alex Filippenko unravels the mysteries of the spectral shows that light up our skies. Or hunker down to listen as Olympic gold medalist and bestselling children’s author Kristi Yamaguchi reads passages from the inspiring tales of Poppy the ice-skating pig.

Snag a snapshot under the toothy grin of Tyrannosaurus rex, then make a quick getaway to enjoy some comforting hugs from “Rosie” the laundry-folding robot. Manhandle a meteorite, quiz the resident bug doctor or mollycoddle a monitor lizard.

Create your own Cal Day

This year the Cal Day website features videos showcasing the Cal Day experiences awaiting prospective students, new admits, kids and parents. The website also lets you create your own personalized Cal Day program, which you can share via email and social media, or just print out and bring along.

The Cal Day website features videos that showcase the Cal Day experience.

Get Smart

Navigate Cal Day on the go. Download the official UC Berkeley iPhone app, or visit Berkeley’s mobile website.

Use the UC Berkeley Twitter hashtag #sharecalday to share your tweets, photos and top picks in real time, check out who’s at what event and where, and track the latest buzz across campus.

Throughout Saturday’s open house, the Cal Day home page will host a live social-media feed featuring photos and comments tweeted with the hashtag #sharecalday. You can also email your photos to

Coming attractions

At noon, Oski the Bear will join members of the Cal Spirit and Rally Marching Band for a special midday welcome on Sproul Plaza to greet visitors old and new in true blue-and-gold style.

Speaking of lunchtime, the many campus cafés and local eateries offer a smorgasbord of menu choices that should cater to any taste. Visitors can also enjoy their lunch at one of the many picnic sites across campus. Check out a list of handy food options.

Berkeley students will showcase their talents in the performing arts with a variety of dance, song and comedy turns as part of “Showtime on Sproul,” which takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Cal Day festivities, which are expected to attract some 40,000 visitors, wrap up with a 90-minute live concert featuring indie-rock band The Antlers. Presented by the Student Union Program Entertainment and Recreation Board, the concert kicks off at 5 p.m. in Memorial Glade.

Beyond the fun and festivities, Cal Day also offers a raft of student-orientation events and talks throughout the day to help new admits get a valuable head start acclimating to campus life.

Chancellor Robert Birgeneau will host a special welcome event for newly admitted students and their families at 8:30 a.m. Amy Jarich, assistant vice chancellor and director of undergraduate admissions, history professor Brian DeLay and ASUC president Connor Landgraf will also be on hand to help give incoming students a flavor of the academic and student life that awaits them on campus.

At 1 p.m., prospective students will have the opportunity to hear Jarich share her insights on navigating the highly competitive and often daunting applications process. Her hourlong talk will cover a range of topics, from how students can best tell their story in the personal essay to what Berkeley looks for in its students beyond test scores and grades.

Faculty, staff and students will man a raft of information booths in the Marketplace, near Sather Gate, where students and parents can get in-person answers to all their academic, community and volunteering queries. Visitors with wayfinding or other garden-variety questions can pop in to one of the special information centers scattered across campus, where teams of knowledgeable staff and students will happily dole out answers and directions.

Admission to all Cal Day attractions is free and registration is not required. Visitors can tour the campus in style by jumping on one of the special motorized cable cars. On-board student guides can point out highlights and answer questions during the 30-minute loop around the central campus.

Cal Day visitors are advised to use one of the many available public-transit options, as parking on and around campus is limited. A free shuttle service will operate throughout the day, ferrying visitors between Berkeley’s downtown BART station and campus attractions, including the Botanical Garden, the Space Sciences Lab and the Lawrence Hall of Science.

Visit the Cal Day website to view the full program of attractions, campus map and event resources.

Cal Day highlights:

Science@Cal: Kids biology bonanza

Visit the south lawn of the Valley Life Sciences Building to see live animal shows and carnivorous plants, enjoy games and activities — including face painting, insect crafts and bug hunts — and meet special guests from around the Bay. Check out the university’s collection of beautiful bugs in the Essig Museum’s special display drawers and see live arthropods in the courtyard. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Valley Life Sciences Building)

Run, Jump, Fly & Spin

Get your energy out and your science on with the featured exhibit “Run, Jump, Fly & Spin.” See how the Lawrence Hall of Science is inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers and designers. Get your Science@Cal passport stamped as you explore the world of science. Get a free paper bunny copter when you stop by. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Lawrence Hall of Science)

Explore extinction at the Museum of Paleontology

This year’s theme is extinction, with a display on mass extinctions and four extinction-related talks. “Fun With Fossils” is also back, along with tours of the collections, T-shirt sales and a display of fossils recovered during the Caldecott Tunnel’s fourth bore. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Valley Life Sciences Building)

From gas to grass: sustainable fuel from plants

Through tours, talks and exhibits, discover how the Energy Biosciences Institute is working to perfect cellulosic biofuel production as a key weapon in combating climate change. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (EBI Building, 2151 Berkeley Way)

California nature extremes: exploring the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology

This is the only opportunity this year to peek behind the doors of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. Learn all about California’s incredible natural diversity, interact with zoologists and see beautiful original art inspired by nature. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (3101 Valley Life Sciences Building)

Automated robot car races

Students in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences will demonstrate how their automated robot vehicles race while avoiding obstacles and staying on track. 10 a.m. to noon. (Cory Hall courtyard)

Kids’ Zone in Lower Sproul Plaza

The ASUC and Alpha Phi Omega present Kids’ Zone, an interactive space filled with fun games and prizes for “Bear cubs.” Build their Cal spirit through engaging activities. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Sproul Plaza and Lower Sproul Plaza)

Welcome to Oskiland

Oski, everybody’s favorite Golden Bear, rules in this area for young “cubs.” Get an Oski handshake (or hug), enjoy games and see the Cal victory cannon. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Memorial Glade)