ISU talents on display in Washington

Iowa State’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival exhibit was displayed on Tuesday, June 12, located in the lower level of the King Pavilion in the College of Design. The exhibit featured a center column of LED panels integrated with interactive touchscreeen workstations.

Dan Mackenzie

A handful of ISU students recently returned from the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington where they put their talents on display for the world to see.

“[The festival] is a bit like a state fair and a bit like a career fair — basically an exhibition of unique talents from different colleges, universities, and social groups from around the United States,” said Chris Van Oort, senior in software engineering.

Adam Carver, senior in advertising, agreed.

Carver said: “It reminds me of the exhibits at the varied industries building at the Iowa State Fair. The major difference is that there are more global themes.”

Carver and Van Oort, along with five other students and several faculty members developed the exhibit, titled “Transforming Communities: Design in Action,” for display in Washington this past week. The project will also be on display at the state fair later this summer.

The project is a combination of examples of the university’s extension work with communities, as well as a showcase of interactive activities for kids and adults. All of the work was done by students, assisted by faculty. The work ranged from building the display itself to the programming of the software used for activities.

Two of the students, Van Oort and Amy Edmondson, stayed in Washington for the event.

Edmondson said she “helped design the exhibit as a whole from about January to May. … I traveled with the exhibit to D.C. to assist with setting it up, participating in the festival and re-packing the exhibit to be shipped back to Iowa.”

Edmondson also said she did some work on her own for the exhibit.

“My main solo contribution has been running the student design competition. I created a webpage, designed posters, introduced the project to a couple studios and assisted in judging the submissions,” she said.

Van Oort also chipped in with his work.

“I managed the technology — dealing with dust and over-heating issues — and acted as a general ambassador to the public for the University.” he said. “We brought a 3-D printer, so I’ve been talking about how it works and the commercial implications of such a technology. Prior to this I wrote the full-screen, secure, webkit-based browser for the touch screen kiosks; I also wrote the mobile device interface and the laptop display controller interface”

Van Oort and Edmondson did not build the exhibit alone. Other students back in Ames helped with the backbone of the display.

Chris Waters, senior in software engineering, helped with the programming.

“I wrote part of the code for the interactive games for the touch screen monitors, and I helped wire the exhibit for the open house,” Waters said. 

Kyle Brumm, junior in software engineering, assisted on the software too.

“I coded the structure of the game using HTML and cascading style sheets. I helped out with the JavaScript as well,” Brumm said. 

While most of the students involved were with design or technology, one student stepped out of his comfort zone to participate.

Carver said he wanted to help because “learning something new and creating an interactive exhibit would act as an advertisement for Iowa State University. Being an advertising major, it was exciting to work with technologies I’d never used before to create an engaging exhibit that applied concepts I had learned in my advertising courses.”

Van Oort and Edmondson got to spend the week in Washington over the Fourth of July holiday. They said the work was demanding — five days of unboxing and building followed by long days at the exhibit and talking with visitors. But they managed to squeeze in a little bit of fun during the trip, too.

“A few of us took a train up to Baltimore and had crab in the harbor,” Van Oort said.

Edmondson was more interested in the classic Washington sights.

“I saw the flag that inspired the “Star-Spangled Banner,” the Lincoln Memorial and the National Gallery of Art,” she said. “This was my first time in D.C. and one of my favorite things was walking onto the national mall every day and saying ‘good morning’ to the Washington Monument.”

The exhibit will also be on display at the Iowa State Fair. The fair runs Aug. 9 to 19, and the exhibit will be next to the ISU pavilion at the varied industries building.