ISU community gets preview of Smithsonian exhibit

Iowa State’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival exhibit was displayed 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.

Aimee Burch

The Iowa State community got a sneak peek Tuesday of what millions of visitors to Washington will see come June 27.

Iowa State will take part in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington from June 27 through July 1 and July 4 to 8.

The exhibit, titled “Transforming Communities: Design in Action,” will put Iowa State front and center to the world on how the university utilizes design aspects to transform the community structure.

“It’s an exhibit about design thinking relating to the Morrill Act and land grants,” said Amy Edmondson, senior in industrial design and member of the exhibit staff.

The exhibit is a collaboration between the College of Design and ISU Extension and Outreach. As one of only 17 universities selected to represent land grant universities at the festival, Iowa State will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act. The Morrill Act established land grant universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“The primary message we want visitors to take away from this is to make connections,” said David Ringholz, chairman of the industrial design program. Ringholz served as the design lead and project manager for the exhibit. “As the only college going associated with design, we want them to know that designers solve problems with lots of outcomes. We want them to be excited about how awesome Iowa State is and walk away saying they didn’t expect that from us.”

Edmondson got involved with the project through Ringholz, her studio professor.

“I was interested in exhibit design and asked to be part of it,” Edmondson said of her involvement. “I was a full member of the design team and the only student to do so. I took an independent study, so I got credit and learned a lot.”

Edmondson, along with 13 other members of the ISU community, will spend a total of three weeks in Washington staffing the exhibit and helping set it up and tear it down. The exhibit features LED panels, computerized controls, display boards, video monitors, interactive stations and paintings for visitors to both admire and utilize.

“There will be interactive videos of people answering questions about design and slideshows of projects,” Edmondson said. “We’ll have interviews with visitors and faculty answering questions like can anyone design and how people understand design.”

The touchscreens will feature interactive games for visitors to test the waters of design and think like a designer would about problem solving. If a visitor has an idea not previously thought of by a faculty member or other visitor, an exhibit staffer will be able to add the idea to a crawl broadcasting to the hall in real time.

“There’s a lot of layers to this,” Edmondson said. “As students, we don’t often get to work on projects of this scale and complexity. It’s been a great experience where I’ve learned a lot and will continue to learn more.”

For those unable to make it to Washington to see the exhibit during the festival, Ringholz said not to fret. The exhibit will also be on display in August at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines.

“We’re going to replicate the exhibit in Des Moines,” Ringholz said. “We won’t change it up, so people from Iowa can see exactly what visitors to Washington saw.”