Explore UT throws doors open to public

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Smokey the Cannon boomed every half hour to welcome nearly 50,000 visitors to campus for the 10th annual Explore UT event. Visitors from across Texas came to the University to participate. Explore UT, known as “The Biggest Open House in Texas,” began in 1999 as a celebration for UT’s centennial and continued as an annual event in 2001. “On one day of the year, we open the labs, classrooms, performance halls and the libraries to people who can just walk in from South Austin if they live here, or they can drive in from Donna, Texas, way down close to the border,” said Susan Clagett, associate vice president for public affairs, who helped coordinate the annual event. More than 400 activities across campus invited children and adults to get an inside view of the University. “Many of these kids have no idea what it’s like at a university,” said Douglas Biow, director of the Center for European Studies. “Some of them may be doing things that fascinate them.” Events included “A Knitted Wonderland,” a yarn-knit art installation in the Blanton Museum of Art’s Faulkner Plaza created by artist Magda Sayeg, and the Non-Newtonian Fluid Experience, where visitors could experience walking on “water.” A returning event at the School of Law was the Gold E. Locks Mock Trial in which children serve as jurors and learn about the legal process. Judge Edward C. Prado of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals presided over the case. The Division of Diversity and Community Engagement hosted a tent full of activities for children in front of Gregory Gym, including coloring other countries’ flags and a matching game to teach children about other nationalities. “We help further understanding of diversity,” said Aileen Bumphus, executive director of the Gateway Scholars Program, which provides smaller classes to students, many the first in their family to attend college. The Austin Fire Department and UT Fire Prevention Services advocated for the use of household smoke detectors and evacuation plans by setting fire to a demonstration room. The departments showed how quickly fire escalates. “It’s really scary that that could happen to your house,” said Round Rock resident Julie Beaubien, who brought her 9-year-old son, Paul, to the fire safety demonstration and is a returning visitor to Explore UT. The Texas Cowboys, dressed in chaps and cowboy hats, posed for photos with the children. The Longhorn Band invited child musicians to march to the Tower and the closing event on the South Mall, where participants gathered in the shape of a heart to pose for the Explore UT Class Photo.