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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

July 20, 2006

State Fair brings ISU to Des Moines

by Erin Rosacker

Slather on the sunscreen, put on comfortable shoes and pack the Rolaids. The Iowa State Fair is just around the corner. More than one million people have attended the annual event in each of the last four years. This year's fair runs Aug.10-20 under the banner "Only at the Fair."

If you just can't wait to get into the spirit, start with the Iowa State Fair parade at 6:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 9, in downtown Des Moines. Look for a flatbed semitrailer filled with individuals representing an assortment of programs affiliated with Iowa State University, from master gardeners to 4-H youth.

Iowa State continues its tradition as a fair mainstay, unfurling cardinal and gold banners in the northeast corner of the Varied Industries Building from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. for all 11 days of the festivities. When the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, suggested that the three regent universities could each focus a portion of their exhibits on the same message, ISU created its theme of "Iowa State University: A leader in energizing Iowa's economy."

"The goal is to communicate to the public that Iowa State professors understand real-world challenges and, through their discoveries and inventions, are helping Iowa's economy grow," said Carole Custer, director of university marketing.

Stand up for State

Life-sized standup cutouts will be used in the university exhibit, depicting 12 professors or former graduate students who have helped boost Iowa's economy with their discoveries or inventions. According to Custer, the standups, which occasionally cause spectators to stop short, stare or have photos taken with them, help create public awareness and "put a face on Iowa State and the discoveries that are helping business and industry to expand in Iowa."

Four inventions born on the Iowa State campus will be featured in the exhibit, including projects by:

- Doug Jacobson, a computer engineering professor who founded Palisade Systems, Inc., which features technology that web filters, stops identity theft and prevents data theft.

- Nick Christians, a horticulture professor who developed Safe-T-Weed, a natural herbicide made from corn gluten that is safe to use near children and pets.

- Steve Nissen, an animal science professor who founded Metabolic Technologies, Inc. The firm developed HMB, a natural biochemical that increases muscle mass; and Juven, which promotes therapeutic muscle gain and supports healing.

- Dale McMasters, a former Ames Lab research metallurgist, co-invented the patented processes for producing Terfenol-D, a key ingredient in the Soundbug device that can turn just about any flat, hard surface (windows, furniture, walls, etc.) into loudspeakers for audio devices.

Two banks of computers will be used to focus on seven ways Iowa State is assisting businesses and industries in contributing to Iowa's economy, or ISU's "system for innovation." They involve topics concerning: startup companies looking for a home; commercializing ISU innovative technology; accessing ISU research; accessing campus research facilities; getting assistance for helping communities to prosper; providing services for entrepreneurs; and technology assistance from ISU, a virtual "one-stop shop" for business and industry projects.

Four real-world examples of Iowa State's services to businesses and industry will be highlighted in the exhibit, giving fairgoers an idea of Iowa State's impact just with the commercialization of the research taking place in Ames. An interactive state map allows a hands-on way to make it personal; just a touch of the finger on one of the 99 counties reveals all of the companies and communities Iowa State assisted within that county in the last year.

Tattoos for you

Thousands of tattoos, which aren't just for faces anymore, will be applied. An admissions area will be available with information for prospective students, and the University Book Store will convert some space into Cyclone Center, where ISU merchandise will be available and free athletics schedule cards and posters will be handed out to the crowds.

Extension is cool

After spending the last nine years under the grandstands, ISU Extension moves into the air-conditioned and newly reconfigured 4-H Exhibits Building, bringing "Germ City" to visitors just inside the front entrance.

Similar to an exhibit at Washington's state fair that doubled soap usage on the grounds that year, "Germ City" will feature a black-light tunnel and a special lotion that illuminates "germs" on fairgoers' hands before and after washing.

The new location will house a display on avian flu awareness, as well as four "Eat to Compete" work stations aimed at young athletes and their nutrition needs. The work stations feature activities and interactive computer games for visitors.

Stuck at your desk? Just log on to the Extension Web site ( and check out the four live webcam feeds during the fair.

WOI Radio makes the move with Extension, broadcasting "Talk of Iowa" and "Midday" on weekdays, as well as live market reports from Doug Cooper several times a day.

According to communications manager Elaine Edwards, ISU Extension's move to the 4-H Exhibits Building was made for many reasons, but one of the biggest was "to really help fairgoers understand that 4-H is a part of Iowa State University."

Fountain of youth

Synonymous with the fair, Extension's 4-H Youth Development program will be well represented. The 4-H Exhibits Building will be filled with nearly 4,000 individual exhibits grouped into project areas throughout the rearranged space.

"Visitors to our building this year will see a little bit different look," said Mitch Hoyer, 4-H youth development program coordinator. "I guess we thought after 25 years, it was time to change things a little bit. Some folks will walk in and they may wonder where they are."

More than 1,000 individual communication entries will be represented, including educational presentations, working exhibits and extemporaneous speaking presentations by 4-H members daily throughout the fair, excluding the final Sunday. The presentations feature a "how-to" lecture approach on different topics, while the working exhibits are hands-on interactive sessions with the public. The communication events will be scattered throughout the building, including some on the stage, which has moved to the west side.

Special events include the 4-H Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Aug. 20 (3:30 p.m.), a celebrity showcase that matches prominent Iowans with 4-H exhibitors and a 4-H passport activity for the fair's younger visitors.

Iowa State women's basketball head coach Bill Fennelly and former governor Robert Ray are just two of the individuals scheduled to participate in the celebrity showcase. Meanwhile, youngsters can pick up a "passport" at the information booth in the 4-H Exhibits Building, then take it to the various exhibit areas throughout the building to have it "stamped" after each visit.

Capturing the flavor of the fair

The Iowa Youth Technology Team, a specialized 4-H club with 15 members throughout the state, is partnering with ISU Extension and Operation: Military Kids to connect families of deployed military personnel through three activities in the 4-H Exhibits Building. Jay Staker, director of ISU Extension Science, Engineering and Technology (E-SET), heads up the tech team that will be involved in the endeavor.

One part of the project will provide family members with the means for conveying online communication messages to specific personnel, as well as messages of encouragement to the troops in general. Another component of the project is using the tech team to teach youth how to do podcasting, which enables them to put together multimedia messages that are accessible to family members stationed abroad.

The final part of the program will use the resources of the tech team and ISU Extension to capture the "flavor" of the Iowa State Fair. Each day, a package of video clips will be compiled and posted, giving Iowa service men and women a virtual daily trip to the fair.

"Iowa service people can feel like they're still connected to Iowa through watching what's going on at the fair," Staker said.

Meat goats and gardens

Mike Anderson, who serves as the state 4-H ag program coordinator, will serve as the general livestock superintendent during the fair, overseeing more than 2,000 4-H'ers bringing nearly 10,000 animals to the fairgrounds. The 4-H livestock shows kick off Aug. 8 with horses, and ends Aug. 20 with the inaugural class of meat goats. Exhibitors also will show beef, swine, sheep, dairy cattle and goats, dogs, rabbits and poultry.

Nearly 1,000 horticulture entries will be displayed in the Agriculture Building on the central part of the fairgrounds. A vegan's dream, the 4-H exhibitors bring only edible vegetables and herbs to be judged. Perhaps the most popular spectacle is the jumbo vegetable contest that allows fairgoers to gawk at super-sized pumpkins, watermelons and other garden items.

State Fair logo


"The goal is to communicate to the public that Iowa State professors understand real-world challenges and, through their discoveries and inventions, are helping Iowa's economy grow."

Carole Custer, director of university marketing