A safe, drinkable water project developed at Texas A&M University and applicable for use by people in poor regions of America and around the world will be featured at the 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D. C., beginning June 27.
The festival is part of the national observance of the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Morrill Act that established the nation’s land-grant university system under which Texas A&M was founded.
Co-sponsored in partnership with the National Park Service and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the outdoor festival is set for June 27-July 1 and July 4-8 on the National Mall.
The 2012 festival, titled “Campus and Community: Public and Land-grant Universities and the USDA at 150,” celebrates 150 years of partnership between universities, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and communities across the nation. It will focus on four themes that reflect the current work of public and land-grant universities and USDA: reinventing agriculture, sustainable solutions, transforming communities and building on tradition. Each theme area of the program will allow visitors to interact with university and USDA staff, professors, students and community members highlighting exciting research and engagement projects.
The water project to be featured in the Texas A&M exhibit at the festival is representative, and symbolic, of the institution’s commitment to education, research, outreach and service — in its home state as well as nationally and globally, officials emphasize. It addresses the need for safe drinking water, which is lacking for approximately 1.2 billion people worldwide and accounts for the deaths of about one million children each year.
The down-to-earth process centers on making ceramic point-of-use water filters made from clay, sawdust and water in the form of pots that are then dried and kiln fired. Simply running unsafe water through the filters removes the vast majority of contaminants that can cause illness or even death. The process is applicable in areas ranging from the impoverished communities along the Texas-Mexico border to some of the most remote regions of the world, notes Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering Bryan Boulanger, who headed development of the process and will lead the group of students and faculty who will be on hand to demonstrate it at the festival.
From master gardeners to Hawaiian traditional healing, from managing invasive species to helping communities recover from natural disasters, the overall festival program will cover an array of ways universities and the USDA put research to action every day.
The program will also feature Smithsonian U., where visitors can listen to short informative talks by master teachers; the Test Kitchen, which will include cooking demonstrations using ingredients raised or researched at agricultural experiment stations; The Commons, an area promoting dialogue about important issues affecting universities, the USDA and communities; The Justin S. Morrill Performing Arts Center, a large stage where student groups and other regional groups will showcase world class music and dance, from mariachi to Hawaiian hula; the Learning Laboratory Family Activities Center, where families can experience hands-on art and science activities; and Alumni Hall, an area for graduates of public and land-grant universities and USDA programs to reconnect with each other and share memories. Visitors will also be able to visit the Festival Marketplace to purchase crafts, food items and popular books and recordings relating to the universities and the USDA.
More than 25 land-grant and public universities will participate in this year’s festival, including consortia of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Tribal Colleges in the land-grant system, and Hispanic Serving Institutions.
All events are free. Festival hours are 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day, with special evening events such as concerts and dance parties beginning at 5:30 p.m. The festival is co-sponsored by the National Park Service.
In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation to establish the land-grant university system and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Today, the land-grant mission of “knowledge with public purpose” is evident in research, learning and community engagement projects that make the world safer, healthier and more sustainable, organizers of the event note.
“Campus and Community: Public and Land-grant Universities and the USDA at 150” is produced in partnership with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Participating universities include the University of California, Davis; the University of Florida; the University of Hawaii; the University of Illinois; Indiana University; Iowa State University; the University of Maryland; Michigan State University; Mississippi State University; the University of Missouri; Montana State University; Oregon State University; the University of Tennessee, Texas A&M University; Washington State University and West Virginia University. The University of Vermont is a contributing university.
About the festival
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, inaugurated in 1967, honors tradition bearers from across the United States and around the world. With approximately 1 million visitors each year, the Festival unites performers and visitors in the nation’s capital to celebrate the diversity of cultural traditions. It is produced by the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. The festival’s website is www.festival.si.edu.
Media contact: Sherylon Carroll, News & Information Services at (979) 862-2369