Naturally Illinois Expo at U of I Friday and Saturday
offers hands-on science fun and learning for all ages
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[March 06, 2012]
CHAMPAIGN -- The fourth annual
Naturally Illinois Expo at the University of Illinois will feature
more than 50 exhibits, demonstrations and hands-on science
activities for the public, teachers and students of all ages. The
expo at the end of this week provides an opportunity to talk with
scientists who work on solutions to water, energy, climate,
ecosystem, technology and cultural resource issues.
The expo is presented by the staff of the Prairie Research
Institute, home of the Illinois Scientific Surveys, to show the
public the wide variety of research they conduct to benefit the
"The expo is an exceptional effort by our scientists and staff to
help everyone better understand the institute's work and the role
science plays in our daily lives," said William Shilts, Ph.D.,
executive director of the Prairie Research Institute. "We also see
thousands of students at the expo, and one of our goals is to
inspire and encourage them to explore natural and cultural resource
"We're very excited each year to open our doors and invite the
public to see what we do," said the expo chairman, Eric Plankell, of
the Illinois State Geological Survey. "More than 250 volunteers,
including U of I students, help put on the expo. We hope to top the
3,000 visitors we had in 2011."
New to the expo this year, scientists in the "Waste to Oil"
exhibit will turn waste into energy through pyrolysis, a heat
process that decomposes organic material in the absence of oxygen.
They will demonstrate how wastes such as plastic, used tires, fryer
oil, trap grease and soap stock, as well as biomass such as corn
stover and algae can be converted to biofuels and bio-crude oils.
This process has the potential to combat the problem of thousands of
pounds of wastes generated annually in the U.S. and to provide
additional sources of renewable energy.
Other new exhibits include:
Bees," featuring a queen bee and her workers on a honeycomb
frame behind glass.
Mahomet Valley in 3D," showing how geologists fly high above the
ground and dive below the surface using new software to analyze
and map the deposits that filled the Mahomet Bedrock Valley.
Animal Bones of Illinois," featuring animal remains and bone and
shell tools that help us learn about people and their
environment hundreds and thousands of years ago.
The ever-popular "Kids' Fossil Dig," "The Mystery of Mussels,"
"Weather on Your Birthday" and many more exhibits will be back or
debut at the expo this year.
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To support school and community youth groups that do not have
travel funds available to attend the expo, the institute has $3,000
in bus scholarships available, based on need. The funds are a result
of a grant to the Prairie Research Institute from the UI Office of
Public Engagement. To inquire about the scholarships or for group
reservations, contact Eve Hargrave at
The expo is free and open to the public. For more information,
www.prairie.illinois.edu/expo. The event is volunteer-led and
financed entirely through donations. To contribute or for a donor
The Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois will
host the Naturally Illinois Expo on Friday and Saturday at the Natural
Resources Building and grounds, 607 E. Peabody Drive, Champaign.
The two-day event will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday and
10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.
The Prairie Research
Institute, formerly the Institute of Natural Resource
Sustainability, is the home of the Illinois Scientific Surveys:
Illinois Natural History Survey, Illinois State Water Survey,
Illinois State Geological Survey, Illinois State Archaeological
Survey and Illinois Sustainable Technology Institute. For over 150
years, these entities have applied cutting-edge science for the
people of Illinois, to build their economy, promote public health
and safety, and steward their abundant resources.
[Text from file received from the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign]