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Classes Without Quizzes offers a peek into everyday science

Nationally recognized U of M experts will present mini-seminars designed for the general public, including students of all ages, Saturday, April 6.

March 13, 2013

Beer and hops, genomic sequencing, biomimicry and robotic milking of dairy cows are among the featured topics at this year’s "Classes Without Quizzes" on Saturday, April 6 at the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus.

Nationally recognized experts from the university’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences will present mini-seminars designed for the general public, including students of all ages. The event will be from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and includes kids-only sessions – including "food messology," where kids will get first-hand experience in conducting science experiments. To register for Classes Without Quizzes, go to Registration cost is: $35 for the general public; $30 for members of the U of M Alumni Association; $20 for youth K-6 and $15 for youth in seventh through 12th grade and U of M students. 

Michael Sadowsky, Distinguished McKnight University Professor, Department of Soil, Water and Climate; and director of the BioTechnology Institute and head of the Minnesota Mississippi Metagenome Project (M3P), will give the keynote address about M3P at 9 a.m. M3P is a groundbreaking effort to catalog aquatic bacteria of the Mississippi River, from its headwaters at a Lake Itasca to La Crescent, Minn., where it leaves the state.

The four mini-courses in session 1 at 10:15 a.m. include:

Beer & Hops in the Upper Midwest
Hops are an important brewing ingredient, but commercial production is currently limited to a few growing regions. U of M horticultural scientist Charlie Rohwer will discuss the history of hops and use of hops in beer, botany and cultivation of hops, and trends in hop production in the upper Midwest. Barley is another key ingredient in beer. U of M plant geneticist Gary Muehlbauer will discuss the history of barley, development of barley varieties, trends in barley production in the Midwest, and the history of beer and its impact on human societies.

Sequencing People, Plants and Pests
With advances in sequencing technology, "re-sequencing" a human genome (or the genome of almost any living thing) now costs just a few thousand dollars versus multimillions a decade ago. What can scientists learn from so much sequence data? How are the fields of biotechnology, medicine, food, agriculture, and environmental science transformed by massive genomic data? What special computational tools are needed? Who owns DNA sequence data and what are the ethical, legal and social impacts of access to so much genetic information? Nevin Young, a professor with joint appointments in the departments of Plant Pathology and Plant Biology, will lead a discussion exploring these questions. 

Teaching Kids to Spend Money Wisely
Teaching kids about personal finance is essential given the increasingly complex financial environment they face. Claudia Parliament, longtime director of the Minnesota Council on Economic Education, will offer examples of learning activities available to K-12 teachers to help students become more effective in making personal finance decisions.

Healthy Soils, Healthy Lives
During the past year there has been much excitement surrounding the importance of soils in our lives. Carl Rosen, head of the Department of Soil Water and Climate, will highlight how maintaining a healthy soil will in turn support a vibrant community. Rosen will focus much of this session on improving the quality of urban soils for gardening and food production.

The four mini-courses in session 2 begin at 11:30 a.m. and include:

Got robots? The Future Using Robots and Other Precision Dairy Technologies
The milk you had for breakfast this morning may very well have come from a cow that was milked with an automatic milking system (robot).  And the cow that produced that milk was fed with an automatic calf feeder (robot).  These are just some of the growing technologies being implemented on Minnesota dairy farms. Robotic milking is growing rapidly in the upper Midwest; more than 50 Minnesota farms already use milking robots. Even more farms have robotic calf feeders. Extension educator Jim Salfer and Animal Science professor Jeffrey Reneau will discuss these new technologies and explain robots in action and how cows are adapting.

Humans face a broad range of problems, from cancer and pollution to energy sources and food supply. The biomimicry field approaches such problems by looking at how diverse organisms have solved similar problems over evolutionary time. Emilie Snell-Rood, an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior in the College of Biological Sciences, will discuss classic examples in biomimicry such as adhesives development inspired by gecko feet, or passively cooled buildings inspired by termite mounds. Participants will explore how we can use knowledge of selective environments or evolutionary relationships to find species that have solved problems relevant to medicine, agriculture, engineering or architecture.

The Little Green Menace: Emerald Ash Borer
The emerald ash borer was discovered in Michigan just over 10 years ago and continues to spread from the Midwest, killing native ash trees in its wake. In this presentation Entomology assistant professor Brian Aukema will share the latest on this little green beastie and how it could change your street or back yard. Please note: no ash borers allowed.

Harvesting molecules from plants: good for our health, the environment, and our economy
Presenters are:
Donald Wyse, a professor in the Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics
Amanda Martin, a National Science Foundation and UNCF/Merck pre-doctoral graduate research fellow in the Department of Horticultural Science
Michael Kantar, a Ph.D candidate in the Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics

In this session, presenters will talk about how perennial plants have the power to transform both our environment and personal-care products. Lotion, lipstick, shampoo and similar products need antimicrobial and antioxidant chemicals to prevent spoilage; perennial plants can provide safer, ecologically conscious, consumer-supported preservatives. Even better, perennial plants – like the sunflower – show promise as a sustainable crop that helps maintain healthy soil, control erosion, improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat.

Kids Edition Sessions
Program begins at 8:45 a.m.

Youth K - 6 will spend a morning packed with hands-on enrichment and recreation activities led by experienced staff and specialty instructors affiliated with University Youth & Community Programs. Participants will be divided into small groups of similar ages and spend about an hour in each activity.

Sessions are:

Geocaching: discover unique features around the St. Paul Campus while participating in a geocaching treasure hunt!
Rock climbing: this introduction to rock climbing will have youth testing their skills with highly trained staff on an indoor climbing wall.
Food Messology: create some crazy concoctions in Professor Sepoc's course including hands-on science experiments.  Sepoc is Jane Snell Copes, a scientist in Inver Grove Heights.

All youth must wear athletic/ tennis shoes, clothes for physical activities and weather appropriate clothing for outdoors.

The 2013 Classes Without Quizzes program is produced in collaboration with the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences Alumni Society and the College of Biological Sciences.

Twin Cities Campus: