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Solar, chicken and youth power make Cornell a strong presence at New York State Fair

One of the first sights that greeted thousands of fairgoers attending opening day of the 164th Great New York State Fair on Aug. 27 Aug. 27 was Cornell's solar house near Gate 2.

Susan Henry, dean of Cornell's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, joined N.Y. Gov. David Paterson onstage to officially open the fair at 9:57 a.m. Later that morning, Paterson, Henry, Cornell President David Skorton and the media toured the "silo house," built by Cornell's Solar Decathlon (CUSD) Team, before public tours began in the afternoon.

Paterson asked Cornell students about the house's features, such as its floating bed. Skorton told team members he was "blown away. One thing that's impressive is the internal appearance versus the external appearance. It's very cool, modern, almost postmodern. It's so much different than the '07 house," he said.

The house is open for tours 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and 4-6 p.m. and for private evening tours every day of the fair, which concludes Sept. 7. The CUSD team will compete in the national Solar Decathlon, Oct. 9-18 in Washington, D.C.

Cornell's leading role in New York state agriculture, science and technology, and youth initiatives is evident in many areas of the fair. Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) offers one-hour seminars on home energy tips at 1:30 and 4:15 p.m. daily in the CUSD tent. "It's all about what the average person can do to save money on energy," said Paul O'Connor, an extension specialist.

With the slogan "Connecting Kids to Cornell," CCE engages about 450,000 young people across the state in 4-H youth programs, said CCE assistant director Barb Schirmer. "We have about 5,000 kids here on the grounds, exhibiting animals and projects, and another 15,000 that sent things" to display for competition, she said.

Henry and Skorton chatted with several 4-H exhibitors from across the state in the fair's Youth Building. Skorton talked with a regional robotics team as well as with students in the nationwide 4-H biofuels experiment, who explained how they produce ethanol from such organic materials as sugar, switchgrass and corn syrup.

Skorton also addressed and fielded question from 4-H student journalists, who asked about his longtime interest in 4-H in Iowa and New York, and Cornell's college-bound programs for high school students.

"The whole area of science and technology is critically important," he told his 4-H audience, mentioning Cornell research and CCE efforts in science, engineering and technology activities at 4-H camps. "Agriculture is still the most important topic in the world … [and] Cornell is a university that's very well-known in these fields," he said.

4-H programs encourage youths "to reach ahead of where we are, to what life in our state and our nation and our world is going to be," Skorton said. "We want to support your interests because you will be the ones leading."

Rob Ross, assistant adjunct professor of earth and atmospheric sciences and associate director for outreach of the Paleontological Research Institution (PRI) and its Museum of the Earth, presented Skorton with a rain gauge as part of PRI's "Tracking Climate in Your Backyard" project, a collaboration with 4-H.

Cornell's astronomy department also hosted outreach activities for children and teens in the Youth Building on opening day and will return Sept. 1-2.

No trip to the fair is complete for Cornellians until they visit Baker's Chicken Coop, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary. Skorton and Henry made the traditional stop at Baker's, named for the late Cornell food science professor Robert C. Baker, who revolutionized the poultry industry with such innovations as chicken hot dogs, chicken nuggets and a Cornell-developed barbecue sauce.

Media Contact

Blaine Friedlander