|One young visitor to the new UTPA Visitors Center exhibit "Microbes: Invisible Invaders, Amazing Allies" was able to pick up a phone and hear about "good guy" microbes at one of the many interactive displays in the exhibit. The exhibit will officially open Sept. 24 and run through Jan. 6, 2013.|
Since 2004, the Visitors Center fall blockbuster exhibits have drawn more than 153,000 visitors, primarily Rio Grande Valley elementary, middle school and high school students. The most popular display was "A T Rex Named Sue," a full-sized cast of a Tyrannosaurus rex exhibited in fall 2008. It had more than 50,000 visitors.
At a reception for University supporters to see the Microbes exhibit Sept. 20, UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen welcomed them and thanked them for helping students achieve their dreams.
"They will come through, they will look at those bugs, they will play with those games, and they will have a great time and they will know what science is. And they will begin to dream and they will begin to think 'maybe I can be a scientist,'" he said.
However, he warned that the free exhibitions are at risk if the University faces future budget cuts.
"This exhibit is important but it is on the chopping block if there is another 10 percent cut," Nelsen said.
Veronica Gonzales, UTPA vice president for University Advancement, called the exhibit a fun way for children and adults to learn. She also talked about the need for support from the community to help the University in its mission to ensure more students earn college degrees.
"We can't do it all by ourselves. We need partners, we need you," she said.
Visitors to the exhibit will be able to view microbes in one display as 3-D images and in another they can hear the exhibit's cartoon super-hero guide Microbe Man explain in an animated video just how small microbes are.
Students can participate in hands-on discovery by playing a foosball-style game that demonstrates the body's natural lines of defense against infectious disease or using a joystick to guide munching microbes as they gobble up an oil spill.
The bilingual exhibition has travelled extensively in the United States and internationally. It was made possible by Evergreen Exhibitions and Pfizer Inc.
Exhibition hours will be 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturdays. The exhibition will be closed on official University holidays.
School tours are available and can be scheduled at www.utpa.edu/features/microbes.