Iowa State on display at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Iowa State University is one of only 17 land-grant universities selected to participate in the 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, June 27 through July 1 and July 4 through July 8 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. This year’s festival honors the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act — which laid the foundation for the establishment of land-grant institutions — and the creation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The state of Iowa was first in the nation to accept the provisions of the Morrill Act and designated the Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm (now Iowa State University) the land-grant university for Iowa. Iowa State also is the birthplace of the national Cooperative Extension System.

Iowa State’s Exhibit

Iowa State’s folklife festival exhibit highlights the central role of design in the land-grant mission, and extension’s past, present and future impact on communities. It demonstrates a unique partnership between the College of Design and Extension and Outreach in applying creative problem solving to society’s complex challenges.

The exhibit, “Transforming Communities: Design in Action,” is inspired by Abraham Lincoln’s 1862 national call to “think anew and act anew” to solve the monumental challenges of the era that spawned the Morrill Act. It features examples of the university's completed and ongoing projects in Iowa communities, touchscreen workstations with games for children and adults, and interactive activities with Iowa State faculty and staff. To learn more about the exhibit, read the April 2012 news release.


Project Partners

Photo from the 2004 Smithsonian FolkLife Festival

The project involves the Offices of the Senior Vice President and Provost, Vice President for Research and Economic Development, and Vice President for Extension and Outreach; College of Design; University Relations; University Marketing; University Museums; and Information Technology Services.

About the Festival

Inaugurated in 1967, the festival is one of the Smithsonian Institution’s highest-profile programs, attracting more than one million visitors each year. The 2012 festival will be open from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. Admission is free. For more information, visit

Exhibit Updates

Design in Action Exhibit featured at Open House

The Design in Action exhibit — headed to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Iowa State Fair and Farm Progress Show — was previewed for area media and campus community members during an open house June 12. During the open house, visitors could view and interact with the various features of the exhibit and talk with the designers and students behind the creation of it.


Students' phenomenon machines selected for ISU's Smithsonian Folklife Festival exhibit

Photo of the student winners

For a project in the Architecture 202 studio class this spring, architecture Lecturers Patrick Rhodes and James Spiller asked students to design a human-scale machine that measures some kind of phenomenon (light, wind or sound, etc.) and engages the body. And 80 percent of their machines had to be constructed from recycled materials. Three of the students' projects will be part of Iowa State's exhibit at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and a fourth will be represented in a video. They were selected from 20 entries submitted in the student competition to design an interactive feature, which focuses on design thinking and innovation, for the Iowa State exhibit.

The selected machines and their designers are "Sphere" by Michael Krause, Fountain Hills, Ariz., and Lindsay Morris, Rochester, Minn.; "Drawing Machine" by Caleb Spiegel, Moline, Ill., and Eric Neuhaus, Cedar Rapids; "Disorientation Machine" by Rachel Johnson, Eagan, Minn., and Stephanie Waples, Middletown; and "Music Machine" by Michelle Rogge, Ham Lake, Minn., and Yuan Liu, Eugene, Ore.

Students are pictured with the "Drawing Machine," which makes the body the pencil. From left, Johnson (holding an umbrella from her "Disorientation Machine"), Krause, Deep Shrestha of Fairfield, Spiegel and Neuhaus.