What’s Happening In Orono

By Lynne Hazelton, UMaine Extension Administrative Support Specialist, Agriculture and Horticulture 

Take a Tour through UMaine with Lynne, Mallory, and Tayla, as they visit the Advanced Structures & Composites Center, the J.Franklin Witter Teaching & Research Center, the Hudson Museum, and the Emera Astronomy Center.

Lynne, Mallory, and Tayla wearing hard hats and safety goggles at the Advanced structures and composites center at UMaine Orono

After surviving a snowy drive north, we started our full day of tours at the Advanced Structures & Composites Center, a very large and impressive facility. Our tour guide started off by showing us the Composite Arch Bridge System, or Bridge-In-A-Backpack. This system that accelerates bridge construction time and reduces life cycle costs has been used in 21 bridges in the US (and beyond).

Map showing where in Maine, Michigan, Pensylvania, and Barrackpore, Trinidad and Tobego that Bridge-In-A-Backpacks have been used.

After that, we got the chance to see the Wind Blade Testing area which was currently hosting a massive wind blade. We weren’t allowed to photograph it, but we were able to go into inside a concrete room with the Wind Lab Reaction Wall, which was where the wind blade was bolted in. This concrete structure reaches deep underground and is bolted into bedrock so it’s able to hold up the wind blades as they stress test them. Next, our tour guide told us all about the VolturnUS 1:8, a 65-foot-tall floating wind turbine prototype that is 1:8th scale.

“For more than 10 years, the University of Maine has led the nation in developing an economical way to harness clean, renewable wind energy from our deep ocean waters. This has led to the development of UMaine’s patented VolturnUS floating concrete hull technology that can support wind turbines in water depths of 150 feet or more, and has the potential to significantly reduce the cost of offshore wind.” — composites.umaine.edu/offshorewind/

Wave Basin at UMaine, Orono, Maine

Lastly, we got to see the Offshore Model Testing Wave Basin, which is 30 meters long and 9 meters wide. This lab is able to simulate wave and wind conditions that represent the worst storms possible.

This facility does so much more then could fit into one tour and has a long list of awards and honors. If you’re interested in seeing some of this for yourself, you can request a tour.

Calf at the J. Franklin Witter Teaching & Research Center

The second facility we toured was Witter Farm, which is part of the J. Franklin Witter Teaching & Research Center  and is home for UMaine’s teaching and research programs in animal sciences and sustainable agriculture. Witter Farm is where undergraduate and graduate students specifically study dairy and equine science. You may have seen in the news that one of UMaine’s Holsteins ranks among the top 10,000 in the county for performance out of 22 million registered Holsteins in the US!

UMaine offers the only bachelor’s degree in sustainable agriculture in New England and it’s the oldest sustainable agriculture program in the country.

A line of dairy cows eating at Witter Farm

“In addition to dairy and equine courses at the Witter Farm, a student group, the UMaine Applied Dairy Cooperative of Organized Working Students—known as the UMAD COWS—is fully involved in operation of the dairy.” — umaine.edu/wittercenter

Three horses outside in the snow at Witter Farm

We loved visiting all the animals at the farm and took a lot of photos of them. To see all our photos of our tour at Witter Farm, check out the UMaine Extension Cumberland County Facebook page!

Birch Wigwam at the Hudsom Museum

For our third tour we went to the 2nd level of the Collins Center for the Arts to see the Hudson Museum. Currently on display are the exhibits “Adventures in the Amazon” in the Merritt Gallery, the “UMaine Field School in Zadar, Croatia: The Archaeological Study of Ancient Cities” in the Minsky Culture Lab, the World Cultures Gallery and the Maine Indian Gallery.

The “Adventures in the Amazon” Exhibit displays items collected between 1940 and 1980. UMaine faculty memeber, Brian Robinson (1953-2016) collected many of the items to document the lives of the people of the region.

Part of the Maine Native American Exhibit at the Hudson Museum

“Across from the presentation of Maine Indian material culture, UMaine researchers will present their research and collections. These collections have rarely been exhibited to the public and until now have been used almost exclusively for research. This portion of the exhibit includes artifacts gathered by UMaine archaeological projects and housed in the collections of the Anthropology Department.” — umaine.edu/hudsonmuseum

The storage area for the Hudson Museum

A special treat was in store for us after we saw the current exhibits on display. The Director of the Museum, Gretchen F. Faulkner, then told us that there is only 1/8 of the collection on display at a time and took us down into a storage area of the museum. Here we could see just how large the collection is.

The Hudson Museum is free and open to the public Monday through Friday, 9am-4pm and on Saturdays, 11am-4pm. The Museum also offers guided tours for elementary and secondary school groups.

Planetarium doors inside the Emera Astronomy Center

For our final tour we visited the Emera Astronomy Center and M.F. Jordan Planetarium. What better way to end the day then laying back and watching the stars? The center has an ever changing schedule of programs, including shows on Sundays specifically for kids. Our show was all about how space technology improves our lives every day. The center also has a great Science Lecture Series, which has had topics like “Unlocking the Secrets of Proteins: The Rise of Cryo Electron Microscopy” by Dr. Caitlin Howell and “How molecular motors work – insights from the machinist’s toolbox” by Dr. Dean Astumian.

The Observatory

“The Maynard F. Jordan Observatory is located behind the Emera Astronomy Center on the University of Maine campus. This observatory is an integral part of the curriculum in the department of Physics and Astronomy and is frequently used by students and faculty for research purposes.modern astronomy research and exploration. Click here to view a gallery of images taken with the telescope.” — astro.umaine.edu/observatory

(The center is funded through donations  and tickets sales.)

Highlights of the Day

Lynne’s Highlight: There were so many amazing things that we got to see; it’s incredible how much UMaine does, but the highlight of my day has to be the Maine Indian Gallery. If you have the opportunity to go see it, I highly recommend that you do.

Mallory’s Highlight: Having gone to a small liberal arts college in a city, I always have fun visiting a college with a real campus with such diverse offerings. The highlight for me was visiting the Advanced Structures and Composites Center for the first time. I had been looking forward to seeing the Offshore Model Testing Wave Basin and it didn’t disappoint. They work on such interesting projects that have a real impact on the world!

Tayla’s Highlight: I would have to say that the highlight of my day was the overall hands-on experience the University provides for students, faculty and community members who come to visit. With the Structures & Composites Center being a personal favorite learning about all of the projects that the University is working on to improve a variety of technologies. Great things are happening!