Big Night on Campus

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 29, 2006

By Adam Hammer, staff writer

Near Room 302 at Riverland Community College in Albert Lea, an unmanned, wheeled robot the size of a Rubik’s cube rolled back and forth across the hallway Tuesday night. The robot, called Boebot, detected obstructions using infrared sensors and changed direction before running into them.

The eye-catching robot, not far from the Department of Electronics Manufacturing’s station at the Big Night on Campus, led intrigued people around the corner to the electronic connections demonstrations and face painting and bingo with the International Club and Minority Students organizations.

Big Night on Campus provided opportunities for people interested in continuing their education to learn more about Riverland; however, considering college was not a prerequisite.

Amanda Vaith, a student at RCC, brought her sons Layne and Logan Adams to the event.

&8220;I go to school here and it was fun to see the stuff they’re putting on,&8221; Vaith said.

Though it was hard for Logan to decide what his favorite activity was, he said he enjoyed the library and free posters most.

&8220;I liked the fingerprinting,&8221; Layne said, &8220;because I got to stick my fingers in the ink.&8221;

Some in attendance at Big Night on Campus on Tuesday were almost too young to walk. Others were parents, students and grandparents. It seemed Riverland Community College’s big night had something for everyone.

&8220;What’s really distinct about Big Night on Campus is that we bring all three of our locations together under one roof,&8221; James Douglass, director of communications for RCC, said.

Twenty-eight activity stations, plus other features, were organized as a tour of RCC’s education offerings at their Albert Lea, Austin and Owatonna campuses.

There were about 200 people in attendance at the annual event, which is a comparable turnout to past Big Night on Campus events.

People were able to try hands-on activities in various career program areas from fingerprinting with law enforcement students to getting free chair massages from massage therapist students.

Upon arrival at Big Night on Campus, each person registered and filled out a passport. At each stop, attendees received a stamp for their passport. When a card was full, guests could turn it in at room 117 for prizes. People with six stamps received a bracelet, 12 stamps got them a bracelet and a baseball cap while 18 stamps got a bracelet, a baseball cap and a Riverland T-shirt.

Regardless of the number of stamps, all passports were eligible to win an iPod Nano.

The passports share information with Riverland about the school’s visitors, such as whether they are potential students or community members just looking to get in on the activities.

&8220;The passports were a good way for us to keep track of people and keep traffic moving,&8221; Douglass said.

Outside the building in the Atrium, Ben Weis, pro in-line skater and RCC theater student at the Austin campus, put on a stunt demonstration for the Albert Lea crowd.

Onlookers inside the building watched attentively, some with their hands and noses pressed against the window. A group of children watching the spectacle outside were able to participate in a feat where Weis launched off his 4-foot ramp and rode the wall above them.

&8220;It was not scary at all,&8221; Cassie Wasmoen said. &8220;This was my favorite because I’ve never seen it before.&8221;

Weis took fifth place in the 2003 X Games and endorsed a professional line of in-line skates until last year. He is originally from Austin and also once operated a skatepark there.

As a young professional skater, Weis encountered reckless spending habits, he said. His spending habits almost cost him his student status at RCC. Jerry Girton, Weis’ teacher in the Theater Department, helped him find the financial backing he needed to stay in school.

&8220;If it wasn’t for that guy, I wouldn’t be at Riverland,&8221; Weis said.

Weis continues to compete professionally and performs demos around the world outside of studying theater at Riverland. In February, he competed in, and almost won, the Bitter Cold Showdown competition in Ohio.

(Contact Adam Hammer at or 379-3439.)