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Expo offers a glimpse of the future

They call it "Discovering Tomorrow," and it's a gallop into the world of air-cushioned vehicles, robotics and electronics.

But it's not a high-tech ride at Disney World.

It's Expo '92, the University of South Florida (USF) College of Engineering's annual open house.

Scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the USF Engineering Complex, the event will include a variety of demonstrations and exhibits by companies from around the state.

The hours of the Expo will be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

Launched in 1972, Expo is a combined effort of USF engineering students and faculty, Florida engineers, and the Tampa Bay community. Through the years, it has gained recognition and increased attendance, which now averages about 5,000.

"One goal (of the Expo) is to open up the College of Engineering to the community," said Andrew Barrett, Expo faculty adviser and College of Engineering assistant dean.

Laboratories such as the robotics lab will be open to the public and there will be hands-on displays.

"There's a whole range of things that people can see and do," Barrett said.

In one area, visitors can watch a chemical magic show. In another, participants can design and race clay submarines.

Other displays and demonstrations include pole climbing, the U.S. Southern Command Parachute Team landing, computer music production, electric vehicles, pinewood derby races, laser light shows, a human-powered submarine and voice-controlled robots.

The daring are invited to join in on the Army ROTC rappelling clinic _ off the four-story engineering building.

In all, the event takes about a year to plan.

If you don't know where to go first, engineering students will be on hand as tour guides. An in-depth grand tour would take about three hours, Barrett said.

Two-hour tours are scheduled for the 2,000 schoolchildren who will visit the Expo on Friday. And if it rains, don't mark Expo off the calendar. It will still take place, but most of the focus will be on indoor activities.

"The crowds won't be quite as large," Barrett said, "But we'll still be here."