Walter Mencken 6:15 p.m., Feb. 28
While unique and often ornate ladies’ hats have been a staple of the opening-day festivities at the Del Mar horse track for decades, this year promises to produce a spectacle greater than in the past. About two dozen girls aged 7 to 16 will don hats they’ve created themselves in a UCSD engineering workshop.
The hats, featuring motion powered by gears and electronics, were created during a six-week youth engineering program put on by the UCSD division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology. The program was funded by a $15,000 grant from ViaSat, a San Diego-based digital communications company.
“The whole experience is designed to expose the girls to what an engineer does, in a fun and engaging way,” explains Saura Naderi, a director with the institute and a UCSD mechanical engineering graduate. She says she was inspired to create the workshop after debuting her own hat last year, an interactive model that would allow two players to "race" mechanical horses around her head by aiming laser pointers at sensors hidden in flowers on the hat.
Among the entries that will be paraded in front of a crowd expected to top 40,000 and considered for the One and Only Truly Fabulous Hats Contest are a hat with moving figurines that tells the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Another features chipmunks that respond to singing into a microphone; and one hat opens up to reveal a stage and a dancing horse.
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