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By: Karla Adams
Marketing & Communications Officer
International Relations Council

Riverside, California was named the most “Intelligent Community of the Year 2012” by Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) at its annual awards ceremony at Steiner Film Studios in Brooklyn, New York.  And Riverside, the City of Arts and Innovation, continues to strive to meet that designation by engaging its youth in STEM and STEAM inspired events.

On October 10, 2019 Riverside’s Long Night of Arts and Innovation will be held from 5p.m. to 11p.m.  This free event, which is held biennially, was conceived by members of the International Relations Council, and Riverside’s Sister City Committee for Erlangen, Germany.  The Long Night of Art and Innovation is designed to encourage young people to garner interest in science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM), and expose local students to the incredible educational and career opportunities that are available to them right in their hometowns, in Inland Southern California.

Dr. Lalit Acharya, PhD, the International Relations Officer of the Mayor of Riverside and one of the organizers of Long Night shared, “Our idea is that you take high school students and you expose them to all these professors, all of these institutions, and all these ideas that are taking place and it helps them understand everything they would need for a great education and career.”

The first Long Night of Arts and Innovation first held in 2012 attracted around 4,000 people. Held again in 2013 then biennially beginning in 2015.  In 2017 15,000 families attended Long Night with over 1,800 children ages 10 or under, attending the kid’s zone to participate in a variety of age-appropriate interactive activities ranging from building robots to human skeletons.  This year the Long Night of Arts and Innovation will feature over 400 presentations, ranging from virtual reality exhibitions to talks about video animations. The presenters represent the best talent in the STEM fields and in the performing and visual arts.

According to Riverside Mayor, Rusty Bailey, the idea behind Long Nights originated in 2011. He and a delegation comprised of past mayor Ron Loveridge, Lalit Acharya, Gordon Bourns, Karin Roberts and Reza Abbaschian traveled to Erlangen, Germany to sign a Sister City.  Sister Cities emerge as agreements between cities in different countries to foster friendship, and exchanges in education, economic development, art and culture.  Sister Cities was founded in 1956 by President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who felt that creating understanding between people was essential to building the road to enduring peace.   In the U.S., Sister Cities International is a non-profit diplomatic network of citizens.  Riverside’s nine Sister Cities are overseen by the International Relations Council of Riverside, which has proudly served Riverside for over 50 years.

Dr. Reza Abbaschian. PhD, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and the distinguished Director of Winston Chung Global Energy Center at UCR, shared that Erlangen was Riverside’s first Sister City in Europe, explaining that Riverside chose Erlangen due to similarities between their universities, and Erlangen’s thriving high tech businesses, including Siemens and some semi-conductor companies.  Both cities started having talks to form a Sister City in 2009 when Ronald O. Loveridge was mayor of Riverside.  In 2011, the delegation signed the formal agreement creating the partnership.  And it was during the signing ceremony in Erlangen that the Riverside delegation experienced Erlangen’s Long Night of Science

The Erlangen Long Night draws thousands of people by displaying scientific innovations to inspire young people to start a career in STEM related disciplines.  Presentations are spread throughout the region, allowing students and their families to tour universities, business and cultural spectacles in three German cities.   Maryam, an Erlangen student who is currently interning at the Mayor’s office in Riverside attended the 2011 Erlangen Long Night shared, “There were literally so many presentations and lectures, and they also had interactive stuff.”

Mayor Bailey and the delegation immediately became keen to export the Erlangen event to Riverside.  “We were talking at the back of the bus about what we could do to bring these ideas to fruition in Riverside,” Mayor Bailey said.  At first, they planned to have “international restaurants where we could serve food from the various Sister Cities, especially good food and beer from Germany,” he explained.  After having several discussions, “We decided to go beyond food and drink and asked ourselves, what if we shared arts and innovation as well?” Mayor Bailey added they ultimately decided to call the event the Long Night of Arts and Innovation to mirror Riverside’s axiom.

Past chair of the Erlangen committee, Karin Roberts, shared, “The Long Night of Arts and Innovation is an excellent example how to get inspiration from our German Sister City Erlangen and create an educational and fun event for the City of Riverside.  For me, it is important that Riversiders learn to understand various cultures and see that the differences between people and cultures are not so big if you go everywhere with open heart and positive attitude. Whenever you travel or meet someone new put an effort to find out person values, learn some new expression in foreign language, visit cultural places, try new food and these will bring you closer to see all the great things this world has to offer and in the same time it will influence on you in a positive way.”  Long Night gives students of all ages an opportunity to step outside their norm.

Planning Long Night is arduous; “It is a very complicated event and it takes us a year to put it together,” said Lalit.  Presenters average five to six presentations each; “that adds up to about 1000 presentations… and sorting out their schedule is serious work.”   The event organizers do not collect money from presenters; instead, they provide the materials and equipment needed for each presentation. “We don’t charge anyone for anything,” Lalit said.  All of the funds needed for the evening are raised from sponsorships from the universities and community colleges (UCR, CBU, LSU, RCCD, CSSB, SBCC, LLU), and organizations such as the Western Municipal Water District, Riverside Public Utilities, Bourns Inc., and SolarMax Technology, Inc.

The Long Night of Arts and Innovation is regarded as important to both the society and economy of Riverside. On the economic front, restricting special foods and drink booths during the event is done to support local eateries. Lalit explains that during the event, eateries make revenues around six times what they earned on a regular day.  Socially, the event supports cross-cultural exchanges and also helps build up the resumes of high school students when they apply for college.  It also supports the transfer of knowledge between generations and inspires students to pursue interests in different fields.

Long Nights also features competitions including engineering competitions, soft and hard-math competitions that each reward students for their intelligence and rewards teachers for being good mentors. Winners of these competitions, and their teachers, are awarded prizes ranging from Apple Inc. products to art supplies.  In addition, two cash prizes of $500 are given to two students, one for science and one in arts, by a select panel of judges from university and community college chancellors and school district superintendents.

STEP Conference

Long Night in Riverside has a close organizational partnership with a similar event in the city called the Science and Technology Education Partnership Conference (STEP Conference). First started in 2000, the STEP Conference is a free, one week event that is also designed to inspire young people between kindergarten to twelfth grade to study STEM. The event is organized by Bourns Inc. a Riverside-based automotive electronics manufacturer.  STEP Conferences draw around 5,000 students and 250 teachers and different universities and the U.S. Navy make presentations showing off their latest innovations.

During the first three days of the event, students work in teams to understand how STEM is used for policing, firefighting, manufacturing, safety and public utility.  In the last two days, they work on a project and presentations that show how tech can improve the aforementioned sectors.  According to Gordon Bourns, CEO of Bourns Inc., the STEP Conference, “is a way for students to have a longer exposure and more in-depth to STEM.”  Over the last eight years, the STEP Conference and the Long Nights of Arts and Innovations have held a week apart. Together, they help to complement the city’s STEM focus, with the Long Night going a step further to include a major focus on the Arts for STEAM.

Information for the 2019 Event/Contact Info/Websites

The fifth Long Night of Arts and Innovation will be on October 10th from 5p.m. to 11p.m. featuring over 400 presentations, with technological innovations, music, food tasting and student competitions.  Expect presentations from universities like: California Baptist University; California State University, San Bernardino; La Sierra University; Riverside Community College District and the University of California, Riverside.

This year, the International Relations Council of Riverside and the nine Sister Cities will host a Sister City Village to display the diverse cultures of Riverside’s sister cities, including Sendai, Japan; Cuautla and Ensenada, Mexico; Jiangmen, China; Gangnam, Korea; Hyderabad, India;, Obuasi, Ghana; Erlangen, Germany and Can Tho Viet Nam.  Bring your cameras and cell phones!  You won’t want to miss a chance to snap “selfies” along the Sister Cities walk.

For more information about the event, please see the website:

http://www.longnightriverside.com/

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