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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
High School students attend Science Day at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012.

SALT LAKE CITY — Besides sounding impactful, destructive tornadoes, anthrax and forensic dentistry are all deeply rooted in science. Professors and business leaders at the University of Utah hoped to instill the importance of each, among other influential topics, in young students Saturday, during one of the school's biggest recruitment efforts of the year.

"We have been telling our kids since they were little that they were going to college," said Robyn Tenney of Hooper. She woke up early and braved snow-covered roads to give her son, Taylor, a sophomore at the Academy for Math, Engineering and Science, a glimpse at what college is all about.

"I want him to get excited about what is beyond high school," Tenney said. She expects to complete a degree in health administration next year and has college savings plans set up for each of her three kids. "We want our children to outdo ourselves," she said. "We always hope for the best for them."

Taylor, 14, said he's already interested in robotics and engineering and typically fidgets on the computer whenever he has time. He's looking forward to college, even if it isn't at the U., to get away from a sister he said is "so annoying."

He was one of about 800 stuends, parents and some teachers who attended the event.

"Science Day is a great opportunity for high school students to get a close-up look at cutting edge research and career opportunities in science, math and engineering available at the U.," said Lisa Batchelder, academic program manager of the university's College of Science. She said the ultimate goal of Science Day, which has been held annually since 1989, is to grow enrollment at the U.

Dr. Douglas Wyler, an Southern California expert in forensic dentistry spoke to a crowd of students gathered from all over the state and Nevada and California at the Olpin Union Building. He encouraged students to be smart about pursuing higher education.

"In the next five years, you're going to make decisions that literally affect the rest of your lives," he said. "I want you to sign up for college and I want you to finish. So many sign up and do not finish."

Despite continual disappointment and destruction, Wyler said that Looney Toons character Wile E. Coyote is the hero in the long-running cartoon sketch, in which he is depicted in a constant battle with the ever-outsmarting Road Runner. "He uses a lot of science and he keeps ACME in business, but he never gives up."

Rebekah Barnett and Rachel Johnson, both 16, said they attended Saturday's event in part to claim the extra credit offered in one of their science classes at Davis High School in Kaysville. But both girls said they have a penchant for math or science, and are looking for options in deciding their future.

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"I like science and math and seeing how things work," Barnett said. While she was looking forward to a particular discussion group about varying genomes, she thought the atmosphere was fun and gave her an added opportunity to socialize.

Pierre Sokolsky, dean of the U.'s College of Science, said the day, filled with a variety of workshops and instructional discussions for attending students and their parents, touts not only education, but community involvement and ongoing research.

"Without a doubt, science and technology will be the key to the 21st Century, just as industry drove the 20th Century," he said.

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com Twitter: wendyleonards