Ohio’s COSI Science Festival Staying Virtual This Year

Running this week through Saturday, the third annual COSI Science Festival, hosted by the Center of Science and Industry, will involve free programming from universities, nonprofits, museums and other community groups.

Columbus, Ohio, skyline.
(TNS) — As part of a virtual festival that begins Wednesday, families can catch a ride on the International Space Station (sort of), watch hot lava form (kind of), and take a 360-degree tour of a futuristic research lab for plants (definitely) — all to illustrate principles of science.

While a little imagination will be needed for Friday’s expedition to space, presenters at the 1:30 p.m. virtual trip will discuss the station’s National Lab and some of the amazing science that happens beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

It’s one of the many virtual events in the third annual COSI Science Festival, which runs through Saturday. All of the events found at cosiscifest.org focus on expanding the role of science in real life and are geared toward all ages, including adults.

With COSI Columbus closed due to the pandemic since March 2020, last year’s event went virtual and this year’s festivities followed suit. (COSI has announced that it will reopen June 3.)

Various businesses, schools and universities, science leaders, nonprofits, museums and representatives from local diverse communities are working with COSI on the free programming for the festival, which COSI officials say is the largest STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) event in the state.

One of Thursday’s programs will feature Amy Heintz, Technical Fellow at Battelle, the Columbus-based research institute. She will discuss her specialty, polymer science, showing teens how nylon is made, and she will be interviewed by a colleague about the various ways everyone can get involved in science.

“Kids in fourth or fifth grade are really at their most creative and bold,” Heintz said. “It's a pivotal time.”

Chemistry also will be showcased Friday by Glass Axis, the popular Franklinton art glass studio, whose glass blowers will demonstrate properties of matter and practical uses of glass, said Melody Reed, executive director.

“We’ll show how fiber-optic cable is made and how light is transmitted over very fine strands,” she said. “It helps to build that understanding and ties into (students’) curriculum.”

The presentation is “basically playing with hot lava,” she said. “We are working on ways to make it as awe-inspiring as if you’re there.”

For those more into biology, Courtney Price, an Ohio State University education and outreach specialist, will host a 360-degree tour of the Arabidopsis Biological Resource Center & Center for Applied Plant Sciences, a futuristic research laboratory.

The Friday tour will last about 40 minutes and show cultivation methods of the weed that is in the same family as broccoli, cabbage and radish. It is considered a model organism due to its prolific seed production, self-pollination and usefulness for genetic experiments.

The OSU facility on West Campus includes a greenhouse, along with growth chambers called “light closets” with robots to help distribute seeds into vials, Price said.

“It’s yet another opportunity to show people the different ways you can connect to science.”

Other presenters include meteorologists with American Electric Power who help the company prepare for storms and improve reliability of the power grid and restoration times. And Columbus Karma Thegsum Chöling Buddhist center will teach the basics of mindfulness and relaxation techniques in a 90-minute presentation.

The festival culminates on the last day with the “Big Science Celebration,” when people can connect virtually together with at-home science activities.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the first festival in 2019 happened in venues across the area in an effort to make science more accessible. It culminated with a huge celebration outside COSI on West Broad Street.

The 2019 in-person festival attracted about 40,000 people. Last year’s online programming drew about 116,000 visitors, according to COSI.

During the festival, COSI also will honor Lewis “Lou” Von Thaer, president and CEO at Battelle, as the recipient of its inaugural John Glenn Inspiration Award, which is named after the late astronaut and U.S. senator from Ohio. Von Thaer will be honored virtually during a ceremony Wednesday at 12:30.

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