COSI Planetarium
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COSI Planetarium

Indoor stargazing dome amazes youngsters


The Center of Science and Industry in downtown Columbus closed its planetarium in 2004 during a financial crunch. But after raising $1.1 million to revamp the stargazing auditorium, it’s back this year and as our young kids can attest, it’s pretty cool.

“It’s like 3D without glasses,” says 7-year-old Rosie.

With a 60-foot-diameter dome and seating for 200, it’s the largest planetarium in Ohio. High-definition projectors give visitors a glimpse of the universe, as points of light become the moon, planets, stars and galaxies.

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The planetarium is located on the second floor of the 320,000 square-foot science center. It complements the adjacent Space exhibit, where we buckled ourselves onto a zero-gravity toilet seat.

COSI charges an extra $5 for admission to the planetarium. We stood in a long line before taking our seats for a 40-minute show that included a whirlwind tour of the solar system, a cosmic light show and an animated short about an alien capturing Santa Claus in his spaceship.

We sat comfortably in our recliners without straining our necks to see the encompassing ceiling. The sun rose in the east as the full moon set in the west. Animated lines linked stars to form constellations such as Orion, composed of a giant red star called Betelgeuse (pronounced like the movie “Beetlejuice.”)

I was surprised at how mesmerized my children and their friend, Nick, were by the program. I liked getting a refresher-course on astronomy, one of my favorite subjects in school, but I thought the simple animation of “The Alien Who Stole Christmas” didn’t match the technology of the new planetarium and what people have come to expect from animated films. But the children in this auditorium seemed quite content, particularly when the show switched gears into a psychedelic sing-a-long with spiraling lights.

“We’re entering a black hole,” said 5-year-old Max.

I couldn’t help but think this venue would be cool for a birthday party. The space is rentable for private parties and even weddings. Can you imagine?

Other shows include:

Our Universe Above: COSI staff members take guests on a 40-minute tour of the universe, pointing out stars, planets and constellations.

One World, One Sky – Big Bird’s Adventure: Big Bird and friends from Sesame Street take guests on a journey to discover the moon, sun, North Star and Big Dipper.

COSI, 333 W. Broad St., is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Cost is $19; $14 for ages 2-12. Admission to the planetarium costs $5 in addition to general admission.

For more information, visit cosi.org/planetarium.

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COSI: The Science of Fun

Center of Science and Industry makes learning a blast


I joined a line of teenagers to test my fear of heights at the Center of Science and Industry in downtown Columbus. I approached my turn on the high-wire unicycle as my family looked on with encouragement.

After being strapped in, I pedaled backward and surveyed the atrium 17 feet below. Curious onlookers stopped in their tracks.

“OK, now pat your head with one hand and rub your belly with the other,” joked the ride attendant, after I’d traveled to the end of the 84-foot line.

COSI has been encouraging people to put themselves in unique situations in the name of science and fun for 50 years. Innovative attractions geared to spark children’s interest in the physical and natural world have garnered the science center attention and accolades. Parents Magazine named COSI the No. 1 science center in the United States.

My family can attest to having too much fun, all in the name of science. There are hundreds of interactive exhibits to explore in the 320,000 square-foot former Central High School, COSI’s home since 1999.

We buckled ourselves to zero-gravity seats at an exhibit called Space. We played an organ that duplicates the odd sounds our bodies make at an exhibit called Life, which explores human beings from birth to death. I lifted my own body weight in a pulley chair at an exhibit called Gadgets.

We also learned a thing or two.

My husband, Mike, learned that Sherlock Holmes was a masterful observer as he put his skills to the test while solving crimes at a new exhibit called The International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes. Mike and daughter Rosie collected evidence and recorded their findings in a notebook. My son, Max, and I assembled a broken three-dimensional puzzle of a human head and squirted fake blood on a windshield.

I learned that bananas aren’t the most eco-friendly fruits in the bunch at an exhibit called Energy Explorers, which focuses on how energy powers the world around us—from the products we buy to the transportation we take. Bananas, it turns out, require a boatload of fuel to travel from tropical lands to the United States, giving them a gigantic carbon footprint.

Max learned what it’s like to enter a real-life yellow submarine at an exhibit called Ocean. Rosie held onto a pair of handles and listened to the rhythm of her heartbeat on a drum.

There are still many things I haven’t done at COSI. I have yet to feel the hair-raising experience of an electrostatic charge, take a turn at being a weather reporter in front of a green screen, or stand in a wind tunnel and endure a 78-mile gust.

These are reasons why we must return soon.

For more information about COSI, visit www.cosi.org.

Experience Columbus is offering a “Roar and Explore Adventure Getaway” package for $411. It includes a two-night stay at a Drury Hotel, four tickets to COSI, four tickets to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, and four tickets to Zoombezi Bay. Learn more at www.columbusfamilyfun.com.

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COSI: Family Friday Nights

Experience all science center has to offer at fraction of cost


So you’re sitting at home in Columbus on a cold Friday evening with your family wondering what to do for entertainment. Do you roam the clearance aisles at Target yet again? Or do you hang out in the play area at Polaris Fashion Place?

Thanks to downtown Columbus’ Center of Science and Industry, there’s something exciting and affordable to do once a month during COSI’s Family Friday Nights. On the last Friday of each month, guests can explore all the interactive exhibits and educational activities the 320,000 square-foot science center has to offer for $10.95 per person, a fraction of the regular admission price.

COSI Family Friday Nights run from 5-9 p.m. Admission includes all of COSI’s permanent exhibitions and educational activities on three floors, plus a viewing of a movie on the seven-story-high screen. Entry typically costs $32.50 for exhibits, shows and a movie.

Playing with “coffee dough” in KidSpace.

My family of four decided to give a Family Friday Night a try in October. Family nights generally have a theme, and our theme was “spooky science” in celebration of Halloween. The activities included a face-painting station and a magician. There was a good crowd, but it wasn’t overwhelming.

While there, we investigated a first-floor exhibit called Ocean, where kids can shoot water canons at a statue of Neptune, the god of the sea in Roman mythology. We also watched a movie on COSI’s Extreme Screen, which normally costs extra but is included on Family Friday Nights.

We spent the majority of our time, though, in an area designated to preschoolers called Little KidSpace. My two-year-old daughter Rosie unknowingly learned about the force of gravity while making a plastic ball hover over a stream of air. She learned about electricity by flipping a light switch in a kitchen with exposed framing.

COSI is located at 333 W. Broad St.

Plenty of wall-mounted hand sanitizers helped mitigate my concerns about her playing indoors with lots of hands-on activities.

COSI’s employees are more than friendly. In Kidspace, several of them whipped up a batch of “coffee dough” for kids to play with. It felt liked Play-Doh but smelled like coffee and was fun to squish and mold into fun shapes. (See recipe below.)

For $10.95, Family Friday Night can help inspire future inventors and engineers at a friendly price. Now that’s science you can take home.

For more information, visi www.cosi.org/promotions/item/family-friday-night-2.

COSI opened in 1964 in Memorial Hall, and has since welcomed nearly 20 million visitors from all over the world. The science center moved to its current location at 333 W. Broad St. in 1999, and celebrated its tenth year there on Nov. 6. Regular hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Sunday, noon-6 p.m. For more information and additional discounts, call 614-228-2674 or visit www.cosi.org.

COSI’s COFFEE DOUGH RECIPE:

Materials:
4 cups un-sifted, all-purpose flour
¼ cup instant coffee
1 cup salt
1 ½ cups warm water

Directions:
Dissolve coffee in warm water. In another bowl, mix flour and salt. Make a hole in the mixture and pour one cup of the coffee water into it. Mix with a fork or hands until smooth. Add more coffee water if needed. (Dough should be smooth and satiny.) Store in plastic bag to prevent dough from drying. Mold into fun shapes. Finished designs can be baked in a 300-degree oven for 1 hour (until hard). Add two coats of shellac to preserve.