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onCampus--Ohio State's faculty/staff news

Vol. 38, No. 18

By: Joni Bentz Seal

OSU, COSI partner to stimulate youthful curiosity

As a high school student, Christopher Andersen was so inspired by COSI that he became a science teacher.

On June 29, Andersen, the new director of Project GRO, joined more than 120 Ohio State faculty and staff at a day-long session at COSI to generate ideas to make the museum's current and future exhibits not only fun, but more educational.

"COSI has the potential to inspire kids just as I was inspired; to get them to ask questions and think outside the box," Andersen said. "Our goal is to better infuse science throughout the facility, in turn nurturing kids' interest in science, math and technology."

This new partnership is just one of nearly 100 Ohio State/COSI collaborations in the last decade, Andersen said, although it is among the first intended to influence the permanent exhibits. With themes such as Life, Ocean and Space, and demonstrations like the Electrostatic Generator Show, the Science of Fireworks and Rat Basketball - a guest favorite - COSI will benefit on all levels from the expertise at Ohio State.

Participant observations were mostly positive and constructive, with suggestions ranging from the need for basic science equipment (such as microscopes) and more guest interaction with COSI staff to a better alignment of science theory with exhibits. A number of attendees have forwarded proposals for new programs, according to Melissa Weber, director of communications and outreach for the College of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, a co-sponsor of the event.

Bettina Bair, coordinator of the Women in Computer Engineering and a senior lecturer in computer science and engineering, submitted a proposal to "thread" information technology throughout the museum's exhibits, conveying its impact in nearly every aspect of modern life. She also suggests making use of empty space, such as hallways and stairways, to feature posters or interactive kiosks citing some of OSU's discoveries.

"Everyone who visits the museum sees it through the filter of his or her own experiences, but we can suggest our own filters," Bair wrote in her proposal. "Each visit is an opportunity to help inspire a future generation of computer scientists that may ultimately invent a successor to the personal computer or the Internet."

The key, according to Weber, is to encourage long-term, hands-on collaboration between the museum and OSU faculty. To begin, a summary of the June 29 discussion, suggestions and proposals will be featured on the Web. From there, working groups will be developed. Volunteers have already stepped forward to assist with specific projects or exhibits, she said.

That's where Project GRO - Project to Support Grants for Research Outreach - comes in. Andersen, based in the Office of Research but working in conjunction with the Office of Outreach and Engagement, will serve as the conduit for anyone wishing to get involved in the partnership with COSI or other educational institutions. In addition, Andersen has a background in grant writing and possesses a network of projects and opportunities that may help faculty satisfy the outreach component of grant proposals.

For more information, contact Andersen at andersen.18@osu.edu.

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