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Little Shop of Physics Open House set for Feb. 22

February 17, 2014
Kortny Rolston

If you are curious about science or have children who are, then the Little Shop of Physics' 23rd annual open house on Saturday is for you. Colorado State University faculty and students and other volunteers have designed and built more than 300 hands-on science experiments and interactive presentations for the event, including the Million Volt Tesla Coil and Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream.

This year’s open house runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in CSU’s Lory Student Center and the neighboring Engineering Building. It is free and open to the public.

“We had 7,000 people attend last year,” said Brian Jones, CSU instructor and director of the Little Shop. “People of all ages attend and learn about science. We would like more this year.”

Saturday’s event kicks off a series of regional and national demonstrations for Jones and his tie-dyed crew. On April 23, they are conducting a series of science experiments with more than 15,000 Denver-area students as part of “Weather and Science Day” at Coors Field in partnership with 9News and the Colorado Rockies.

Two days later, they travel to Washington, D.C., to participate in the 2014 USA Science and Engineering Festival, the largest event of its kind in the country.

“This is the first time we’ve been invited to attend the Washington event,” Jones said.

Exciting science

Jones started the Little Shop in the 1990s as a way to get young students excited about science, particularly physics. In the early days, Jones packed 25 experiments into an old Volkswagen van and presented to a few schools each year.

Little Shop has expanded greatly since then. Student interns and volunteers work year-round designing and building new hands-on experiments and reach thousands of students in Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming, New Mexico and other states.

Jones films several science videos each year that are broadcast throughout the Poudre School District. Students assist him as he uses inexpensive, everyday objects to illustrate scientific principles at work in daily life, from the energetics of food to the peculiar properties of water.

He includes a “behind the scenes” segment for teachers so they can replicate the experiments.

“Our main message in everything we do is that science is interesting, is accessible, and is something you do — it’s a process,” Jones said. “Indeed, it’s something anyone can do, with a curious mind and a few simple tools.”