Posted by: COSI | February 20, 2012

John Glenn—National Hero, Long Time COSI Friend

Today the world focuses again on the accomplishment of John Glenn and NASA in celebrating the fact that exactly 50 years ago, the world stopped while Glenn orbited the world three times as the first United States astronaut to do so. I vividly remember sitting in my classroom as we were riveted with the journey and holding our breath collectively with the danger of re-entry with a suspected problem with the heat shield.

That makes it ever more special to me that NASA is here to help celebrate with the public today the 50th anniversary of Senator Glenn’s flight. NASA Glenn brought a series of special activities to COSI along with helping provide Astronaut Colonel Gregory Johnson and NASA history book author Ed Buckbee to share insights as only they can on our rich history of manned space flights.

John Glenn and Sandy Hallock

Senator Glenn giving our COSI founder, Sandy Hallock, financial support for COSI just after our opening in 1964.

What I bet no one knew is how far back John Glenn’s history and support of COSI go. I’ve included the photo from our archives of Senator Glenn giving our COSI founder, Sandy Hallock, financial support for COSI just after our opening in 1964. Senator Glenn has affirmed with me that this was because he felt that “COSI was an essential resource to help inspire youth in science and technology.”

To Senator Glenn’s credit he and his wonderful wife Annie have been continuously supportive and engaged with COSI since those first days. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know them and they think COSI is as important, if not more so, today as we were in our fledgling beginning.

So we’re sorry he can’t be here interacting with the public (I could have seen us positioning him next to our full scale replica of his Friendship 7 capsule or speaking in our John Glenn theater), but we’re glad NASA has helped us celebrate with the public in his honor.

And in the usual small world we live in, Colonel Gregory Johnson who is here to engage with our public, piloted the Endeavor in 2011. The Endeavor last year was the last shuttle to take flight—carrying my former student Colonel Mike Fincke back into space. My how life and events weave together!

Posted by: COSI | January 25, 2012

Race & Science-How Bad Science Can Persist

The opening of our exhibition this Saturday, RACE: Are We So Different? has reminded me of my own special up-close opportunity associated with the science underlying our new exhibition. I was able in the last 10 years to personally engage with the leading scientists behind the recent definitive change in the science behind the concept of race.

RACE: Are We So Different? is engaging, powerful and stimulates thoughtful and informed conversations. The exhibition engages you with the science associated with the concept of race at its onset. Past science has been used to justify the societal use of the concept of race. However, the mapping of the human genome has refuted that. Amazingly the Human Genome project was just relatively recently completed to set the stage for a definitive understanding of our human genetic nature (the first draft human DNA map was announced in 2000). So unfortunately I still hear some people still accepting the “bad science” that there is a scientific basis for race.

Dr. Craig Venter

Dr. Craig Venter

The Human Genome project was transformed from a singular, federal scientific initiative into an exciting and at times controversial competition between private and government led teams, racing to eventually a shared completion of mapping the entire human genome. On the one side was the brash Dr. Craig Venter using a dramatically new approach and private funds, on the other side was Dr. Francis Collins working within the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

I have had the privilege of talking to both of these scientific leaders since then about race and our human DNA. Dr. Venter had been at the University of Buffalo in the early years of his career and we hosted him when I was CEO at the Buffalo Museum of Science. I asked him outright about the issue in front of a large audience of high school teens and adults we had assembled–in part because I was still hearing people claim that as humans we can be differentiated genetically by race, and I thought I knew better. I still remember Dr. Venter’s emphatic answer “no” to the question.

Dr. Francis Collins

Dr. Francis Collins

Coming to COSI I had the chance to sit over dinner with Dr. Collins (now head of the National Institutes of Health) and ended up in a similar conversation with another definitive answer of “no”. We are different genetically from one another, but our similarities far outweigh our differences and there is no correlation between the construct we use in America called “race” and human genes.

Race truly is a social construct, but a powerful one that has had impactful negative effects.

COSI is expanding our role as a hub and instigator of public dialogue on science based discussions. We look forward to the public engagement with the topic of race as we put the science on this to rest with the exhibition RACE: Are We So Different?

We hope the exhibition, the programs, speakers, and partners associated with it encourage dialogue on how we draw strength from our community’s growing diversity as we make ourselves a strong city of the future.

And I’ll hold my own confidently in any contrary discussions of the science with the conversations I was fortunate enough to have with each of the two leaders whose teams raced to map and start the understanding of our full human genome.

Posted by: COSI | January 16, 2012

RACE: Are We So Different? Coming to COSI

Scenes from this morning's MLK Breakfast.

I am at the Martin Luther King breakfast in Columbus as I write this (and we have been told that again this is the largest MLK breakfast in the country).

In emphasizing the need for ongoing understanding of our similarities that go way beyond our differences in appearance, COSI’s major exhibition: RACE: Are We So Different? was highlighted.

RACE: Are We So Different? was highlighted by the President of Columbus City Council and our 8 minute introductory video was shown, as seen in this phone camera shot. I am thrilled to see the potential of this COSI offering as a tool for community dialogue and understanding. I can’t wait for its opening January 28.

Posted by: COSI | December 1, 2011

COSI Loses Someone Special—David Castle, Sr.

While many of us were getting the favorite family dishes out on the table Thanksgiving Day, one of COSI families were unexpectedly and shockingly going through the loss of the family patriarch, David Castle, Sr.  Felled by a sudden heart attack, the Castle family day went from joy to tragedy with his death.  With shock the rest of us found out during the course of the day by text messages and e-mails we picked up—creating an awkward internal tension between our personal joys and gratitude on Thanksgiving and our sense of personal grief and the unconscionable anguish we knew the Castle family had been thrust into.

At COSI, even though we are a $15 million “business”, we have retained a family feel from the early days of a handful of dedicated individuals creating the COSI tradition at the old location on East Broad Street.  “Castle” as I learned to call him, was one of those people, starting as a long time volunteer over 20 years ago at our original location.  He moved over to be a key member of the team keeping up with our “new” 320,000 square foot facility on West Broad St.  He was internally a well known, albeit quiet, part of our COSI family of team members dedicated to serving the public.

David Castle, Sr. cleaning COSI building on big lift.

Castle was an amazing, wonderful and unique person who took pride in going above and beyond to take care of us and this building. People like that are becoming increasingly rare in this day and age.

Our frontline team saw that side of Castle every day.  I didn’t get to understand that fully until we had the dilemma of a concrete faced building getting increasingly dirty with no funds to clean it.

Castle and his supervisor, Rodger Schaefer, offered to fit in the cleaning of the building alongside all their other work!  I don’t have time to do the math—but think of the amount of surface area to 158 concrete panels facing a signature building over three stories high, with a continuous curved cement face.  (One illustrating fact is that the 960-foot wall is longer than three football fields laid end to end or 110 feet longer than New York City’s Rockefeller Center is tall.)  It’s a daunting task to even consider, but it didn’t seem to faze Castle and his comrade-in-arms volunteering to take it on.

David Castle, Sr.

I marveled at Castle and Rodger, who through five months of varying weather—from hot and blazing to cold and windy, hoisted themselves almost daily high into the air on a lift to clean the grime off COSI with a high powered washer.  I love the picture of Castle blasting off the last block of black dirt that had threatened to ingrain itself forever into our huge concrete façade.  That is the visual memory of Castle which will stick with me the most.

From what I’m told by his closest friends on our COSI team, Castle brought an attitude of “Get R Done” to something like that challenge of having our building present itself outside with the same quality of our #1 ranked science experience inside.  And “Get R Done” he did.

So when you next visit COSI, look up at the gleaming concrete face and know the dedication of a special team member, now lost way too young to his wife, kids, and grandkids and to his COSI family.

Castle, you will be sorely missed and never replaced.

Posted by: COSI | November 30, 2011

Space Beckons and Excites Again?

Can the United States space program reignite excitement in the exploration of our broader universe beyond the surface of our earth?  And if so, can it be significant without manned flight in stimulating people’s natural curiosity about our place in the world and universe?

Can a single, big rocket launch with an audacious goal be the tool?

This week, if you judge by the media coverage, the major scale up of our Martian exploration has caught public attention and is generating buzz.  Can we land a major exploration rover the size of a small car on the surface of Mars?  Can we use a controlled descent for the first time with something that large in a very thin atmosphere to land inside a crater?

If we are successful (half of all Mars mission fail), will we find evidence of conditions for life which have us thinking differently about life on Earth?

This effort has some of the same intrigue, risk, and big, hairy goals that earlier manned missions had that sucked in my attention and stimulated my interests and pursuits in science and math.

I think this Mars expedition may be one that has that potential.  I hope places like COSI can integrate and leverage public interest and excitement around this—maybe showing first images in our newly digitized Extreme Screen theater?

Read the following article and let me know if YOU think this is a NASA exploration that can gain traction as inspiring to the children, teens, and adults in our country.  And if so, how would you suggest COSI add value and access?

Posted by: COSI | November 10, 2011

International Thought Movement Comes to COSI

The "incubation session" at TEDxYouth@Columbus

TED conferences have become world famous—with some of the most brilliant talks and speakers you can ever find congregated at one place.

TEDx, the approved expansion into local versions have now spread worldwide.

TEDx Youth is a new concept that will play out in about 50 cities worldwide, but one of the earliest took place today at COSI.

Today’s TEDx Youth was an inspiring day with youth sharing ideas related to improving their/our world.  It also gave us a feel for tomorrow’s event, the full TEDx Columbus event COSI is hosting.

I’m pumped—this is one more of the ways in which we see COSI aiding the community as a locus for significant community events and a connector among organizations, the public, and our partners.

Check it out on the following website or watch it streaming live at

Older Posts »