Mar 29, 2024 - News

COSI celebrates 60 years of science (and rat basketball)

A picture of COSI on opening day and separate picture of a ref watching a game of rat basketball.

Left: COSI's former location on East Broad Street. Right: Training rats to play basketball. Photos: Courtesy of COSI

Columbus' Center of Science and Industry first opened its doors 60 years ago today.

Why it matters: The museum has grown into a community mainstay with international reach and often tops lists of the best science museums in America.

Flashback: COSI debuted in 1964 in the Memorial Hall Building on East Broad Street. In search of more space and updated facilities, it moved into its current home, the former Central High School, in 1999.

To mark the anniversary, we talked to Josh Sarver, COSI's chief experience officer and a 22-year veteran of the museum, about the finer points of keeping a busy science museum humming all these years.

πŸ€ On training rats to play basketball: Sarver says training a new pair of rats to dunk on each other is "surprisingly easy."

  • All you need is four to six weeks, patience, and an ample supply of Cheerios, which are used to reward the animals for each basket.
  • The rats perform demonstrations for about 18 months until they start to show signs they're getting sick of it, at which point they're retired and adopted out, usually to a staff member.
  • The now-famous one-on-one games debuted 40 years ago as a way to demonstrate the psychological principle of operant conditioning.
An ad for COSI's rat basketball
A vintage COSI ad. Photo: Courtesy of COSI

On the museum's oldest exhibit: Things don't tend to last long in hands-on science centers, Sarver says. But a nearly 60-year-old model of a transparent, talking woman is still successfully teaching visitors about human anatomy.

  • Her electronic guts have been updated over the years, but her skeleton, organs and veins are 1960s originals.
  • The intrigue: She doesn't have a name, but maybe Axios Columbus readers can help change that. Hit reply with suggestions.

πŸ—ΊοΈ On COSI's international ambition: COSI officially went international in 2022, when the museum helped staff the USA Pavilion at the World's Fair in Dubai.

  • Since then, Sarver says COSI has also done programs in the U.K. and Italy.

Stop by: COSI is celebrating today with a balloon drop at noon and a round of classic science demonstrations. General admission tickets are required.


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