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Little Shop of Physics to host 30th Annual Open House (The Sequel)

The+Little+Shop+of+Physics+Teacher+in+Residence+Cherie+Bornhorst+and+student+intern+Grace+Balle+demonstrate+their+system+for+distributing+stuffed+toys+during+outreach+events+Feb.+15.
Collegian | Michael Marquardt
The Little Shop of Physics Teacher in Residence Cherie Bornhorst and student intern Grace Balle demonstrate their system for distributing stuffed toys during outreach events Feb. 15.

At Colorado State University and across the Fort Collins area, the Little Shop of Physics Open House has been an annual highlight for almost three decades. Now the members of the Little Shop of Physics are preparing for their 30th Annual Open House (The Sequel) because the COVID-19 pandemic interfered with their original 30th Annual Open House. This year’s open house will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 24 on the third floor of the Lory Student Center.

“The three ballrooms (will be) chock-full of over 300 hands-on science experiments built and maintained in the 30 plus years of Little Shop of Physics, … (and) some are brand new,” said Heather Michalak, director of Little Shop of Physics and a CSU alum. 

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“If you’re looking for a one-day festival that’s … purely free for everyone, we are the largest festival west of the Mississippi,” -Cherie Bornhorst, Little Shop of Physics teacher in residence

The Little Shop of Physics Teacher in Residence Cherie Bornhorst demonstrates an experiment that shows how soap forms small bubbles in mineral oil Feb. 15. The experiment is a common feature of the Little Shop of Physics outreach programs.

The event, which is free to the public, will also have presentations from the partners of the Little Shop of Physics in the Lory Student Center Theatre on the second floor. Ranging from the CSU Chemistry Club to out-of-state presenters from the University of Utah, they are looking forward to introducing people of all ages to new science concepts and inspiring them to look at the world in a new light.

“Our goal (is to) make things out of everyday objects so when kids see that and relate to it, (we can) say, ‘Go home and tinker and build your own,’” said Cherie Bornhorst, the teacher in residence for the Little Shop of Physics.

The open house will even include hands-on experiments built in house by undergraduate interns for the Little Shop of Physics.

Mason McClellan is an undergraduate intern who showed off a Jupiter Jar, which is currently being built out of recycled materials. Using a lamp fixture, an old cart and wood from an old desk, the Jupiter Jar is all CSU in its materials. 

“It takes a lot of prep work, (but) we have other (previous) projects we can pull from,” McClellan said. “The knowledge you need to do this is kind of inherited.”

The Little Shop of Physics student intern Daniel Berning talks about his internship experience and the upcoming open house Feb. 15. “I always really enjoyed going to the open house,” Berning said. “The interns are new, but when you look at the goal, it hasn’t really changed that much, which is really important to me.”

This will be the first indoor open house since the pandemic and the first at all for many of the undergraduate interns. Such a large event that welcomes thousands of visitors every year requires an immense amount of planning.

“There’s a 13-month checklist,” said Adam Pearlstein, assistant director of the Little Shop of Physics. 

Despite the planning and prep work it takes, those at the Little Shop of Physics said they are grateful to be able to bring science to the public every year.

“If you’re looking for a one-day festival that’s … purely free for everyone, we are the largest festival west of the Mississippi,” Bornhorst said.

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Little Shop of Physics mascot Sir Bearington Feb. 15. “Sir Bearington joined us in the 2013-14 academic year,” Little Shop of Physics Director Heather Michalak said. “He’s been with us for a lot. It’s kind of a funny thing that we have, but it gives character to what we do.”

The Little Shop of Physics is always looking to make science more accessible for everyone. They visit schools in the Northern Colorado area and even take their science on the road to places like Oglala Lakota College in South Dakota. Those at the Little Shop of Physics are even looking to make the event more accessible to people in Fort Collins by providing transportation for those living in low-income communities. 

The Little Shop of Physics is excited to welcome everyone to the Lory Student Center Feb. 24 for their open house. Those who stay until the end will get to watch the unconventional distribution of mini teddy bears and maybe take one home.

Reach Hana Pavelko at science@collegian.com or on Twitter @hanasolo13.

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