Students from all over the world attend UF. If you were born and raised in Florida, you may feel as if you’ve visited all of the places worth visiting in this beloved state, and if you’re not from Florida, perhaps you’re not willing to make the trip all the way to places like the Everglades, or you’re looking for something cheaper than a trip to Disney World (we are college students, after all). If you can relate to any of the aforementioned situations, you’re in luck, because I have the perfect solution. Going past the well-known attractions here in Florida, if you look hard enough, you’ll be surprised by the places that you uncover. One of these so-called “hidden” gems is the Museum of Science and Industry, or MOSI, in Tampa.
Now, I know what you’re thinking — a museum is the last place anyone would want to go for fun. However, MOSI is more than just a museum. In fact, during my visit there, I didn’t even feel like I was in one. The wonderful thing about MOSI is that it aims to teach children that STEAM fields (that’s a new version of ‘STEM’ fields — it stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) can be fun.
I was lucky enough to speak with Grayson Kamm, the Communications Director at MOSI, who used to be a student here, but let’s be honest — he’s still a Gator. One of the things that resonated with me the most about our conversation was how he really seemed to love his job, because he spends every single day making a difference. Who could ask for anything more? It’s easy to get lost in the creative environment that the museum and its staff create. With about 450 exhibits, many of them involving hands-on activities, the people at MOSI truly work to make things interactive. Nothing about the museum involves simply reading off of a plaque. In fact, in the past, the museum has had countless visiting exhibits featured.
Currently, MOSI features the coolest thing yet — an exhibit called Dinosaurs in Motion, which is made up of fourteen life-size dinosaurs. That’s not all, folks! Mr. Kamm even told me that each dinosaur is a hand-crafted steel sculpture made of recycled material. Here’s where the “in Motion” part comes in. Every dinosaur has some kind of mechanism that makes it move, involving mechanisms like pulleys and levers. As you move through the exhibits, these systems become more complex, until you get to a 40-foot long T-Rex, whose jaws you can move with giant levers. In fact, visitors can make all of the dinosaurs move in different ways.
If that’s not enough to sway you to stop in for a visit, how about this fun fact: MOSI is home to the only driverless car in America open to the public, which means you can actually take it for a spin!
Now, if you’ve still got this image in your head of a bland and boring museum, let me tell you about the STEAM punks. The STEAM punks are a group of hands-on educators with an 1800s mad scientist vibe that “commit random acts of science” around the building. As Mr. Kamm relayed to me, this could mean anything from lighting things on fire to mixing chemicals together. Although the STEAM punks do shows in front of audiences, they also set up experiments in the middle of the museum. Their purpose is to get people involved and spread their love of STEAM. One thing is for certain — they’re always in character. Another true treasure of the museum is the IMAX dome theater, which features 10,000 square feet of movie screen. As you can imagine, with a screen that large, it’s an extremely immersive experience. While, documentaries are played in the IMAX theater, Hollywood movies are also shown there, including the upcoming film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. During your visit, be sure to also take a peek at the stars at the Saunders planetarium, because MOSI is nothing if not thorough. It even incorporates astronomy into its array of subjects to learn about.
While all of this is fine and dandy, why should college students be interested in a museum that aims to teach children about the STEAM world? The thing is, a lot of us aspire to go into STEAM careers, and the kinds of technology, science, art, and mathematics that MOSI features are things that could change the world for the better. They offer hands-on demonstrations of things like 3D printing and robotics-the kind of state-of-the-art technology that could truly shape our future. MOSI makes these things more accessible to the general public and encourages the flow of ideas. I think that this sends a very powerful messag. It communicates that these kinds of things are not beyond anyone’s reach.
As Mr. Kamm said, “Expanding STEAM fields and making them more accessible is really our bread and butter; it’s a mix of providing a cool environment to learn, but also not making you feel like you’re learning. You’re having fun.”
Even if STEAM is not your area of interest, you can’t deny that this stuff is objecively cool. Whether you’re looking to explore the gorgeous butterfly garden or learn how lightning is created, MOSI truly has something for everyone. So, the next time you’re looking to go exploring, I hope that you’ll consider checking MOSI out. Believe me, you won’t regret it!
A special thanks to Grayson Kamm for taking the time to tell me all about MOSI and its vision of a pro-STEAM generation, which its staff works tirelessly to make a reality.
Photograph by Samantha Boddupalli