Fermilab to bring science to life during Family Open House

Kurt Riesselmann (second from right) with Fermilab's Office of Communication speaks to attendees during last year's Family Open House. This year's event will take place from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. (Photo provided by Fermilab)

BATAVIA – If your child wants to see the effects of liquid nitrogen up close and personal, Fermilab is the place to visit this weekend.

The national laboratory for particle physics research will open its doors to families from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday during its 11th annual free open house, said Spencer Pasero, head of Fermilab’s Office of Education and Public Outreach.

“Our job is … to get students and their parents connected to the lab, asking questions about physics [and thinking about the] smallest particles of matter and biggest structures of the cosmos,” Pasero said.

Several activities in Wilson Hall have been arranged to spark interest in students of all ages.

Jerry Zimmerman, a cryogenics engineer known by students as “Mr. Freeze,” will demonstrate the “cool” effects of liquid nitrogen during several cryogenics performances throughout the afternoon.

Hands-on exhibits will be available with scientists standing by to answer questions.

And high-schoolers from four area schools – including St. Charles East – will illustrate physics principles to younger students through their own exhibits during a “physics carnival.”  

Fermilab also will host its “Ask-a-Scientist” program during the open house. Usually held the first Sunday of each month, the informal discussion between visitors and Fermilab scientists garners great conversations, Pasero said.

Tours of the remote operation centers, from which many of the lab’s experiments are controlled, will take place as well. Operators will be at their stations ready to discuss their jobs as visitors pass through.

Additional tours will require reservations, including one to see the 50-foot-wide Muon g-2 electromagnet that was transported from Long Island to the lab in 2013.

Robin Bjorkquist, a graduate student at Cornell University who has been at Fermilab since July, will lead the Muon g-2 tours. Through her graduate work, the 28-year-old helped disassemble and reassemble the electromagnet and is passionate about the experiment.

“One of the things I think is so neat about it is we build these really large machines full of special detectors and special electronics, and it takes years to design the equipment we need, and the whole reason is to measure the universe on a scale that is much smaller than what any of us experiences in our daily lives,” she said.

Fermilab is located at the corner of Kirk Road and Pine Street in Batavia. To learn more, visit ed.fnal.gov/openhouse.

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