Play like a kid again at MagLab Open House

It’s an adventure in Science Toyland! Channel your inner child when toys and tech collide at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory’s 2024 Open House, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., on the MagLab campus at 1800 E. Paul Dirac Drive in Tallahassee’s Innovation Park.

The free hands-on science festival at Tallahassee’s preeminent research center will feature Slinkies, Legos, Play-Doh, Lite Brite, Barbie and many more toys old and new.

“Toys and science are a perfect combination,” said MagLab Public Affairs Director Kristin Roberts. “Many toys harness science to create their magic. Toys can teach, inspire and create a sense of wonder. It’s going to be an amazing day.”

The MagLab’s open house gives the public a chance to see the facility’s fleet of world-record magnets, meet lab scientists and staff, and experience dozens of dynamic science demonstrations and activities.

The 2024 event will include one-of-a-kind hands-on activities aligned with this year’s toy theme. A special “Play Lab” will give kids the chance to put on their lab coats and play the role of a researcher. A classic Lite Brite will explain the science of light. Barbie will be the basis for learning about (and painting with) pink pigments. Plus, visitors will learn the physics of spinning toys like tops and yo-yos. There will also be the chance to make Play-Doh circuits and Silly Putty, see magnetic dancing dolls, watch cryogen-powered “Cold” Wheels Cars, engage with special Transformers and My Little Pony activities, and look through a working microscope built from Legos. A Lego-themed scavenger hunt will challenge hunters to locate pieces around the lab for a mystery build.

On top of all the new fun and games, some fan favorite demonstrations will return with special toy connections, including a massive Junkyard Magnet that will smash Squishmallow toys, a Potato Head Launcher and an amazing Human Levitator that gives visitors the chance to spin like a top. Other popular favorites will also be included in this year’s event including the incredible Quarter Shrinker, which shrinks quarters to the size of a dime with the power of magnets, delicious Einstein’s Ice Cream, made right before your eyes using super-cold liquid nitrogen, and ultra-cool Frozen Flowers.

Community groups, agencies and organizations will join the festival to share their enthusiasm for science and learning, including the National Park Service, Gulf Specimen Marine Lab, the Challenger Learning Center of Tallahassee, LeMoyne Arts, the Tallahassee Scientific Society and the LeRoy Collins Leon County Public Library. They will also bring dynamic hands-on activities, including Scratch Art, Etch-A-Sketch, a look at historic toys, touch tanks and more!

Several of the lab’s neighbors will open their doors as well, including the High-Performance Materials Research Institute, the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, and the Aero-Propulsion, Mechatronics, and Energy Center.

When you need a break from all the playtime, you won’t be disappointed. Food vendors will offer meals and treats from pizza, barbecue, wings and sandwiches to kettle corn and Italian ice.

Thousands are expected at the science celebration. Last year’s MagLab Open House drew a record crowd estimated at more than 11,000 people. Visitors will come away with fun, fascinating memories and a lasting appreciation for science.

“Toys can be a tool to spark an interest in science and technology and possibly kindle future careers,” said MagLab Deputy Director Eric Palm. “Our wonderful Open House event helps the MagLab share our passion for investigation, exploration and inspiration.”

Funded by the National Science Foundation and the State of Florida, the National MagLab operates many of the strongest magnets in the world, supported by expert staff researchers, engineers and technicians. More than 1,500 researchers from across the US and from dozens of countries visit the lab annually to use its unique equipment, probing fundamental questions about materials, technology, energy, health, the environment and the mysteries of the universe.