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MOSI TAKES A GIANT STEP

For as long as he can remember, Wit Ostrenko has envisioned his dream of the ultimate science museum.

It would have interactive exhibits about medicine and health, Florida and the environment, flight, space and magnetism. There would be a public library, gift shops and restaurants. A nature trail would surround an awe-inspiring building with a state-of-the-art IMAX dome theater.

After years of hard work, Ostrenko, president of the Museum of Science and Industry, has made that dream come true.

MOSI will hold the grand opening of its $35-million expansion project on Saturday. The four-story structure triples the size of the museum and brings every aspect of science to Tampa Bay's doorstep.

"All I've ever wanted to do in a science center in my life is what we've done," Ostrenko said. "The staff can't believe we pulled this off. They can't believe Tampa will have the envy of science centers in the country."

The pride of the new project is a 350-seat IMAX dome theater, the "MOSIMAX," which provides visitors a panoramic movie experience. The dome wraps the movie around the audience to provide a compelling sight and sound experience.

"Astronauts have said it is the closest thing to being in space because you look left, right, up or down and you still see the universe," Ostrenko said. "If you plunge into the water with the sharks, you are still surrounded by the reef. When you fly in the air, you must look all around you to see the full extent of the horizon. It puts you into the film rather than you looking at the film."

MOSIMAX's first film,I To the LimitP, explores the extraordinary feats of athletes and then demonstrates the way the human body changes and reacts to meet the demands of that performance. The film will be projected on a 10,500 square-foot screen that follows the shape of the domed building.

Arizona architect Antoine Predock was peeling an orange one day when he came up with idea for the dome. His design allows museum visitors to walk a circular stairway outside the blue steel dome and look out across Tampa from its peak.

On the drive into the museum, visitors pass through native Florida habitats and wetlands. Forty-seven acres encompass outdoor boardwalks, nature trails, a gopher tortoise habitat and butterfly garden.

Inside the center are hundreds of hands-on activities. Guests can measure temperature, blood pressure, pulse rate, balance, strength and flexibility in "The Amazing You" exhibit, which tours the human body.

A 5,000-square-foot gallery features the planet and its place in the solar system. This display moves from an area about the principles of flying to man's efforts in space with a giant earth model, space station and Mars landscape.

Walking through a giant 3-D "Welcome to Florida" postcard, visitors learn about the environment in the next exhibit. There are also two high-tech multipurpose theaters, a gallery focusing on magnetics and a BioWorks exhibit that tells the water story. A gift shop and cafe round out the 200,000 square foot building.

Ticket prices will remain the same, though there will be an additional charge for the MOSIMAX theater. MOSI officials hope more than a million visitors will pass through its gates in the coming year.

"It gives people yet another reason to either visit here the first time or return," said Jim Clark, president/CEO of the Tampa/Hillsborough Convention and Visitors Association. "What they are adding here is going to be a signature attraction for the area."

Ostrenko said MOSI won't compete with other attractions, but will enhance what the bay area has to offer. He hopes to one day give people the chance to purchase a gold card that would allow them entrance to many attractions.

"I think the Aquarium is going to be successful, I think the Zoo is going to be successful and I think MOSI is going to help them," Ostrenko said. "I think as our successes grow, we'll learn and share with each other."

Scientists and professors say the new museum will also be a place to teach schoolchildren, college students and the public more about science.

"People are interested in science, it's just that they are somewhat reluctant because of the complexity of some of the issues," said Dr. Stan Rice, chairman of the Biology Department at the University of Tampa. "(MOSI) can take contemporary issues in science and translate them into terms the general public can understand and that is an important role they play in society."

Dr. Jerry Meisels, professor of chemistry at the University of South Florida and director of the Coalition for Science Literacy, said that by teaching the public about science, the museum helps people to become better decision makers.

"Science lays the foundation for the technology we all now enjoy," Meisels said. "There are so many decisions to be made these days that have a scientific aspect to them. Discussions in Washington now are to support efforts of environmental research and the ozone layer. That is very significant."

Children who have visited the museum in past months have wondered about the big dome next door and what surprises the new museum will hold.

"They want to know what's going on inside and they can't wait to get over and see it," said Don Toeller, MOSI's director of facilities. "You can hear them buzzing down there in the auditorium."

In the final week before its opening, MOSI staff and construction workers have been adding the finishing touches: installing furniture, counting doorknobs, installing computers and cleaning. They expect to be ready for the throng of people over the holiday weekend.

"It is overwhelming, but it's a wonderful feeling of being overwhelmed," Toeller said. "It's part of a dream we have had for so many years."

THE OPENING FESTIVITIES

Here's a day-by-day schedule for MOSI's holiday weekend events and a list of the museum's ongoing exhibits:

SATURDAY

9 a.m. Dedication ceremony to open MOSI's $35-million expansion and MOSIMAX theater.

Paul Zaloom, better known as Beakman, sort of a wacky scientist who is popular on children's TV and in his nationally syndicated newspaper feature, which appears every week in the Times' Discovery section. He performs at 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Dundu Dole West African Ballet performs.

Bayflite helicopter appears as part of health and flight exhibitions.

Kimberly Coker, inventor of a new board game called Bailiwick, will demonstrate the game from noon to 5 p.m.

Artist Loreen Barry autographs and sells limited edition prints from 1 to 3 p.m.

Artist Barbara Wallace autographs posters created for the MOSI expansion celebration.

SUNDAY

7:30 a.m. MOSI 5000 (5K run and 1-mile walk). Registration is $12; available at NationsBank and MOSI.

Paul Zaloom (Beakman on TV's Beakman's World) performs at 10 a.m. and 12:30, 2 and 4:30 p.m.

Artist Loreen Barry autographs and sells limited edition prints from 1-3 p.m.

Artist Barbara Wallace will autograph posters created specifically for the MOSI grand opening.

Rock Climber Tony Yaniro demonstrates and talk about his sport.

Bill Jackson's sporting goods offers Rollerblading demonstrations.

MONDAY

Paul Zaloom (Beakman on TV's Beakman's World) performs at 10 a.m. and 12:30, 2 and 4:30 p.m.

Rock Climber Tony Yaniro demonstrates and talk about his sport.

TUESDAY

Paul Zaloom (Beakman on TV's Beakman's World) performs at 10 a.m. and 12:30, 2 and 4:30 p.m.

Rock Climber Tony Yaniro demonstrates and talks about his sport.

CONTINUING EXHIBITS

MOSIMAX theater: Special films projected with state-of-the-art sound techniques in a dome setting. Film shown hourly from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. daily. Tickets can be purchased on arrival at MOSI Saturday, Sunday, Monday and the Fourth of July; beginning July 5, reservations can be made by calling 987-6000.

Star Trek: Federation Science: Discover the world of space travel with more than 30 interactive displays incorporating today's real science technology with the fantastic visions of the television series.

The Amazing You: An Exhibition on the Human Body: Tours the human body from DNA up. Includes many hands-on exercises.

Magnetics: The Invisible Force. Introduces magnetism and includes interactive exhibits that allow guests to create and control electric currents, experience the magnetic poles and see magnetism's role in future technology.

Our Place in the Universe: An exhibition of Space, Flight and Beyond: Guests are introduced to Earth and its place in the solar system. Learn about technological advances in aviation and different modes of leaving the Earth.

Our Place on the Planet: An Exhibition on Florida: Gallery explores environmental factors that make Florida unique on Earth.

Steven Brook: Views of Rome. See 200 timeless images of Rome, including the most significant sites of ancient, Christian, and modern Roman architecture.

The Saunders Planetarium: Tampa's only planetarium, with shows throughout the day.

Hubble Vision: Exhibit lets visitors see some of the amazing science the orbiting Hubble telescope has been able to accomplish.

Larry Cat in Space: A family show focusing on a stowaway cat's space adventures.

GTE Challenger Learning Center: A living memorial to the crew of the shuttle orbiter Challenger. Allows all ages to explore the universe through space simulators.

Theatrical performances: Science demonstrations will be presented from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. every half hour in the LabWorks Theater. Also, performers will be scattered throughout the galleries for one-on-one interaction.

HOW TO GET THERE

Take I-275 to the Fowler Avenue exit and head east. MOSI is on the south side at 4801 E Fowler Ave.

TICKETS

The MOSI lobby is a free space. Guests can visit the Hillsborough County Public Branch Library, the Science Story, the Universe Cafe or the Back Woods nature trails free of charge.

Tickets for MOSI exhibits are $8 for adults; $7 for seniors (60 and over); $7 for college students with a valid ID; $5 for youths 13 to 18; and $4 for children (2-12).

Tickets for MOSIMAX movies are $6 for adults; $5 for seniors, college students and youths 13 to 18; $4 for children.

Combo ticket for MOSI and MOSIMAX are $11 for adults; $9 for seniors and college students and youths; $7 for children.

Special ticket price during opening weekend: Get half off any admission ticket, Saturday and Sunday only, by bringing in a recyclable Publix brand milk cap.

HOURS

MOSI opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. during the expansion celebration Saturday through the Fourth of July. For information, call (813) 987-6300.

MOSIMAX THEATRE

Surrounded by sight and sound

The centerpiece of the $35-million addition to the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, or MOSI, is the MOSIMAX theater. This 350-seat theater features the IMAX motion picture system. This system projects incredibly sharp images onto a spherical screen covering 10,500 square feet. An immense sound system adds to the effect of completely wrapping the spectator in sight and sound. The interesting shape of the exterior of the MOSIMAX theater is covered in polished stainless steel that has a layer that refracts the color blue from sunlight, giving the structure's skin the impression of melding into the sky.

The MOSIMAX theater exterior resembles an apple that has been partially peeled away. The cutaway portion reveals a walkway that spirals around the building between the outer and middle domes. This walkway leads to an observation area directly over the theater. The return to ground level is through a five-story cantilevered staircase. Architects say the staircase, surrounded by glass, animates the building by allowing passersby to see people moving through the structure.

Dome in a dome in a dome

The MOSIMAX theater dome is actually three domes that fit inside each other much like a Russian nesting doll. The outer shell is polished stainless steel cut into pie-shaped wedges and pieced together like a huge three-dimensional puzzle. The black middle dome houses the sound system, air conditioning ducts and sprinklers. The inner dome is the screen, which is white and appears to be solid but is perforated to allow sound, air conditioning and sprinklers to pass through and into the theater.

Killer sound system

Regardless of your seat position in the theater, a six-channel, high-fidelity motion picture sound system with sub-bass allows every member of the audience the same quality of sound. Six sets of speakers are placed behind the screen and scattered around the dome.

Interesting note

This line shows how the pedestrian ramp wraps around the theater dome to the observation area.

A little extra

Under the dome is the Ritual Observatory and Amphitheater. Resembling Stonehenge in England, the concrete columns supporting the dome are separated by openings that align with the summer and winter solstice. The amphitheater can be used for small group discussions or plays.

The power projector

The $1-million projector used is the most powerful ever built. The image it projects is 10 times larger than conventional 35mm film and three times bigger than 70mm film. Each spool of film weighs 380 pounds. The film's size and the projector's ability to hold the film firmly against the projecting lens with the help of a vacuum gives the picture a focus and steadiness that exceed normal standards. The projector is lowered 15 feet below the seating level when not in use.

All of this and parking too

Besides the MOSIMAX theater, new additions to the museum include a gift shop, a cafe, a branch of the Hillsborough County public library and more exhibit and office space. Many different materials were used in the construction. A ground cover roof of dwarf confederated jasmine covers the office space while a concrete slab roof covers the library branch. Visitors will travel along a winding road through preserved wetlands to park. Nature walks are also accessible from the parking areas.

Interesting note

The IMAX motion picture system premiered at the Fuji Pavilion at EXPO '70 in Osaka, Japan. The first permanent IMAX projection system was installed in Toronto in 1971. The IMAX DOME technology debuted in San Diego in 1973.

Sources: Museum of Science and Industry; Robbins, Bell & Kreher Architects, Inc.

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