Fermilab hosts 16th annual Family Open House for families and kids of all ages – Sunday, Feb. 9

Media contact
  • Andre Salles, Fermilab Office of Communication, media@fnal.gov, 630-840-3351

There will be loads of hands-on physics demonstrations at Fermilab’s annual Family Open House on Feb. 9. Photo: Reidar Hahn, Fermilab

On Sunday, Feb. 9, Fermilab will host its 16th annual Family Open House from 1–5 p.m. in Wilson Hall, offering a chance for the whole family to spend an afternoon learning about science in a hands-on way and have fun doing it. This year’s events will feature The Great Neutrino Hunt, The Mr. Freeze Cryogenics Show, live physics demonstrations, a physics carnival developed and presented by high school students, and several activities for kids and their parents to enjoy. The event will also feature tours of the Linear Accelerator Gallery and the Muon g-2 experiment and a driving tour of the site.

Live presentations 

First up on the docket (with one-hour showings at 1:15 and 3:30 p.m.) will be the ever-popular Mr. Freeze Cryogenics Show in Ramsey Auditorium, in which Fermilab engineer Jerry Zimmerman will explore the effects of extreme cold temperatures on everyday objects using liquid nitrogen.

Visitors can stop in anytime between 2 and 4 p.m. in Curia II on the second floor of Wilson Hall to enjoy a demonstration on how different substances react to the absence of air. There will also be a demonstration on electricity and magnetism.

Hands-on activities

Running concurrently throughout the day will be various activities visitors can take part in for hands-on experiences in particle physics. In the Great Neutrino Hunt, hosted by Fermilab Friends for Science Education, visitors will be given hints that will enable them to detect elusive neutrinos, represented by designated members of Fermilab staff. Those who complete the search will be entered into a raffle to win a prize.

Families can also enjoy a physics carnival, including interactive exhibits by students from six different schools: Auburn High School, Benet Academy, Islamic Foundation School, 4-H Science Ambassadors, Maine West High School and West Aurora High School. The carnival boasts more than 20 hands-on stations for kids. Those who complete a minimum of nine stations are eligible for a prize from Fermilab Friends for Science Education.

Students can learn about physics in the Open House scavenger hunt using an app downloaded to their smartphones. Participants will have the opportunity to scan QR codes scattered throughout different places in Wilson Hall. While playing, participants will learn about Fermilab experiments and facts about scientist Enrico Fermi.


Tickets for the driving and walking tours of the lab will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Families interested in tours can pick up tickets near the entrance to Wilson Hall. All tours require visitors to wear closed-toe shoes.

Fermilab’s two remote operations centers on the first floor of Wilson Hall will be accessible during the Open House. The operation center on the east side of the building is connected to the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland, and visitors will have the chance to meet members of the CMS experiment. The west operation center is where many of Fermilab’s neutrino experiments are controlled and will feature a virtual-reality experience of the MicroBooNE neutrino detector.

Kids of all ages — and grown-ups, too — will have a chance to learn a few physics lessons at the Family Open House. Photo: Reidar Hahn, Fermilab

Visitors can also take tours of the Linear Accelerator and the Main Control Room (for adults and children ages 10 and up). They will start where Fermilab generates protons for its experiments and they will follow their path through to the first portion of the accelerator, where protons are given the first of a series of boosts that ultimately accelerate them to near the speed of light.

The Muon g-2 experiment tour will allow visitors to see the 50-foot-diameter superconducting muon storage ring where scientists accelerate a beam of muons (heavier cousins of the electron) to discover more about the particles that make up our universe.

There will be four driving tours during the event. Look for signage around Wilson Hall for bus departure location and times. The tour will cover accelerator, detector and construction projects and a chance to see Fermilab’s famous bison herd.

Throughout the day, about a dozen scientists and engineers will be available on Wilson Hall’s second and 15th floors to answer questions about physics or Fermilab research.

“It’s important to share all of the exciting things we’re doing here and to let people see all the wonders of science that exist,” said Amanda Early, education program leader at Fermilab. “We know that the kids attending this event are the future STEM workforce, and it is incredibly rewarding to provide them with the opportunity to see all that is possible by having a passion for science.”

The Family Open House is free. More than 2,000 people are expected to attend this year’s event. It is supported in part by Fermilab Friends for Science Education.

Fermilab is America’s premier national laboratory for particle physics and accelerator research. A U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science laboratory, Fermilab is located near Chicago, Illinois, and operated under contract by the Fermi Research Alliance LLC. Visit Fermilab’s website at www.fnal.gov and follow us on Twitter at @Fermilab.

The DOE Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit https://energy.gov/science.