Physics on demand: Fermilab’s annual Family Open House goes virtual Feb. 10-14

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Fermilab’s annual Family Open House includes activities for all ages. This year’s event will take place virtually Feb. 10-14. Photo: Fermilab

The annual Family Open House at the Department of Energy’s Fermilab gives families an opportunity to learn about science in a fun, interactive way. Last year’s event brought 4,000 visitors to Wilson Hall. This year, the Family Open House has been reimagined in a virtual format so that kids and parents can experience America’s premier particle physics laboratory from the safety and comfort of their homes.

Past Family Open Houses were single-day events, but this year’s Virtual Open House will run for five days, from Feb. 10-14, with “on-demand” content available 24/7, as well as live-streamed events. Activities will include pre-recorded demos and activities for all ages, trivia games, tours of the lab facilities, a community art show and more — all free for everyone to enjoy. Register to sign up for Open House offerings.

Perennial favorites like the Mr. Freeze cryogenics show and Ask-A-Scientist will make an appearance via Zoom. Virtual visitors can also tune in to webinars on a wide variety of topics, including physics, art and ecology. Since the event will take place from Wednesday through Sunday, there will be special opportunities for educators to engage in the event with their classes, much like virtual classroom visits from Fermilab staff.

On Wednesday, Feb. 10, clues will be released on the Fermilab Office of Education and Public Engagement website and social media for a “scavenger hunt.” These clues will lead participants through various activities, such as building a model of a particle accelerator or counting how many cosmic rays pass through one’s house in a given amount of time. Participants can submit their scavenger finds throughout the week. Also, at 7 p.m. Central time each day, there will be a Facebook Live STEM story time featuring lab staff reading STEM-themed bedtime stories.

The five-day event will culminate with an “iron scientist” competition on Sunday, which will include a Fermilab staff member going head-to-head with a challenger from Northern Illinois University in a battle of homemade physics demos. Inspired by cooking shows like “Iron Chef” and “Chopped,” each competitor will receive a box of mystery items to use in their demonstrations. Whoever creates the most exciting homemade demo wins!

The virtual format will offer an unusual chance to peek inside facilities such as the Quantum Lab and ecological goings-on at Fermilab that would be difficult to view in person (especially in February). It also makes Fermilab accessible to people who don’t live near the lab’s Batavia, Illinois, site.

“We’ve never done anything like this before, but I think it’s going to be great,” said Amanda Early, Fermilab education program leader. “It’s really cool that, regardless of where people are located, they can learn more about us.”

For more information or to register for any of the live-streamed events, visit, and follow the Fermilab Office of Education and Public Engagement on Facebook or Twitter for live updates!

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, a joint partnership between the University of Chicago and the Universities Research Association, Inc. Visit Fermilab’s website at and follow us on Twitter at @Fermilab.

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