The Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) is the largest science museum in the western hemisphere, holding more than 35,000 artifacts and almost 14 acres of interactive exhibit space. MSI is contained in the former Palace of Fine Arts from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, and opened in 1933 under philanthropist Julius Rosenwald’s vision to create a hands-on industry museum in the United States. The museum recently celebrated its 80th birthday and continues to achieve its mission to “inspire the inventive genius in everyone” along with the help of some IIT students.
Each semester, 12 Illinois Tech students have a chance to volunteer at the museum as part of a unique partnership between the university and the museum. Over the course of the volunteership, the students learn up to three interactive and hands-on demonstrations that they present to the general public at the museum. They get to work on their presentation and public speaking skills while working under the close mentorship of lead interns at the museum. The demonstrations that students present cover a fun variety of topics including Newtonian physics, sound, and magnetism. During the volunteership, students also get to explore and learn about one of the most well-known science museums in the country and meet people from all over the world. After completing their volunteer sessions at the museum, students are eligible to apply for a full-time paid internship at the museum over the summer.
During the internship, eight students learn and present a variety of live science demonstrations to museum guests on a daily basis. Over the course of the internship last summer, the Illinois Tech interns learned seven different programs and facilitated them with over 30,000 guests throughout the duration of the 12-week internship.
Interns work alongside a team of other year-round, full-time facilitators at the museum who help them learn demonstrations and improve communication skills. The year-round facilitators assist the IIT interns by observing their demonstrations and offering constructive criticism and feedback in regard content, style, and delivery.
The programs that summer interns have learned and presented in previous summers include demonstrations from across all realms of science, from astronomy to biology. One show, “Happy Brrthday,” is an interactive mock birthday party for a famous scientist or inventor that features several experiments with liquid nitrogen and culminates in making liquid nitrogen ice cream for the audience. Another program, “Bangs, Flashes, and Fire,” MSI’s most highly-attended show, involves a series of explosive chemistry experiments where the audience learns about matter, combustion, and chemical reactions.
The MSI-IIT internship partnership is now entering its 7th year and is an exclusive partnership between the museum and Illinois Institute of Technology. This partnership began with a common trustee between IIT and MSI, and the program aims to foster communication skills in students while making science education accessible to the community through the delivery of several fun and interactive live science demonstrations at MSI.
The MSI-IIT Internship program has been one of the best parts of my experience at Illinois Tech. I volunteered at the museum during the fall of 2012, and I was selected as an intern for the summer of 2013. Now, I serve as a lead intern for the museum and help train new volunteers and interns as a part of the program.
Volunteering and interning with the museum has helped me with so many things; my public speaking skills have improved, and I’ve learned a lot of fun scientific information that I’ve been able to share with the public. As a physics education major at IIT, this internship is the perfect combination of science and education for me, but it’s also helpful for students in any major. Regardless of one’s intended career path, they’ll need to be able to communicate their work to others outside their field, and the MSI-IIT Internship program allows students to practice doing just that. Volunteering and interning at the museum also helps student gain more self-confidence; a big part of presenting to the general public is learning how to improvise and trust yourself to do well, which translates into other areas.
The MSI Internship Program has become a highly competitive opportunity for IIT students over recent years. In order to become eligible for the volunteership and internship, students need to attend an information session taking place next week during the lunch hour on February 10th, 11th, and 12th. For more information, check out the Facebook event for the sessions here: https://www.facebook.com/events/275629295932291