Little shop, big ideas

Feb 272011
Authors: Vashti Batjargal

Five years ago, in honor of his brother’s death, Damon McCausland started an endowment fund to aid the Little Shop of Physics.

The $30,000 donated by friends and family in memory of McCausland’s brother Matthew helped make the Little Shop of Physics Open House possible for 7,000 attendees on Saturday at the Lory Student Center.

Twenty years ago, McCausland put together the Phantom light bulb for demonstrations for school presentations that he originally showed to his brother. But this demonstration was again on display for onlookers on Saturday night.

“I always showed him (Matthew) the demonstrations,” McCausland said. “He was an amateur inventor and always loved the experiments I showed him.”

There were 300 experiments displayed in the two ballrooms showcased with signs explaining to onlookers the science concept they were experiencing.

“It gets little kids involved and stoked on science,” said Kyle Ogilvie, a CSU alumnus, as he perused the experiments on display at the event.

The presentations scheduled back to back in the Main Ballroom attracted hundreds of people, but the most popular show was the Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream presentation, where staff members made ice cream that was given to the kids.

“Everything is kid-proof and awesome, and people can just run up to it and play with it and hopefully osmosis some science knowledge,” said Nisse Lee, coordinator of assessment and outreach for the Little Shop of Physics.

Families and school children of all ages viewed projects ranging from plasmas and holograms to lasers in the ballroom set up as the Dark Room –– the room showcasing projects best viewed in a pitch black setting.

“If you look there you see mountain, but if you look through here you see grass and rocks,” said Kyle Dostalek, 9, as he curiously looked through a lens at a picture in the Dark Room.

The 140 volunteers and interns helping to put on the open house could easily be spotted with matching tie-dye shirts and by the teams of children often swarming them.

“It’s exhausting sharing science with kids all day. It’s the best job in the world, but it will suck you dry,” Lee said. “You do this job because you love it. This is the job you do because it makes you feel like a human being.”

Staff writer Vashti Batjargal can be reached at

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