For most central Ohioans, Columbus' Center of Science and Industry is a destination.

But with its most broad and ambitious event yet, COSI is branching far outside its 333 W. Broad St. building for events in neighborhoods throughout central Ohio.

The inaugural COSI Science Festival begins Wednesday, May 1, and includes four days of activities at the center and beyond. More than 100 events are scheduled in 17 municipalities.

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Locations range from libraries and elementary schools to bars and restaurants. Topics include 3D scans of teeth, forensic anthropology and everything in between. Most events are free and open to the public.

The festival concludes from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 4 with the "Big Science Celebration," a massive event with hands-on activities to be held on and around COSI's downtown campus. There, visitors may drive an underwater robot, learn from NASA researchers or build a marshmallow catapult.

COTA will provide free transportation to the Saturday event. Bus passes will be available at dozens of the events leading up to May 4.

President and CEO Frederic Bertley said the festival marks an important new step for COSI, and he wants the center to go beyond its boundaries.

"It's clear that for science museums to be relevant as important cultural institutions, we have to shore up our (building), but we have to be more than our bricks and mortar – we have to be out in our community," he said. "COSI is not just a building, but it's an experience. You may have that COSI experience but never come to 333 W. Broad St."

The goal, he said, is to bring science to "where they live, where they learn and where they lounge."

"It's an ambitious (project) for COSI because it really takes the great stuff COSI is known for – in terms of getting people excited about science that we do mostly in our building – and pivots to really saying, 'You know what, a lot of Joe and Jane Public aren't really engaging in science and we want to bring science to them,' " Bertley said. "We're not saying, 'Hey, come to COSI and have a great science experience.' The 100-plus events are in their communities where they are – churches, synagogues, bars, restaurants – wherever people are."

The diversity in topics, locations and target audiences is intentional, and Bertley said he hopes to "reposition the COSI identity beyond kids and students."

Though that demographic is important, he said, he wants to attract and educate people "from the womb to the tomb." He said such programs as "COSI After Dark" – during which the center is open late and offers food, drinks and entertainment – are just the tip of the iceberg.

"It is critical that we pivot people's perception of COSI from just a place for kids or kids and families," he said. "Don't get me wrong, we love kids and families. But science is not just for kids. Science is for everyone. It governs everything we do."

Bertley said the festival is one of the most ambitious projects in COSI's history. With that ambition comes a hefty price tag, which has been mitigated by contributions from companies and organizations, as well as communities that have provided space, he said.

The largest contributor, he said, is Columbus-based research-and-development organization Battelle, which donated $850,000 for the festival.

Aimee Kennedy, Battelle's senior vice president of philanthropy and education, said Battelle has provided funding for COSI since the mid-1960s, with about $15 million over the years, putting it in the top five organizations Battelle has supported.

She said the pledge of $850,000 is "because we believe in Frederic's passion to bring out the wonders of science and COSI to the community."

"Inspiring the young people in our community with science is exciting," Kennedy said. "We place high value on diversity, inclusion and access for everyone. The COSI Science Festival also strengthens our workforce pipeline and ensures it represents the communities where we work and live and puts in position for growth."

According to Bertley, funding from Battelle and other companies will help cover at least three years of the festival, which means the goal is to keep it going and keep it growing.

"It's pretty incredible what we're trying to achieve here," he said. "It's all about empowering and making people feel comfortable around science. And to do that, it can't be a one-off; it can't be one year. So absolutely we're committed to this for several years."

He said his "pie-in-the-sky" idea is for the science festival to have a presence in all of Ohio's 88 counties.

But Bertley knows that's getting ahead of himself, he said.

"You talk about ambitious – that's herculean," he said with a laugh.

For more information on the festival, including lists of local events, read stories focusing on every community at ThisWeekNEWS.com or go to cosi.org.

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