COSI Adventures

In 1972, after one year of marriage and completing four years at the Ohio State University, the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) approached me to work full-time as an electro-mechanical technician. The subsequent ten years at COSI offered me a multitude of challenges that were both interesting and educational. My expertise grew in many diverse directions including commercial three phase electrical distribution systems, HVAC, control systems, audiovisual equipment, and general electronics.

Growth was astonishing at COSI during those early years. A third floor had always been planned, but funding constraints delayed its construction until just after my arrival in 1972. The construction project was a gold mine of opportunities to learn not only project management, but also numerous facets of the construction trade. It required working with a general contractor and subcontractors to coordinate the hundreds of aspects of the job, which was especially difficult, as the museum remained open to the public during the construction. One of the most difficult aspects of the construction was keeping to a minimum the temporary closing of areas to the public. Closures were necessary due to the temporary support structure required to hold the forms for the new floor and the weight of the wet concrete.

In addition, it was my responsibility to coordinate with HVAC and electrical subcontractors to allow for the seamless addition of new infrastructure to old. The project took almost two years to complete and while very demanding, it was extremely rewarding. With construction complete, I installed a 24-kilowatt emergency generator and transfer switch to handle the increased load of emergency lighting for the new floor. During this period, exhibit construction and maintenance grew beyond my available time, facilitating the hiring of additional technicians and the construction of an expanded exhibit and electronics workshop. My duties thus grew to include the supervision of eventually five additional exhibit technicians. My WOSU Radio experience was invaluable when I designed and built a recording studio for COSI. The recording studio permitted me to create the sound recordings used for exhibits including what visitors heard at the Presidents Exhibit.

I worked closely with COSI’s Exhibit Designer, Chuck O’Connor, in designing and installing the electronics and audio-visual systems used for the exhibits. Some of the more memorable exhibits I worked on included a new control console for the Battelle Planetarium and the rewiring of the control unit for the Transparent Talking Woman. I also designed the electronic controls and audio-visual effects for the Coal Mine, the Presidents Exhibit, and the Plastic House of the Future, and many more. In addition to exhibits, I designed and assisted in the installation of a building-wide fire detection system containing over 18 miles of wire, thousands of feet of conduit, and 200 smoke and heat detectors. Next to the third floor addition, this was the most involved project I completed at COSI. Other areas that fell under my supervision were the HVAC systems, and fire extinguisher inventory and testing.

With my family growing, the need to bring additional money into our household was becoming paramount. One intriguing area of interest since I was a child was firefighting. My grandfather and I had often visited the fire station in my neighborhood. Firefighting sounded interesting, however all Civil Service testing was on hold until a Federal Court injunction against the City of Columbus was lifted. Because I had obtained my FCC Second Class License while in high school, I could repair and install two-way commercial radios. This allowed me to become a radio tech for City of Columbus, Division of Communications. I installed and repaired a wide range of electronics and radio equipment including portable and fixed base two-way radios, repeaters, and microwave relay stations. Additionally, I repaired and installed light bars on police cars and public address systems for city fire stations. The work was very interesting; except maybe working on radios installed in sanitation trucks, boy did they stink!

I took the Civil Service test for firefighter while working at the Division of Communications, and in the spring of 1980, I received a letter to report for firefighter recruit training on April 7, 1980. Thus the next stage of my life learning was about to begin. Continue...




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