Frost Science is significant for Miami because science develops our ability to ask questions, collect information, problem-solve and apply what we learn.
By Chris Umpierre
MIAMI — Standing underneath the museum’s 500,000-gallon aquarium, my 5-year-old daughter’s eyes widened and her heartbeat heightened.
Tiger sharks, hammerheads and devil rays were swimming in the saltwater tank above. They were so close you could almost touch them.
“The sharks won’t fall out, right, Daddy?” my daughter said.
With its modern design, cutting-edge exhibits and world-renowned planetarium, Downtown Miami’s new Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science is a sight for the eyes and stimulus for the brain. The museum is significant for Miami not just because science is a part of our daily lives but because science develops our ability to ask questions, collect information, problem-solve and apply what we learn.
From its 250-seat planetarium to its touch tanks to its South Florida ecosystem exhibits to its laser show, Frost Science is set to inspire Miami’s youth for generations. Frost’s opening sends a beaming headline to the world that Miami is no longer just about fun and sun. Miami is a global city with cultural institutions and an economy built around technology, innovation and science.
As a father of two young children, I want my kids to grow up with science.
I want them to become science literate not just because technology and science is transforming our world at a fast pace but because science gives kids and adults a platform to build confidence, develop communication skills and make sense of the world.
The massive Frost museum (it’s a 250,000 square-foot structure with six floors) delivers on all of those parameters and more.
THE FAMOUS OCULUS
The 31-foot oculus lens sets Frost Science apart from other science museums. The lens gives visitors the impression of seeing fish from the bottom of a huge cocktail glass.
The lens, which was built in Italy, is the viewing portal for the cone-shaped Gulf Stream Aquarium. The 60,000-pound lens measures 31 feet across and 13.5 inches thick.
Museum officials wanted the unique oculus lens because it would give visitors the best view of Gulf Stream animals. The real Gulf Stream current, which flows just off the coast of Miami, carries more water than all of the Earth’s rivers combined and is home to speedy animals.
If the museum used a vertical wall, some of the museum’s sharks would spook and hit the wall at full speed. The oculus lens allows them to swim continuously.
Frost planetarium’s cutting-edge digital technology will also leave you speechless. The planetarium is fueled by a 16-million-color, 3-D 8K visual system — one of only 13 like it in the world.
When my family and I visited, we watched “Asteroid: Mission Extreme 3D.” The film showed how asteroids are both a danger and an opportunity for future space travel.
The planetarium’s screen is tilted forward at 23.5 degrees so that images move across a viewer’s entire field of vision, according to the museum. Miami’s old science museum in Coconut Grove had a planetarium but it was nothing like this.
TALKING WITH SCIENTISTS
One of the cool things about Frost Science is guests get to speak with scientists who work there.
I spoke to one employee in the free-flight aviary, who excitedly told me and other visitors about a bird’s smooth acclimation to the museum. Another employee told us how the museum worked long to recreate a typical Florida shoreline that even included a make-believe endangered turtle’s nest.
Lines formed at the touch tank areas as kids touched stingrays on the “Vista” level, which was built with an open-design on the fourth floor of the building. The open design and modern architecture allows for the Biscayne Bay winds to cool the floor as you study jaw-dropping views of Miami.
Other lines formed inside at the touch tanks. I will never forget the smile on my kids’ faces as they touched live urchins, sea stars and mollusks. Frost employees calmly described each sea creature before asking children to use just two fingers.
For the record, my 3-year-old daughter couldn’t get enough of the “chocolate chip” sea cucumber. She mentioned it two days after our visit with the biggest of grins.
Frost Science offers exhibits that help children and adults have fun with science.
Next to the oculus lens, there’s a projection wall that tracks visitors’ movements so that a visitor’s hand, swept across a wall-size screen, will scatter schools of fish projected onto it. The museum uses three-dimensional “capture cameras” to accomplish the feat.
The interactive River of Grass exhibit, which features virtual wildlife that’s seen in the Florida Everglades, is another must-see part of the museum.
Kids laughed and giggled as they played in the River of Grass water table, presumably not knowing they were doing science. The table allows children to manipulate the water flow to see how smart water management can avert ecologically catastrophic flooding.
Kids can make a tap on the water table to create a plume of smoke. They could also throw pink balls down a whirlpool.
In the MeLab, we had fun creating our own βetas as we answered questions and conducted experiments in the zones about eating, moving, relaxing, connecting and learning. The girls had a blast boogying on the interactive dance floor.
KNIGHT LEARNING CENTER
Frost doesn’t just wow you with interactive exhibits; it goes further. The Knight Learning Center, which is located in the museum’s north wing, is home to Inventors-in-Residence, a residency program for scientists to develop innovative solutions in the health and environmental sectors.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which has been a generous advocate of Frost Science, funded the center.
The museum is involved in other ways to impact the community. There are school field trips, Frost Science camps, the Frost Science Barge, the Batchelor Environmental Center and more. The museum also sits next door to Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), forming a formidable duo of cultural institutions. Both can be reached via the Miami Metrorail with a transfer to the Metromover (exit at Museum Park).
As members of the museum, my family is looking forward to visiting and learning from this world-class museum. Frost has already shown my family that science is about more than just new technology and inventions. Science is about feeding our natural curiosity about the world and encouraging your brain to grow in new ways.
IF YOU GO
- What: The Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science
- Where: 1101 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL 33132
- Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Open every day of the year)
- Cost: $17 to $28 for individual tickets; Membership plans run from $65-$250
- Contact: www.frostscience.org or 305-434-9600