April 22, the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin opened its doors to showcase its work to curious adults and children. The Earth Day Open House event was a special opportunity for the estimated two hundred visitors to come inside the Lab and explore wood product exhibits and learn how the Forest Products Lab research benefits forests and communities.
“It’s always a pleasure to meet the public and talk to them about what we do at the Lab,” said Facility Operations Specialist Robert Ramos. “Everyone enjoyed looking at our older but functional woodworking equipment. The kids enjoyed the Woodsy Owl coasters we gave away, while adults admired the display table we made from composite decking.”
During this year’s Earth Day event, exciting hands-on exhibits encouraged visitors to attempt to achieve speed records by throwing baseballs or play with termites by doodling with pens (the ink scent leads termites to follow the drawn lines). Visitors also learned about the art and intricacies of wood anatomy research. Children and adults alike got to hang out with Woodsy Owl and Smokey Bear and made “wood cookie” necklaces.
Comments heard from guests ranged from “Wow, I had no idea termites are so small,” to “I pass by this building all the time and never knew what the Forest Products Lab was about – I’m glad I could finally check it out,” to “Can I hug Bear again?”
“It’s exciting to explain to the public how the research and development of forest products play important roles in fighting climate change and protecting our environment for future generations,” said Research Forest Products Technologist Hongmei Gu.
“I had a blast!” said Steve Kalinosky, project leader at the Engineering Mechanics and Remote Sensing Laboratory. “Between helping kids pitch baseballs and clocking the speed of their throws, I was able to engage with many of the parents and other adults, telling them about the Major League baseball bat study and the materials and structural research we perform in the Engineering Mechanics Lab.
“Most people didn’t know about the great research we perform at the Lab and were fascinated by what we do. Everyone had a great time. And small and big kids loved getting to throw balls around.”
Since 1910, the Forest Products Laboratory has championed innovative wood use – from housing to transportation to packaging. The Lab takes wood product production farther. Its research creates jobs, boosts rural communities, strengthens the housing market, promotes forest health, and reduces wildfire risk.