The Museum of Science and Industry is one of the largest museums of its kind in the country. It features 450 interactive exhibits to educate visitors about science, industry and technology. Highlights include the Meridian Shuttle, an electric, driver-less vehicle that people can ride; the Drone Zone, where visitors can fly commercial drones; and the Idea Zone, where people can code robots to test how move over different terrains. The museum also has an IMAX theater and planetarium which offers programs about space and how life on the moon is envisioned. Another highlight is the the 3D printing exhibit. In addition to the exhibits, the museum offers many science classes and programs.
In 1976, the Hillsborough County Museum's advisory committee and staff obtained the funding and land to construct an innovative and unique museum structure in North Tampa that was to become the Museum of Science & Industry. A new director and key professional staff were hired in 1978-79 to focus MOSI's direction and purpose as construction proceeded. Relying on the valuable history of its predecessor museums, MOSI staff took advantage of the scientific, technological and industrial growth occurring in Tampa and at the neighboring University of South Florida (USF) to design a visionary, high-tech facility. Completed in 1980 and permanently opened to the public in 1982, MOSI has provided public programs and exhibits which support its mission and seek to meet the needs of a growing and vibrant community.
MOSI today is the result of 52 years of growth and maturity reflecting both the institution and the surrounding community. The passage of time has seen MOSI change in name, location and size. However, its general purpose, to provide informal science education, has remained unchanged. In 1962, Hillsborough County first approved funding for a youth museum in Sulphur Springs on the banks of the Hillsborough River. Later renamed the Museum of Science and Natural History, this small museum provided natural science exhibits and education programs to children and adults. In 1967, the name of the Museum was changed to the Hillsborough County Museum. The fledgling institution continued to expand its programs and, in 1972, hired its first professional director.
In 1987, an intensive examination of the Museum's mission and goals, coupled with an assessment of the community's needs, produced a long-range, three-phase Master Plan for MOSI's growth and development. In 1988, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners set aside 38 acres valued at $6.6 million adjacent to the existing MOSI facility to ensure that the goals of the master plan could be accomplished. An additional 23.5 acres valued at $2.2 million were also set aside for the Museum by the county in 1995 to provide additional space for expansion over the next ten years. In 2000, the county purchased a final three-acre tract to complete the current 74 acre MOSI campus.
Phase I of the Master Plan included the construction of the 190,000 square foot science center with Florida's only IMAX Dome Theatre, extensive permanent and temporary exhibition galleries, a planetarium and a public library was completed in July, 1995. Phase II which began in June, 1996, allowed for renovation of the original structure (now referred to as the Whitney Andrews Lang Center for Learning) and development of The Back Woods Nature Center. Refurbishment of the exhibit and program areas began and much needed classroom space was added along with the Southwest Florida Water Management District/Bank of America BioWorks Butterfly Garden, an innovative water treatment facility/exhibit. Phase III of the master plan was completed in 2005 with the opening of Kids in Charge!, the largest children's science center in the nation. Earlier, through an innovative partnership with the Institute for Business & Home Safety, MOSI completed the Gladys Shafran Kashdin Welcome Center in 2001. MOSI is now the largest science center in the southeast and the 5th largest in the U.S.