BERKELEY (CBS SF) — Sitting on the hillside overlooking UC Berkeley is the Lawrence Hall of Science. Built to honor the memory of nuclear physicist and Cal’s first Nobel Laureate, Dr. Ernest Lawrence, the science center has a goal as lofty as its location.

On Sunday, the Hall — which has been sparking the imaginations of kids and kids at heart for decades — was decked out for its 50th birthday.

“The original vision for this place was kind of focused on high school kids, because they were thinking about who was going next to college (but) that rapidly changed, ” said Susan Gregory, Deputy Director, Lawrence Hall of Science.

Now, the little kids have taken over.

Emma Howes used Legos to create her version of a jungle inside the hall Sunday while her little brother, Ben, talked about what happens when a satellite gets hit by space junk.

“I want to be a astronaut,” Ben Howes said.

Outside, others were learning to make tiny boats powered by chemistry and rockets made with Alka Seltzer tablets that really launched. Today, it was all fun and games but in 1968 the world was nervous about rapid increases in nuclear science so Hollywood came calling.

The hall became the setting for a science-fiction movie called “Collossus, The Forbin Project” about a super computer with artificial intelligence that seizes control of the nuclear arsenal…and uses it to enslave man.

It’s ironic that a place named for a nuclear physicist would be used to make a movie stoking people’s fear of new technologies.

“They fear what they don’t know and that’s why I think it’s really good if you can find a place where you can find out more and experience it for yourself,” Gregory said.

Educating children to embrace not fear science has been the hall mission for the last 50 years and for the decades ahead.

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