Five years in the planning, the new Science Center of Iowa opens its doors today (Saturday) in Des Moines, promising to strengthen critical thinking skills through hands-on experiences. Sally Dix, spokeswoman for the 62-million-dollar center, says there’s little comparison to the old facility, which opened in 1970. At 110-thousand square feet, the new facility is nearly four times larger than the original Science Center of Iowa and contains three theaters, not just one, along with seven exhibit galleries instead of just two. The new building, located on the edge of downtown Des Moines, has a massive planetarium with features unlike any other in the U.S. There are eight different operating modes, not just the traditional sit-in-a-seat and watch a pre-programmed show. Beanbag chairs can be spread around or visitors can use what’s called the “Cosmic Jukebox” in which they create and play their own planetarium show inside the 50-foot dome, the only experience of its kind in the nation. Dix says the new Science Center also boasts what’s now Iowa’s largest IMAX theatre. The IMAX is a 220-seat theater that features the world’s largest film format projected on a six-story domed screen and a 12-thousand watt digital sound system. Opening films include “The Living Sea” and “Pulse: A Stomp Odyssey.” The new science center is expected to attract 300-thousand people from across Iowa in its first year, and easily a million over three years. Dix says there are seven major exhibit areas in the new facility, though they’re not usually called exhibits. They’re “experience platforms” as exhibits might conjure images of things that are only to be viewed. Dix says the platforms involve various ways for visitors to “get their hands dirty” and to experience hands-on science. The new Science Center of Iowa contains 63 toilets including the only fully functional clear toilet in the entire U.S. For more information, surf to “www.sciowa.org”.