Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Science as Circus | Unique Partnership Advances Education with Fun- Filled Twists | Unique Partnership Advances Education with Fun- Filled Twists

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Science as Circus | Unique Partnership Advances Education with Fun- Filled Twists | Unique Partnership Advances Education with Fun- Filled Twists

Article excerpt

MEET THE MACHINE

SARASOTA -- Hoisting signs bearing words like "Mass," "Acceleration," "Cause and Effect," "Kinetic Energy" and "Balanced and Unbalanced Force," half a dozen clowns wander onto the floor of an arena-sized setup billed as the Circus Science Machine.

It is a busy-looking spread, a focus-defying Rube Goldberg-ish network of balls, inclines, hoops, see-saws, wheels, tunnels and platforms arranged to see if 30-some interlocking parts will perform as designed.

In a culmination of classroom studies devoted to science and laws of motion, 1,058 fifth-graders from seven elementary schools pack the stands as clown-faced emcees Karen Bell and Robin Eurich tell them to stand and cheer loudly if/when the Circus Science Machine fails. The kids, after all, have been building their own rudimentary gizmos based on the same principles.

"Did your machines work the very first time?" ask the hosts.

The kids roar "Nooo!"

Standing beneath a top hat, Eurich reminds them that's how science works: "We learn from when we fail."

What follows for the next 50 minutes or so is a dazzling melange of gravity-defying no-net aerial acts, pranks and sight gags, balancing exhibitions by ridiculously talented performers, and a riveting finale involving a high-wire motorcycle thrill show with cyclist Peter Winn and aerialist partner Natalia Winn revolving around a sloping steel cable.

Embroidered into all that action are the floor props, assembled by floor engineers to collide, domino-like, activating other contraptions at a

distance.

The kids break into raucous cheers when a series of toppling blocks fails to tip over a tray of rubber ducks. It will not be the last failure of the Circus Science Machine, but most of the tricks work the way they're supposed to.

Witnessing science

By time the Circus Science Machine ends its three-day run today at Sailor Circus Arena in Sarasota, some 3,600 students and 700- plus teachers from 29 schools in Sarasota and Manatee counties will have witnessed, on a large scale, at least some of the science they've been studying since November.

The project -- a unique partnership between The Circus Arts Conservatory and the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus -- hasn't taken a dime from local school districts' budgets. …

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