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Science show excites, amazes area kids



Published: Sun, November 1, 2009 @ 12:04 a.m.

By Elise Mckeown Skolnick

Smoke rings and hissing cockroaches were the order of the day.

YOUNGSTOWN — Science can be exciting — and kids got to a chance to see that as they took a trip through Earth’s spheres.

Dr. Ray Beiersdorfer mixed traditional science demonstrations with sideshow stunts in order to explain the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the biosphere and the lithosphere to children.

It was all part of the Amazing Sideshow of Science event Saturday at the Children’s Center for Science & Technology.

The show started with a bang.

Using a trash can with a drum-like covering and a hole cut in the bottom, a member of the sideshow team created smoke rings by first filling the can, then banging on one end to shoot smoke rings, or toroidal vortices, throughout the room.

A combination of friction and air pressure caused the smoke-ring effect.

In a nod to William Tell, she “shot” a plastic cup off another team member’s head. Tornados and whirlpools are also examples of vortexes.

In a more traditional demonstration, Beiersdorfer balanced an eight-ounce cup of water on a lightweight postcard.

The air pressing on the postcard outweighs that of the pressure from the water, enabling a seemingly impossible feat.

The goal of the show, explained Beiersdorfer, professor of science at Youngstown State University, is to get kids excited about science.

“And to see that science is sort of cool and you can do exciting things,” he added.

Madagascar hissing cockroaches were brought out to explain the biosphere, or the life masses on Earth.

They were Leah Renne’s favorite part of the show. The 3-year-old Poland girl asked to hold one and let it crawl over her hand and up her arm.

Her father, Ian Renne, wasn’t surprised.

“She’s a budding little naturalist,” he said. “She knows probably about 40 species of birds. She knows probably about 150 species of plants. She likes all kinds of insects and worms.”

“And spiders,” Leah added.

Beiersdorfer and a half-dozen YSU students perform the show at various locations.

This was the first time it’s been at the Children’s Center for Science and Technology.

For the last couple of years, the center, formerly called the Children’s Museum of the Valley, hosted a popular Halloween event, said Suzanne Barbati, director.

“With our change in mission to a center for science and technology, we’re not doing the Spooktacular this year, but we did want to have some program for people on Halloween, kind of to continue the tradition,” Barbati said.


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