Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh





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The SARCOS Animatronic requires a complex computer system and a score of electronic parts to make him come to life and provide a colorful overview of the Robotics exhibition.

Reaching Out


Carnegie Science Center’s traveling exhibits have touched the lives of thousands across the country. But how many of those people realize the time and effort that goes into the creation of each exhibit?


“People call them ‘shows,’ but they're so much more,” says Tom Flaherty, Director of Exhibits and Facilities.


The Science Center’s three traveling shows--ZAP! Surgery Beyond the Cutting Edge, Robotics, and ZING! (a.k.a. Science Carnival!)--began innocently enough--with a pitch. Robotics and ZAP! were suggested by former Science Center Director Seddon Bennington in 1995 as a “way to showcase how Pittsburgh is a leader in various technologies,” says Flaherty.  That simple idea started a very complicated ball rolling.


It takes anywhere from 20 to 24 months and a core team of about 12 people--including members of the Science Center’s Education, Marketing, and Design departments--to create each exhibit. 


Production includes initial brainstorming sessions, research, and a search for help from outside contractors and agencies such as Carnegie Mellon University, Universal Technologies, and American Robotics, who all participated in Robotics, and funding through foundations and grants. Concept development meetings are held with advisors such as teachers, parents, and Science Center members, and   Information packets are created for the renters, explaining how to operate, maintain, and advertise the exhibit.  There are suggestions for exhibited-related activities for teachers. The exhibit prototypes are tested on the Science Center’s floor to ensure the user-friendliness of every component of the display.


"The up-front work is as important as design and fabrication," says Flaherty.        


And there’s another huge consideration--how will the exhibit be moved? “It is a real challenge because of the logistics of it all,” says Flaherty. “Robotics’ 6,000 pound ABB arm had to be specially suited with a metal base to distribute the weight so it wouldn’t fall through floors. We don't want to exclude any science center, so we must really think about where the exhibit will go.”


The Science Center's work doesn’t end once an exhibit is rented. Staff members assist with setup and training at every new venue, and return if problems arise. In addition, the exhibit returns to Pittsburgh every 18 months for refurbishment. "Our goal is to keep the exhibit working 100 percent of the time," says Flaherty.

This attention to detail pays off.  "Robotics has been a blockbuster everywhere it's gone," says Flaherty. "And the Edmonton science center [Odyssium] called ZAP! ‘one of the best thought out, maintained, and best quality exhibits’ it’s hosted.”


In all, thousands have enjoyed the Science Center’s three traveling exhibits. Completed in 1996, Robotics has been operating for more than seven years and is scheduled for three more. It has been to 13 science centers--from Space Center Houston to Science World in Vancouver. ZAP!, which opened at the Great Lakes Science Center in 2000, has been to four facilities. ZING!, a smaller exhibit based on physics principles and completed in 1998, has been to the Space Center Houston and currently resides at Catawba Science Museum, North Carolina.


These exhibits are good for the Science Center, good for Pittsburgh and good for the audience,” says Flaherty. “It's a win, win, win situation.”



Awards for Excellence    

Pittsburgh abounds with people who are improving lives and society at large on a daily basis. On April 30, Carnegie Science Center honored a few of those individuals at its seventh annual Awards for Excellence.


Awards for Excellence was created to recognize professionals and students who have made notable discoveries and breakthroughs in science and technology around Southwestern Pennsylvania.

The awardees, who represent companies, schools, and universities, are nominated by industry peers and selected by a panel of professionals--including past winners--from related fields. 


The 2003 Awards for Excellence winners are:


Elementary: Mary L. Bertsch, Trinity Area School District. For lessons filled with hands-on activities that motivate students into taking part in the learning process.


Middle Level: Ed Mihalacki, Hempfield Area School District. For transforming former mechanical drawing classrooms into fully-equipped science and technology computer labs.


High School: Regis P. Joseph, Alternative Center for Education. For an innovative and proactive approach to the Earth science curriculum.


University/Post-Secondary: Joseph J. Grabowski, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh. For developing a Web site that involves students with innovative learning experiences.





Alan J. Russell, Ph.D., McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine. For bringing an understanding of regenerative medicine to audiences around the world.



Alfred A. Kuehn, Ph.D., Management Science Associates, Inc. For building the concept of describing consumer and business behavior with mathematical models.


Advanced Manufacturing & Materials  

Ming Li, Ph.D., Alcoa Technical Center. For development of a new process for using aluminum in the automotive industry that has made a substantial economic and societal impact.               



Ronald B. Herberman, M.D., University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI).  For his work in bringing UPCI to the national forefront in cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.



Robert S. Hedin, Ph.D., Iron Oxide Recovery, Inc., For developing a technology to treat acid mine drainage resulting in a patented by-product--EnvIronOxide--that can be sold to pigment producers to make earth tone pigments in commonly-used products.


Information TechnologY

Asim Smailagic, Ph.D., Carnegie Mellon University. For research that led to the development of applications for wearable computers, mobile computing, and pervasive computing which has helped enhance human performance, increase productivity, and create a safer healthier environment.


Chairman’s Award

Bayer Corporation. For being a catalyst in providing education, employment, and innovation in science and technology for the region.


Presenting sponsors for the awards were: Kennametal Inc.–Markos I. Tambakeras (Event Chair), Alcoa Foundation, Bombardier Transportation, Dollar Bank, Eaton’s Cutler-Hammer Business, Fisher Scientific, Mirage Advertising, Pittsburgh Business Times, PITTSBURGH Magazine/WQED Multimedia, PPG Industries Foundation, Sony Technology Center-Pittsburgh, Ten United, Westinghouse Electric Company.


Island Adventure


It’s an untapped market: young professionals interested in supporting philanthropic causes. But Carnegie Science Center has found a fun way to get them involved--the appropriately titled "Island Adventure," On Tap@Carnegie Science Center. The sixth annual fundraiser, benefiting the Science Center’s many quality endeavors, will be held 7 p.m. to midnight, Friday, June 6, at the science center.


The under-40 crowd is invited to kick off the summer social season at the event that features a screening of Coral Reef Adventure at the Rangos OMNIMAX Theater. Approximately 1,400 people are expected to attend.


Tickets are $35 if purchased in advance or $40 if purchased on or after May 30.   Attendees will receive beer vouchers, enjoy unlimited soft drinks and hors d’eouvres and plenty of live music.  Tickets may be purchased online at, by phone at 412.237.1816 or by fax 412.237.3375. 



Into the Earth’s Shadow

                                                            By John G. Radzilowicz

The month of May brings us the first of two total eclipses of the Moon that will be visible from North America this year. The second will be in November. That’s a very nice treat indeed, but it’s not unheard of. In fact, eclipses of the Moon are far easier to observe than their more dramatic counterparts, the solar eclipses. That’s because, for a given location – like Pittsburgh, lunar eclipses will happen on average at least once every 2-3 years. That’s quite a bit better than the average time between total solar eclipses for one spot on the Earth’s surface. That comes out to about once every 300 years!


During this eclipse, the Moon will slide into the shadow of the Earth late on Thursday, May 15th, and emerge in the early morning of Friday, May 16th. The show will start shortly after 10:00 pm. Maximum eclipse – when the Moon is most deeply inside Earth’s shadow – will occur at 11:40 pm local time. And the event will wrap up at 1:17 am Friday morning.


What can you expect to see? Well, this is a “shallow eclipse”. That means that the Moon will not pass through the middle of Earth’s shadow, but close to the edge instead. Under such circumstances you can usually expect quite a bit of the Sun’s light to pass through Earth’s atmosphere and onto the face of the Moon. So, the Moon won’t be completely dark. Instead, you can look for colors from brown to red to orange to yellow.


The exact colors of this eclipse will depend on many factors related to our atmosphere such as cloud cover, pollution, or even volcanic ash. The varying color of a total lunar eclipse is one of the things that make it wonderful to watch! No two ever seem to be exactly the same.






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