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The Marvelous Miraculous Circus Machine

The Circus Arts Conservatory Presents Rube Goldberg Chain Reaction Machine

The Marvelous Miraculous Circus Machine

Sarasota, Fla. – The Circus Arts Conservatory (CAC) is proud to announce that the Sailor Circus Arena in Sarasota will be host to The Marvelous Miraculous Circus Machine May 7 and 8, 2015. The giant Rube Goldberg Chain Reaction Machine is being constructed by Sarasota High School’s elite engineering students enrolled in the MaST Program and was made possible through a generous grant by The American Honda Foundation. MaST is a program at Sarasota High School and is the School of Excellence in Math, Science and Technology.

Thirteen area elementary schools – more than 1,400 students – have also participated in the program supporting two productions of the “Machine” by learning the principals of physics following Circus Arts Conservatory curriculum and building their own machines in their classrooms. Seeing their calculations in action instead of on paper the 5th grade participants were afforded an unprecedented learning experience that brings together theoretical and applied learning.

Seventy Sarasota MaST students are participating in the project having been given specific parameters to develop the circus machine. Each of the four classes (freshman through senior) was responsible for creating one portion of the Machine and their piece must successfully integrate with the next classes segment. Parameters included such elements as the size of the arena (20,000 sq. ft.), the dimensions of their portion, the amount of force and the weight and angle to be applied at the beginning of their section delivered to the next piece of the machine.

MaST classroom time was spent learning about the physics, engineering, art, rigging and skills of the circus arts (trapeze, aerial performance, juggling, etc.) and understanding the critical role of teamwork among all of these components. The MaST instructor and teaching artists provided the students with the framework and parameters of the assignment; however, the concept, design, construction and execution of the Machine is all student directed.

Once the enormous Machine has been assembled in the Sailor Circus Arena, circus performers will become part of it – providing connections between the machine’s four main parts by being flipped, flown and spun from one component to the next.

This program was spearheaded by the Circus Arts Conservatory’s Education Department who combine the worlds of engineering, sculpture and circus arts in the classroom. After developing the pilot program in Sarasota, the CAC hopes the lesson can be introduced to neighboring counties.

The CAC’s education department is led by Karen Bell, a professional clown who first performed with Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1986. Bell has been a teaching artist since 2005 and received her teaching training through the Kennedy Center’s Artists as Educators seminars funded through the DANA Foundation. Joining Bell is Robin Eurich, professional clown, improviser and teacher who has been performing for 42 years. He has been with CAC since its first year performing as Ringmaster and has been teaching in the classroom for CAC since 2011.

“This is exciting on so many levels,” said teaching artist Karen Bell. “A Rube Goldberg machine has never been built on this scale. We are assembling it in the Sailor Circus Arena and taking advantage of the rigging and circus performers. Part of the challenge to the students was to incorporate circus into the Machine. We’re teaching these children teamwork, perseverance and the valuable experience of failure – they most likely won’t get everything right on the first try but working together and using the principals of physics and engineering, they will eventually get their machine to work.”

Robin Eurich added, “This project teaches collaborative and creative thinking – the heart and soul of the workplace of tomorrow. And we’ve found a way to inspire children to find science compelling and achievable. They’re learning physics! Physics is non-changing – everything starts with physics. Since we are in the circus we think creatively, practically, big and out of the box and we’re teaching the children to think that way as well.”