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Students Engineer Contraptions For Annual Carnegie Science Center Contest

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Carnegie Science Center hosted the 14th annual Chain Reaction Contraption contest, sponsored by Westinghouse, on Friday.

"We have two more marbles that when it pivots, it knocks back in here, falls into a Dixie cup." Shane Conklin of Seneca Valley Intermediate School explains a contraption set up to "decide" the all important issues of War and Peace. Thirty-three area schools participated in the contest.

It's sort of a Rube Goldberg meets Mousetrap kind of thing. The contraption's final action must be preceded by at least 20 steps.

Program director Linda Ortenzo of the Science Center says the contest gives students practice in engineering.

"They learn problem solving. They learn critical thinking. They learn to embrace failure, and realize that that helps them to do a better project, and create their very best contraption."

A team from Cornell High School prepares under the gaze of a panel of judges. Their "Caddy Shack" contraption uses a sequence of falling golf balls to eventually move a golf cart.

"You learn patience, and you learn a lot about teamwork," says Cornell senior Lily Formosa.

North Allegheny's contraption is set up beneath a miniature "circus tent."

"Our machine is called 'Cirque du Nerd,' and we named it that because actually our team has a tradition of relating things to 'nerd,' junior Eric Goodman explains. "Last year it was '2001: A Nerd Odyssey.'"

As the old saying goes, "Build a better Chain Reaction Contraption, and the world will beat a path to your door."

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