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Carnegie Science Center MessFest allows kids to make a mess

| Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, 11:43 p.m.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Ava Massung, 7, of North Huntingdon plays around with messy globs of oobleck during the annual MessFest 2014 at the Carnegie Science Center on the North Shore, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Hera Mukhtar, 12, of Monroeville, gets a face full of chocolate pudding as she and other children compete in a 'Pi Eating Contest,' during the MessFest 2014 event at the Carnegie Science Center, Wednesday, January 1, 2014. Children raced to finish eating the pudding pie without using their hands
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Kids are encouraged to get messy at Mess Fest at the Carnegie Science Center on the North Shore.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Mt. Lebanon sisters Jordan, 9, left, and Chloe Paul,3, play around with messy globs of oobleck during the annual MessFest 2014 at the Carnegie Science Center on the North Shore, Wednesday, January 1, 2014. Children enjoyed a tactile experience with non-Newtonian fluids, such as mixtures of cornstarch and water.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Alex Plummer, 8, right, places his handmade soap into a plastic bag during the MessFest 2014 at the Carnegie Science Center on the North Shore, Wednesday, January 1, 2014. Joining Alex are, from left, mother Colleen, younger sister, Alana Brown, 6, and older sister, Angel Brown, 14, all of Latrobe.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
During the MessFest 2014 at the Carnegie Science Center, CSC team member Nick Scarpino, left, guides children as they drop eggs protected inside handmade carriers from 18 feet above the ground, during the 'egg-stranaut' activity. Wednesday, January 1, 2014. Children used a variety of materials to design a carrier that would protect the egg during its 18-foot descent.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
During the MessFest 2014 at the Carnegie Science Center on the North Shore, Jessica Karasek, of Westmoreland City, holds son, Aaron Goettler, 6, as he launches an egg protected inside a handmade carrier from 18 feet above the ground, during the 'egg-stranaut' activity. Wednesday, January 1, 2014. Children used a variety of materials including paper and plastic to design a carrier that would protect the egg during its 18-foot descent. Aaron was successful in his design and launch, as the egg remained unbroken after its plummet back to Earth.

New Year's Day might have found Sarah Bupp, 5, of Squirrel Hill relaxed at home, perched in front of the TV.

Instead, she splashed around in communal puddles of goop at the Carnegie Science Center, her hair and face streaked by midday with the evidence.

“At this age, they need to be hands-on playing and exploring to build brain pathways,” said Sarah's mother, Deb Alley, 47, one of 2,000 to 3,000 people expected on Wednesday at the science center's seventh annual MessFest. “The hands-on is critical.”

Organizers said that's the idea behind MessFest, developed by staff member Apryl Peroney as a New Year's Day prelude to spring cleaning. More than a half-dozen activities throughout the center encouraged youths to make their own chalk, play with slime and drop insulated eggs from aloft.

Peroney said the seven-hour program helps makes science accessible.

“There's science in everything. There's science in making the mess. There's science in cleaning it up,” said Peroney, the center's education coordinator for interactive exhibits.

Carlos Cruz, 35, of Monroeville took his three kids, who indulged in finger-painting and made “3D soap” that they can spread in their bathtub.

“So far, they have made a lot of mess. Thankfully, we brought a second set of clothes. It's just beautiful,” Cruz said. “They teach you how to do things so you can repeat it at home.”

For Tabetha Clayton, 10, of Moon, the biggest thrill came in designing a Styrofoam-and-plastic contraption to insulate an egg from a mammoth tumble.

“I learned that putting all that stuff in a bag doesn't really work,” Tabetha said. Her mother, Christina Clayton, 39, also got into the spirit, running her hands through a children's pool holding a corn-starch-and-water substance called Ooblek.

The goo, which has properties of a liquid and a solid, is called a non-Newtonian fluid because it won't follow Isaac Newton's law of viscosity.

“It feels kind of cold, it actually feels dry,” said Clayton, who said her family might otherwise spend New Year's Day at home.

For Susan Spencer, 35, of Emsworth the science center was “pretty much the only thing open” as she sought activities for her sons, Liam, 4, and Benjamin, 1.

“They've got to get out,” Spencer said as Benjamin wiped gunk from his hands. “Luckily for us, Pittsburgh is a pretty good place for kids.”

Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5676 or asmeltz@tribweb.com.

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