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Christopher Harner, M.D.

Visitors Explore The Science In Sports In “UPMC Sportsworks” At Carnegie Science Center

PITTSBURGH, July 24, 2001 — Why do golf balls have dimples? What does it feel like to race down an Olympic bobsled track? Why do muscles ‘burn’ after a workout? Carnegie Science Center’s newest permanent exhibition— UPMC SportsWorks—explores the science in sports in a way that’s fun and fascinating for people of all ages. Opening on August 4, 2001, the exhibit is entirely dedicated to a complete sports/science experience.

“We wanted to create a positive, engaging experience for people who would not normally visit a science/education facility, ” said Seddon Bennington, director, Carnegie Science Center. “ Learning is fun especially when you can climb a rock wall, become a human gyroscope or snowboard down a ‘virtual’ mountain.”

Bennington added that the exhibition is another Pittsburgh first: “At 36,000 square feet, UPMC SportsWorks is five times larger than any other Carnegie Science Center exhibition and is the largest science and sport exhibition in the world.”

It was made possible with major funding from University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “In addition to UPMC’s financial support, we are grateful to the physicians and athletic trainers from the world-class Center for Sports Medicine who contributed hundreds of hours of voluntary time to UPMC SportsWorks development,” added Bennington.

“We at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center are thrilled to provide support for this unique and innovative experience developed by Carnegie Science Center, which creatively combines the popularity and healthy competition of sports with the disciplines of science, physics and sports medicine. It is another way for UPMC to enrich the lives of families right here in western Pennsylvania as well as visitors from all around the word,” said John W. Paul, executive vice president, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Located in its own building adjacent to the Science Center and across from the new Heinz Field, UPMC SportsWorks contains 40+ exhibits, providing some 70 experiences that range from thrill rides to exploring the science in sports. The exhibit is divided into six major theme areas: Safe Adventure, Try it Yourself, Sports & Science, Virtual Sports, Mini Golf Math and UPMC SportsWorks JR.

In “Safe Adventure,” visitors put their inner daredevil to the test. For example, exhibit-goers can scale a 25-foot rock Climbing Wall, get fastened into a bungee harness over a trampoline at Bounce or pedal a unicycle high above the exhibit gallery on the death defying High Cycle.

“Try it Yourself” gives visitors a chance to be part of the game. They gain perspective about the challenges faced by athletes and the people who work behind the scenes of sporting events. Visitors can take on ‘virtual’ Jackie Joyner-Kersee on a 40-foot track in Olympic Sprint, or discover what it’s like to film and judge a sporting event in the Broadcast Truck and Be the Judge.

Visitors experience countless ways to test their gaming know-how and inner strengths in theme area “Sports & Science.” Here visitors can engineer a Parachute Drop, or test their Reaction Time, Vertical Jump and Hang Time.

For those that have dreamed of skiing down treacherous slopes, speeding around racetracks or jumping over sandy dunes, Simulator Xtreme will take you there. This virtual experience and others can be undertaken in “Virtual Sports.” Visitors are catapulted through real video of high adrenaline adventures, using interactive controls to maneuver the course in Snowboarding, Hangliding, Virtual Sports and others.

A four-hole “Mini-Golf Math” tests visitors’ math and physics knowledge. Momentum, centripetal force, velocity, mass, angles and arcs come into play as they putt over illusions, up ramps and down chutes.

Another interactive section—designed just for kids three to seven years old—is “UPMC SportsWorks JR.” JR. Obstacle Course creates a play zone for youngsters to crawl under arches, climb across a rock wall and skip over river stones. Other components include throwing rubber baseballs in JR. Pitching Cage, learning about daily exercise with JR. Exercise Equipment and pedaling a mounted bike that generates energy to light a bulb.

According to Dennis Bateman, assistant director of exhibit and facilities, visitors can expect UPMC SportsWorks to offer a three-part experience. “UPMC SportsWorks will offer real full-bodied, physical experiences—like rock climbing and sprinting. Plus state-of-the-art simulators, both virtual and mechanical that will take people places they wouldn’t likely experience—cruising down Olympic bobsled runs or hang gliding over the Grand Canyon. And, then there’s the basic underlying science of it all—the aerodynamics of an in-flight baseball, the musculature involved in track and field.”

“In order to educate as well as entertain visitors to SportsWorks, we are posting important sports medicine tips next to almost all of the exhibits. These brief tips highlight research, injury prevention and rehabilitation or sports performance specific to each sport or activity,” said Christopher Harner, M.D., professor of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and medical director of the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine.

The warehouse-like space has the look and feel of a sporting event: sports sound effects, special lighting, banners, stadium-style concession stand and souvenir shop, scoreboards, video monitors featuring famous clips of athletes setting world records, and an assortment of real artifacts, including the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates World Series Trophy and Three Rivers Stadium seats, cafe chairs and tables.

Carnegie Science Center is located on the North Shore. For more information on times, prices, directions or programs and exhibits, please visit website at Carnegie Science Center or call 412-237-3400. The Science Center provides free on-site parking to its visitors.

Kelly Chapman
Carnegie Science Center

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