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Published: Monday, 6/9/2003

Visitors dig BIG exhibit

BY ELIZABETH A. SHACK
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Grant Denhof, 3, whose mother says he's `obsessed' with large machinery, gets a chance to operate one at COSI with the help of Tony Farkasdi of the Ohio Operating Engineers. Grant Denhof, 3, whose mother says he's `obsessed' with large machinery, gets a chance to operate one at COSI with the help of Tony Farkasdi of the Ohio Operating Engineers.
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The bright yellow bulldozers, crane, and diggers in Festival Park this week aren't preparing to build anything.

The construction equipment is on exhibit for fun and education. Yesterday marked the start of the fourth annual Science of BIG Machines exhibit at COSI.

Visitors dug in sandboxes with the excavators, directed an engineer to lift a barrel with the hydraulic crane, and sat at the controls of 14 other machines in the park next to COSI.

Inside the science and education center's building at the corner of Summit and Adams streets were some smaller machines and another sandbox, but the biggest attractions were outside.

Cory Vitez, 2, stared intently at the scoop on the front of the loader as he worked the controls to raise and lower it.

His brothers, Mitchell, 8, and Justin, 6, watched and waited for the chance to try another piece of equipment. They had tried the mini-excavator already. Mitchell smiled as he remembered digging a hole in the sand. Justin said he wanted to go on the backhoe.

This was the second year the family had been to the exhibit, said the boys' father, Tom Vitez of Canton, Mich.

“It's very neat that they do this,” said their mother, Marla.

In past years the exhibit has attracted up to 10,000 visitors, COSI spokesman Lori Hauser said.

Nearly 50 people, many in yellow hard hats, were examining the equipment less than two hours after the show opened yesterday. The honking horns of the big machines could be heard halfway across the Martin Luther King, Jr., Bridge on Cherry Street.

Apprentice engineers from Ohio Operating Engineers, a four-year program that teaches students to operate the construction equipment, were on hand to help the children operate the equipment.

“It's a joy to do it,” said fourth-year student Christie Kapelka as she smiled at a boy hanging from the hook of the crane, his feet a foot above the ground.

Some of the children, used to playing with small construction toys, are “just amazed” when they come outside and see all the real equipment they get to play with, she said.

Douglas Instone, an instructor with the program who was helping children raise and dump sand with the excavator, said the group has participated in the COSI event since it began.

More machines are added to the exhibit each year, Ms. Hauser said.

This year, some children couldn't pick a favorite.

Spencer Schrandt, 4, of Ann Arbor said “everything” was his favorite machine. “I went in every truck,” he said.

But his sister, Annaliese, also 4, had no trouble naming her favorite. “I liked the crane,” she said. She had already ridden it twice.

The big machines, provided by Melco, Inc., arrived at the park Saturday afternoon and will be there through Sunday, when COSI will hold a Father's Day barbecue in the park.



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