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Walking With Dinosaurs The Arena Spectacular -- A lesson in STEM education

Walking With Dinosaurs
Walking With Dinosaurs
Creature Technology

When parents bring their children to see Walking With Dinosaurs The Arena Spectacular, at Quickens Loans Arena July 9-13, the audience not only will see jaw-dropping entertainment, but they’ll also witness Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) - education at work.Tickets start at $25. Click here for ticket information.

Jason Harris is the 'e' in STEM. As Senior Mechanics Engineer with Creature Technology—the company that produces the life-like animatronic figures, he’s been working dinosaur magic for about eight years. I talked with Harris a week before the show was to start in Cleveland. He called me from Youngstown , where the show was rehearsing its mega-size creatures at the Covelli Centre prior to the Cleveland tour.

Before the roar of the dinosaur claimed Harris’ attention, he used his scientific knowledge to make race cars move on the racetracks of Australia, his home country. But family life changed his life’s course. “I was traveling a lot and once I had kids, I needed something with not as much traveling involved,” Harris said. A friend of his who worked at Creature Technology in Australia, turned Harris onto an engineering opportunity at the company. Nearly eight years later, Harris still appreciates his cars-to-creatures career move.

“I build the dinosaur’s chassis—the internal framework or base support--and the tales,” Harris said. “And the dinosaurs that the fans will see in Cleveland--I helped build all of them!”

Harris’s day’s work ties into STEM Education. STEM is promoted in schools with many having STEM-focused curriculum. Harris first applied his engineering skills to cars and was able to switch gears. “The skills are interchangeable and transferable from cars to dinosaurs,” Harris said. “Maybe you don’t want to build a bridge, but you can build a dinosaur or dragons, something really fun.” Making sure math, the ‘m’ in STEM is solid, also will be a great benefit, Harris emphasized.

While building dinosaurs is a unique job, whatever you build, Harris said with laughter, “At the end of the day, you just need a client for it.”

One such client was the Winter Olympics in Russia this past February. “Remember the Olympics during the closing ceremony—the bear and the other animals,” Harris asked me excitedly. “We did that. We sent a team of people to the Olympics, including, puppeteers, to make sure the show was spot-on,” he stressed. I assured him – spot on, it was! The bear, and its eyes alone—quite memorable.

Unforgettable, Harris says, is exactly what fans in Cleveland will experience when they see The Arena Spectacular at ‘The Q’.

The dinosaurs are no small feat. Each large dinosaur weighs approximately 1.6 tons. Twenty-seven trucks, each 73 feet in length, are needed to move the production. It takes a team of three people to operate one dinosaur. The show was in Cleveland in 2008 and has been seen by more than 7.3 million people across the globe.

Walking With Dinosaurs The Arena Spectacular has scenes of the interactions between dinosaurs, how carnivorous dinosaurs evolved to walk on two legs, and how the herbivores fended off their more agile predators. “I get to make the dinosaurs turn from a statue into a moving creature,” Harris said. "I make them come alive.”