Erica Bell stuck her finger close to the black scorpion and made a motion to prod it. The scorpion scuttled and undulated its stinging tail quickly — but, it was no big deal.

Bell is anything but an arachnophobe. And the scorpion, an arachnid with five inches left to grow, is too underdeveloped to really pack a punch, she said Saturday. Regardless, two young boys watching turned instead to Bell’s plastic models of scorpions, with fake stingers and sets of rubbery guts they could pick apart, mess-free.

But seeing an obsidian-colored African scorpion up close is still pretty cool, the whole point of the Cool Science Carnival Day, the kick-off event at University of Colorado, at Colorado Springs for the weeklong Colorado Springs Cool Science Festival.

Bell, a member of the Bug Club, brought just a few of her two dozen pet arachnids to the carnival, and was joined by Lego engineers, wildlife preservation groups and many more on Saturday for the first of day of geeking-out over all things science.

Just down the hall from Bell — past the birds of prey exhibit — Joyce Ruddy was teaching the basics of civil engineering and mechanics to 5-year-olds. It’s easier than it sounds.

Ruddy, and instructor with Play-Well Technologies, a pre-engineering education group that uses Legos, believes that early introduction to mechanics — building toy cars and airplanes — segues well into math skills later on, she said. She helped teach two classes on Saturday, one to a group of eight to 12 year olds, another to the group of five to seven year olds, and both classes had waiting lists.

“We were quite popular today,” she said, as a frenzy of kids scrambled to pick up Lego pieces.

Play-Well does classroom style lessons as well as birthday parties, she said.

“So, I show up at the door with $10,000 worth of Legos,” Ruddy explained. The otherwise-expensive Legos pieces used to make robots are at the disposal of kids, all so they can learn about gear-ratios, Ruddy said.

“It’s so great to get them thinking that way,” she added, explaining that basic comprehension of how gears work will help with fractions when kids reach high school.

Bell and Ruddy’s exhibits were only two of 80 different organizations at Saturday’s carnival. The week ahead promises beer brewing lessons, forensic lab tours and science-themed ride along the Cog Railway.

Contact Ryan Maye Handy: 636-0261
Twitter @ryanmhandy