Troy Corbett and his son, Alexander, sat close together on the floor of the Maryland Science Center, lining up dominoes with a laser-like focus.
“The biggest challenge is just what you would think,” said Troy, a Science Center volunteer from Severn. “Not tipping them over.”
He and Alexander, a junior at Chesapeake Science Point charter school in Anne Arundel County, are among the volunteers helping to set up this weekend’s space-themed domino topple at the center.
Between 15,000 and 30,000 dominoes, which will form pictures of the sun, the stars and the planets once the volunteers are done setting them up, will fall one by one at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Domino Day at the Maryland Science Center will be held from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the center’s harbor lobby. The demonstration is free with paid admission. Dominoes will be available for hands-in activities.
The dominoes fall at a rate of three feet per second, so the whole topple will take about two minutes, said Scott Suko, chief domino toppler and well-known domino expert.
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Around a thousand spectators attended the center’s last Domino Day, and Suko expects an even larger crowd this time around. In keeping with the space theme, Starburst candy will be tossed out into the crowd as the final dominoes tip over.
“It takes a lot of patience and a lot of practice,” said Suko, whose fascination with the toy began as a high school student in 1979.
Suko grew up in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and the Hemophilia Association of New York was sponsoring the world’s largest single-person domino topple as a fundraiser.
He volunteered to be a crew member, helping to prepare the dominoes for the topple, and he’s been hooked on the hobby ever since.
Suko has appeared on a number of TV shows to demonstrate domino toppling, though he said he’s been less focused on it since starting a family. But he often plays dominoes with his 10-year-old twins, teaching them the craft, he said.
“What I like about it is, it’s a blend of engineering and art,” said Suko, an electrical engineer at Northrop Grumman.
You can create beautiful pictures with dominoes, but you have to place them just so or the topple won’t work. All it takes is one errant domino to mess it up.
Still, lining up dominoes is relaxing, Suko said, because it’s hard to focus on anything else when you’re preparing a topple.
The Maryland Science Center has had several Domino Days—the first was to celebrate Nov. 11, 2011. It got a good reception, so now they happen about every year and a half, Suko said.
When the Corbetts found out through a family friend that the Science Center was looking for volunteers to help set up the dominoes, they were eager to help.
“It’s just a chance to do something different,” Alexander Corbett said.
And he’s looking forward to the end result.
“It’s very hard to set up, and it’s satisfying to watch it go down and not have to pick it up again,” he said.
Although, Suko gently reminded him, someone has to help clean up.