The fiery steel fish sculpture displayed off Port Jefferson Harbor wasn’t just a piece of art.
“Hot Pursuit,” which illustrated how fish group together to survive against predators, was one of about 100 exhibits designed to teach lessons about science and math at the Eastern Long Island Mini Maker Faire on Saturday.
Saturday’s event, organized by the Maritime Explorium in Port Jefferson Harbor, attracted more than 1,000 adults and children who checked out exhibits that included robotic Lego devices, a 3-D printer, jewelry making and a cosmic-ray detector.
“Hot Pursuit,” a 10-foot-tall fire sculpture created by New Jersey-based artist collective Funtown Studios, featured three silver striped bass moving up toward small bait fish swimming closely together at the top of the sculpture.
It offered biology lessons — illustrating, for example, how a single straggler fish in the sculpture that became separated from the protection of the group was about to be eaten by a bass, said Sandra Schaller, 46, a Funtown member.
The sculpture also demonstrated how some stoves and heating systems work. Visitors could deliver propane vapor to a pilot light by pushing a green button that used electricity to control a valve, creating a burst of fire.
“You’re not just looking at it and walking by,” Schaller said. “You’re actually interacting with it.”
Inside the Explorium, George Hart, a sculptor and a research professor in engineering at Stony Brook University, was directing participants in putting together a spherical object using 60 identical 2-foot-long pieces of laser-cut plywood.
The object illustrated icosahedral symmetry, which is the pattern of HIV and of some microscopic creatures, he said.
Brenda Allen, a fifth-grade teacher at Franklin Elementary School in Hempstead, fastened some of the plywood pieces together with plastic ties. She said the fair was giving her ideas of how to bring mathematical ideas to life in the classroom.
“You can work with kids on a higher level” with hands-on activities, she said.
Joshua Ecker, 14, of Port Jefferson, said he thought the exhibits were a more effective way to learn than memorizing sentences from a textbook.
“For a science test, I’ll study something using a science text and probably forget it,” he said. “Being hands-on, I’m going to remember it for a lifetime.”