Get STEAMY at the carnival of the future
“Get ready to undertake a fantastic journey across time and space, to the edges of the universe, past the limits of human imagination!”
That’s the headline for STEAM Carnival—a “modern travelling circus” for young and old, put together by the brains behind Two Bit Circus. Born in the US in 2014, the STEAM Carnival’s winning combination of “lasers, fire and robots” saw it quickly expand, travelling the country and then abroad.
There’ll be games, workshops, shows and performers designed to dazzle and amaze us all with extraordinary feats of STEAM!
What’s STEAM? It’s science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics—all the things we need to build 21st century skills.
I had the pleasure of meeting three of the ‘makers’ behind the event: Justin Finuliar, Eric Anderson and Gavin Bushnell. While they played with the gadgets and gizmos here at Scitech, they told me about the fun and games they’d be bringing for the people of Perth.
It’s anyone’s game
One of the big features of the STEAM Carnival is the tech-driven games—10 giant, interactive games are making their way to Perth. The guys don’t give much away, but Gavin tells me about his favourite game called Kings. Two teams of five try to hold their own wands steady while knocking over their competitors’ wands. Last team standing wins.
Two Bit Circus designs games that can be recreated at home using cheap materials. Their hope is for people who visit the carnival to have an experience that extends beyond the day into a lifelong interest and for the communities they visit to feel empowered to throw their own STEAM events, even after the carnival packs up and leaves town.
Of course, while there is a focus on educating and empowering, it wouldn’t be a carnival without a little razzle dazzle.
“We really try to create the magic behind it but also lift that veil so they can kind of see the science and the technology and engineering”
And what’s the best part of showing someone something new? Seeing the light bulb moment when they really get it.
The guys say it always warms their heart to see people, particularly kids, learn the games and then start teaching them to others. But one experience really stood out for Eric.
After receiving some donated chess boards, Two Bit Circus used them to make a DIY project. Kids aged from 7 to 12 were shown how to turn their chess boards into safes using magnets and circuitry.
“If you did the opening gambit of moves, you would open the safe,” Eric explains.
“Seeing a 7-year-old girl making it work for the first time and having that synapse moment of ‘I did that’ and seeing the future just light up on her face, you feel like you’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing, where you’re supposed to be doing it in the most gratifying way,” he says.
“You just changed that child’s life in a way that’s unstoppable for her now.”
There’s no I in STEAM
You might’ve heard the term STEM before rather than STEAM. That’s because STEM skills are crucial for the workforce of the future. But Two Bit Circus believes that the A is just as important.
Incorporating the arts helps attract different types of people who might usually avoid STEM subjects. Not only that, but the guys told me that adding art to the equation helps reflect the reality of how we work today.
“More and more, our industries are becoming much more collaborative—whether that’s the arts or the sciences—and to distinguish them as separate entities working within themselves is incorrect to that kind of human experience as a whole,” says Justin.
“At the end of the day, we need to prepare students so that they’re much more well-rounded.”
Part of that is recognising art and science aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, they’re better together!
“Whether you’re an engineer, a scientist, a mathematician—the great ones are the really creative ones,” says Gavin.
“E=mc2 is maybe the most beautiful thing that has ever been written—and it is artistic. It is art.”
Blow off some STEAM
At the heart of STEAM Carnival’s gamified experiences is play—something the guys think is not only vital for learning but that you’re never too old to do. In fact, playing is what keeps you young.
“The moment that you stop playing is oftentimes when you stop learning too,” says Eric.
“Why wouldn’t you want to have that continue on? That’s a huge part of what we do here is we keep people young by keeping them thinking, keeping them inventing.”
So if you want to stay young, have fun and learn valuable future skills, I’d suggest clearing your calendar for 8 December and spending a day at the STEAM Carnival. If you’re still not convinced, I asked Gavin what he’d say to anyone wondering why they should come.
“Because they’ll say wow. It’ll make them say wow.”