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Could This Reimagined Traveling Carnival Get Kids Hooked on Science?

When you say the word "engineering," to kids, their eyes glaze over, but when you say "lasers, robots and fire" kids get interested.


When we were kids my brother Tyler and I played A LOT of video games. Our dad was in the game business and would bring home all the latest consoles and accessories. It wasn’t long before playing wasn’t enough and we decided to start building our own games. We drew levels on 8.5 x 11-inch sheets of paper and arranged them end-to-end, snaking all over our bedroom. When we ran out of space we wallpapered the entire garage.

Later we built and printed a collectible card game, and crafted our own board game. An important transition occurred when we moved from making analog games to making digital games using HyperCard and other software tools. That transition had the most profound impact on my career and my life’s work.

My brother and I were willing to take on hard tasks, learn difficult skills, and work through the night because we were so passionate about making our own games. Now, years later, we’re both engineers—I’m the co-founder of Two Bit Circus, a Los Angeles-based think tank focused on reinventing education and amusement—and we’re both ridiculously passionate about what we do.

Sadly, too few kids today grow up in the type of supportive, creative environment that nurtured us. And the consequences are staggering.

According to Naval STEM, only 33 percent of eighth graders are interested in science, technology, engineering, or math majors and only 6 percent of high school seniors will get a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field. Currently in the state of California, "despite record unemployment, employers report being unable to find qualified candidates in STEM despite more than 1 million new STEM jobs on the horizon."

How could some of the most high-paying, exciting jobs go unfilled? Part of the problem is students don't understand that engineering is fun. We must find a new way to excite kids about STEM studies and I think I have a solution. When you say the word "engineering," to kids, their eyes glaze over. But, when my co-founder Eric Gradman and I present to middle and high school kids we say "lasers, robots and fire!" and get their complete attention. It’s been so effective, we've decided to go big.

Today, we're launching the STEAM Carnival, a re-imagined entertainment experience with the goal of inspiring kids of all ages about science, technology, engineering, art, and math. We're using high-tech fun as a platform to generate curiosity about the software, electronics, fabrication, and robotics that go into pulling off large-scale stunts.

We've even crafted special kits that we’ll make available to kids in advance of the event so they can make their own futuristic entertainment and be part of the show. Kids will be able to contribute to a gallery of digital art, a concert of musical robots, and a fashion show of wearable electronics.

The STEAM Carnival will start in Los Angeles in Spring 2014, head up to San Francisco, and after that we'll go to whichever cities will have us. We're so excited about all of this and can't wait to show the world.

This is a massive undertaking for our entire team, and we need your help to pull it off. We're launching a Kickstarter campaign today and our goal is to raise at least $100,000 in the next 39 days so we can bring our high-tech carnival to life. If we raise enough money, we have a bunch of corporate sponsors tee'd up that will help to really add fuel to our fire.

We have to act now. The STEM/STEAM movements are gaining traction but we need to do more. The White House launched a massive STEM initiative, musician and activist, has launched with Discovery Education, and companies like Cisco, Time Warner, GE, and SanDisk are committing to mentorship and education. We hope to make the STEAM Carnival integral to this movement.

So come run away and join the circus with us!

Click here add building the STEAM Carnival to your GOOD "to-do" list.

This project will be featured in GOOD's Saturday series Push For Good—our guide to crowdfunding creative progress.

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