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.

Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less