Technology - Reinventing the Nerd | attractionsmanagement.com
POST YOUR JOB ONLINE
Free ezine/digital edition sign up
Jobs . News . Features . Video . Products . Magazine . Handbook . Advertise . Contact us  
Technology
Reinventing the Nerd

Technical and mechanical knowledge infused with originality and enthusiasm: Two Bit Circus inspires everyone from attractions insiders to schoolchildren

By Kath Hudson | Published in Attractions Management 2014 issue 4

Since 2012, Two Bit Circus, a group of entertainment engineers, has been playing around with robots, lasers and fire, creating quirky, exciting, interactive experiences for wide-eyed audience and co-founders Brent Bushnell and Eric Gradman have been steadily challenging the assumption that science and engineering are boring.

We talk to Bushnell to find out more about the Los Angeles-based collective.

How did Two Bit Circus come about?
I met Eric about seven years ago. We were both STEM [science, technology, engineering and maths] guys. He was building robots for the military and I was making video games, but we both wanted to be playing with other tech. The first night we met in person we stayed up until 4am building things. We began to find other people in LA who got similar enjoyment out of fabrication and all that stuff, so we formed a little band of nerds.

You don’t seem like nerds in the way you present and engage with audiences. Has the world got nerds wrong?
One of the opportunities we have at the moment is to rebrand what it is to be a nerd. There’s a negative cultural narrative around the sciences and maths. There’s a traditional thinking that engineering is all pencil ties and lab coats, but that’s all wrong: there are lasers and fires and robots and all sorts of neat things which make engineering, maths and science really exciting. People who fit the role of engineer are still playful and fun.

You want to inspire a future generation of inventors, so who inspired and continues to inspire you?
On many levels, Eric and I inspire each other. My dad was a big inspiration and it’s fun to be back around my family as a peer. [Bushnell’s father is entrepreneur and engineer Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari and other video game companies].

I read an interesting study which underscored the fact that there’s no shortage of hard problems to work on, and that’s where the genesis of inspiring inventors came from: how could us nerds inspire an army of inventors and what impact could they have on the world?

You and Eric shared a vision of making STEM fun, but how easy was it to find a way of bringing that idea to fruition?
It extended from our core team pretty naturally. Leading up to the creation of Two Bit Circus, we were always playing with technology. We didn’t have a business model in the beginning. We were just playing with stuff and taking it to parties. We did fundraisers and parties for companies like Amazon and Intel, with up to 10,000 guests.

Then we made a music video for the band Ok Go’s single This Too Shall Pass. We built a huge Rube Goldberg Machine in a warehouse and the video went viral with 45 million views. Loads of parents and teachers called us to say the kids loved it.

We ended up also being on-camera inventors for a home makeover TV show, ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, building a new invention for each house.

We were having a lot of fun with engineering and we were going into schools to talk about it. Statistics show America is ranked 47th in maths across the world, but we saw kids getting excited about this stuff, which made us think about how we could take this show on the road. That’s how STEAM Carnival came about, it’s our biggest undertaking to date.

What does STEAM carnival involve?
We want the focus of STEAM Carnival to be to convert non-STEM kids into STEM kids. We decided to do that by putting art into the mix, turning STEM into STEAM. Adding art – fashion, music, games – was a pretty powerful shift: those things appeal to most kids.

The STEAM Carnival involves a lead-up element at school, where kids learn about design, creation, programming and fabrication. This culminates in a live event at the show. The children create a fashion show of wearable electronics, a battle of the bands for musical robots and an arcade made of indie-group games.

It’s aimed at 11 to 14-year-olds, as this is the age they often opt out. We’re aiming to create a curriculum for under-12s as well.

Was it easy to get schools on board?
Our Kickstarter campaign received a lot of media and internet coverage which enabled us to trial the concept. From that we had teachers and schools call us.

Do you have plans to take the STEAM Carnival overseas?
Yes, it’s just a question of timing. We’re in talks with a group in Poland and also in China, as well as about 10 other cities around the US to take it on the road.

Could this be adapted for an attraction?
We would love to do that. We’ve talked about modifying it to become a touring museum exhibit and spoken with science museums about what it could look like.

We’ve got all the games we’ve been making: one of the original ideas with the carnival was we’d test and trial ideas under our own control and then sell them to theme and amusement parks.

Can you tell us about any new projects you have on the go?
We’ve been working on virtual reality and filming in 360, and we’re looking at mixing that with a story adventure.

Is there ever anything you want to do, but can’t make happen?
We have to consider safety and the size of things, making sure they’re portable, but we try not to put the brakes on too early. However, I do wish we had more time.


About Two Bit Circus
Two Bit Circus is a collective of inventors, developers and engineers that’s full of imagination. The group’s mix of innovation, technological know-how and creativity translates into a variety of pop-up interactive amusements. Two Bit Circus brings its productions – immersive story games, stunt shows, plus an arcade roadshow that showcases its one-off games and activities – to parties and events, as well as running the educational, hands-on touring platform STEAM Carnival.
TWO BIT CIRCUS CONCEPTS

THIS TOO SHALL PASS MSUIC VIDEO
This music video is a showcase for Two Bit Circus’s skills and humour. A warehouse was transformed into a Rube Goldberg Machine, a giant sequence of events. Starting off with a domino run, four minutes of action are perfectly synched with the music, including water pouring, metal balls dropping, a sledgehammer crashing into a TV, a piano dropping, a flock of umbrellas – culminating with the Ok Go members being splattered with paint. Watch it and smile.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qybUFnY7Y8w

STORY ROOM
Like many of Two Bit Circus’s concepts, Story Room started as a bit of fun. Set in a themed room, players become part of the story and must collaborate with others in a process full of surprises and mysteries. In order to work through the story, they must unlock a sequence of clues and puzzles. The narrative behind the original version set the participants in a scientist’s laboratory, where they had to work together to stop a virus from escaping. The concept can be re-themed countless ways: a crash landing on a strange planet, an adventure under the sea…

LA ARTWALK
The Two Bit Circus workshop is in one of the biggest artist communities in the world and twice a year artists open their doors to showcase their wares to the public. Two Bit Circus creates an arcade of all their latest games and ideas. Last year, one of the most popular games involved a laser projector, a tracking camera and a basket of balls. People had to throw balls at the walls to hit the moving hoops. It was a real hit. “There was no start, no finish, and no scorekeeping, but people loved it – 10,000 balls were thrown at the wall over the weekend,” says Bushnell.

 



The finale of the video This Too Shall Pass by the band Ok Go
Eric Gradman, one of the founders of Two Bit Circus and the STEAM Carnival
Human Asteroids, by Two Bit Circus for STEAM Carnival, is a tribute to the Atari game Asteroids. In this version, the player himself is the ship
The Arcade Road Show is an amusement event that can host between 50 and 5,000 people
The Arcade Road Show is an amusement event that can host between 50 and 5,000 people
The Arcade Road Show is an amusement event that can host between 50 and 5,000 people
The Arcade Road Show is an amusement event that can host between 50 and 5,000 people
Gradman (left) and Bushnell make it their mission to create a positive narrative around the STEM subjects
Two Bit Circus creates hands-on games, which could be used in the attractions markets
Two Bit Circus creates hands-on games, which could be used in the attractions markets
Two Bit Circus creates hands-on games, which could be used in the attractions markets
Two Bit Circus creates hands-on games, which could be used in the attractions markets
COMPANY PROFILE
RMA Ltd

RMA Ltd is a one-stop global company that can design, build and produce from a greenfield site [more...]
+ More profiles  
FEATURED SUPPLIER

NEMO Science Museum shares its customer experience philosophy
What could possibly go wrong with a science museum that gets more visitors year after year? [more...]
VIDEO GALLERY

Red Raion: Meet the Team - Introduction
Red Raion: Meet the Team - Introduction Find out more...
More videos:
Experience the experience – Polin Waterparks & Pool Systems
Simworx - The power to move you… – Simworx
Red Raion - VR/5D Films Showreel 2016 – Red Raion
+ More videos  

CATALOGUE GALLERY
 

+ More catalogues  
ATTRACTIONS DIRECTORY
+ More directory  
ATTRACTIONS DIARY

06 Jun 2019

Swiss Medical Spa & Hospitality Think Tank 2019

Campus Passugg, SSTH, 7062 Passugg, Switzerland
11-14 Jun 2019

IAAPA Expo Asia 2019

Shanghai New International Expo Center, Shanghai, China
+ More diary  
LATEST ISSUES
+ View Magazine Archive

Attractions Management

2019 issue 1


View issue contents
View on turning pages
Download PDF
FREE digital subscription
Print subscription

Attractions Management

2018 issue 4


View issue contents
View on turning pages
Download PDF
FREE digital subscription
Print subscription

Attractions Management

2018 issue 3


View issue contents
View on turning pages
Download PDF
FREE digital subscription
Print subscription

Attractions Management

2018 issue 2


View issue contents
View on turning pages
Download PDF
FREE digital subscription
Print subscription

Attractions Management News

15 May 2019 issue 130


View on turning pages
Download PDF
View archive
FREE digital subscription
Print subscription

Attractions Handbook

2019


View issue contents
View on turning pages
Download PDF
FREE digital subscription
Print subscription
 
ABOUT LEISURE MEDIA
LEISURE MEDIA MAGAZINES
LEISURE MEDIA HANDBOOKS
LEISURE MEDIA WEBSITES
LEISURE MEDIA PRODUCT SEARCH
 
ATTRACTIONS MANAGEMENT
ATTRACTIONS MANAGEMENT NEWS
ATTRACTIONS HANDBOOK
PRINT SUBSCRIPTIONS
FREE DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTIONS
ADVERTISE . CONTACT US

Leisure Media, Portmill House, Portmill Lane,
Hitchin, Hertfordshire SG5 1DJ Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385

©Cybertrek 2019
Jobs . News . Products . Magazine
Technology
Reinventing the Nerd

Technical and mechanical knowledge infused with originality and enthusiasm: Two Bit Circus inspires everyone from attractions insiders to schoolchildren

By Kath Hudson | Published in Attractions Management 2014 issue 4

Since 2012, Two Bit Circus, a group of entertainment engineers, has been playing around with robots, lasers and fire, creating quirky, exciting, interactive experiences for wide-eyed audience and co-founders Brent Bushnell and Eric Gradman have been steadily challenging the assumption that science and engineering are boring.

We talk to Bushnell to find out more about the Los Angeles-based collective.

How did Two Bit Circus come about?
I met Eric about seven years ago. We were both STEM [science, technology, engineering and maths] guys. He was building robots for the military and I was making video games, but we both wanted to be playing with other tech. The first night we met in person we stayed up until 4am building things. We began to find other people in LA who got similar enjoyment out of fabrication and all that stuff, so we formed a little band of nerds.

You don’t seem like nerds in the way you present and engage with audiences. Has the world got nerds wrong?
One of the opportunities we have at the moment is to rebrand what it is to be a nerd. There’s a negative cultural narrative around the sciences and maths. There’s a traditional thinking that engineering is all pencil ties and lab coats, but that’s all wrong: there are lasers and fires and robots and all sorts of neat things which make engineering, maths and science really exciting. People who fit the role of engineer are still playful and fun.

You want to inspire a future generation of inventors, so who inspired and continues to inspire you?
On many levels, Eric and I inspire each other. My dad was a big inspiration and it’s fun to be back around my family as a peer. [Bushnell’s father is entrepreneur and engineer Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari and other video game companies].

I read an interesting study which underscored the fact that there’s no shortage of hard problems to work on, and that’s where the genesis of inspiring inventors came from: how could us nerds inspire an army of inventors and what impact could they have on the world?

You and Eric shared a vision of making STEM fun, but how easy was it to find a way of bringing that idea to fruition?
It extended from our core team pretty naturally. Leading up to the creation of Two Bit Circus, we were always playing with technology. We didn’t have a business model in the beginning. We were just playing with stuff and taking it to parties. We did fundraisers and parties for companies like Amazon and Intel, with up to 10,000 guests.

Then we made a music video for the band Ok Go’s single This Too Shall Pass. We built a huge Rube Goldberg Machine in a warehouse and the video went viral with 45 million views. Loads of parents and teachers called us to say the kids loved it.

We ended up also being on-camera inventors for a home makeover TV show, ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, building a new invention for each house.

We were having a lot of fun with engineering and we were going into schools to talk about it. Statistics show America is ranked 47th in maths across the world, but we saw kids getting excited about this stuff, which made us think about how we could take this show on the road. That’s how STEAM Carnival came about, it’s our biggest undertaking to date.

What does STEAM carnival involve?
We want the focus of STEAM Carnival to be to convert non-STEM kids into STEM kids. We decided to do that by putting art into the mix, turning STEM into STEAM. Adding art – fashion, music, games – was a pretty powerful shift: those things appeal to most kids.

The STEAM Carnival involves a lead-up element at school, where kids learn about design, creation, programming and fabrication. This culminates in a live event at the show. The children create a fashion show of wearable electronics, a battle of the bands for musical robots and an arcade made of indie-group games.

It’s aimed at 11 to 14-year-olds, as this is the age they often opt out. We’re aiming to create a curriculum for under-12s as well.

Was it easy to get schools on board?
Our Kickstarter campaign received a lot of media and internet coverage which enabled us to trial the concept. From that we had teachers and schools call us.

Do you have plans to take the STEAM Carnival overseas?
Yes, it’s just a question of timing. We’re in talks with a group in Poland and also in China, as well as about 10 other cities around the US to take it on the road.

Could this be adapted for an attraction?
We would love to do that. We’ve talked about modifying it to become a touring museum exhibit and spoken with science museums about what it could look like.

We’ve got all the games we’ve been making: one of the original ideas with the carnival was we’d test and trial ideas under our own control and then sell them to theme and amusement parks.

Can you tell us about any new projects you have on the go?
We’ve been working on virtual reality and filming in 360, and we’re looking at mixing that with a story adventure.

Is there ever anything you want to do, but can’t make happen?
We have to consider safety and the size of things, making sure they’re portable, but we try not to put the brakes on too early. However, I do wish we had more time.


About Two Bit Circus
Two Bit Circus is a collective of inventors, developers and engineers that’s full of imagination. The group’s mix of innovation, technological know-how and creativity translates into a variety of pop-up interactive amusements. Two Bit Circus brings its productions – immersive story games, stunt shows, plus an arcade roadshow that showcases its one-off games and activities – to parties and events, as well as running the educational, hands-on touring platform STEAM Carnival.
TWO BIT CIRCUS CONCEPTS

THIS TOO SHALL PASS MSUIC VIDEO
This music video is a showcase for Two Bit Circus’s skills and humour. A warehouse was transformed into a Rube Goldberg Machine, a giant sequence of events. Starting off with a domino run, four minutes of action are perfectly synched with the music, including water pouring, metal balls dropping, a sledgehammer crashing into a TV, a piano dropping, a flock of umbrellas – culminating with the Ok Go members being splattered with paint. Watch it and smile.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qybUFnY7Y8w

STORY ROOM
Like many of Two Bit Circus’s concepts, Story Room started as a bit of fun. Set in a themed room, players become part of the story and must collaborate with others in a process full of surprises and mysteries. In order to work through the story, they must unlock a sequence of clues and puzzles. The narrative behind the original version set the participants in a scientist’s laboratory, where they had to work together to stop a virus from escaping. The concept can be re-themed countless ways: a crash landing on a strange planet, an adventure under the sea…

LA ARTWALK
The Two Bit Circus workshop is in one of the biggest artist communities in the world and twice a year artists open their doors to showcase their wares to the public. Two Bit Circus creates an arcade of all their latest games and ideas. Last year, one of the most popular games involved a laser projector, a tracking camera and a basket of balls. People had to throw balls at the walls to hit the moving hoops. It was a real hit. “There was no start, no finish, and no scorekeeping, but people loved it – 10,000 balls were thrown at the wall over the weekend,” says Bushnell.

 



The finale of the video This Too Shall Pass by the band Ok Go
Eric Gradman, one of the founders of Two Bit Circus and the STEAM Carnival
Human Asteroids, by Two Bit Circus for STEAM Carnival, is a tribute to the Atari game Asteroids. In this version, the player himself is the ship
The Arcade Road Show is an amusement event that can host between 50 and 5,000 people
The Arcade Road Show is an amusement event that can host between 50 and 5,000 people
The Arcade Road Show is an amusement event that can host between 50 and 5,000 people
The Arcade Road Show is an amusement event that can host between 50 and 5,000 people
Gradman (left) and Bushnell make it their mission to create a positive narrative around the STEM subjects
Two Bit Circus creates hands-on games, which could be used in the attractions markets
Two Bit Circus creates hands-on games, which could be used in the attractions markets
Two Bit Circus creates hands-on games, which could be used in the attractions markets
Two Bit Circus creates hands-on games, which could be used in the attractions markets
 


ADVERTISE . CONTACT US

Leisure Media, Portmill House, Portmill Lane,
Hitchin, Hertfordshire SG5 1DJ Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385

©Cybertrek 2019

ABOUT LEISURE MEDIA
LEISURE MEDIA MAGAZINES
LEISURE MEDIA HANDBOOKS
LEISURE MEDIA WEBSITES
LEISURE MEDIA PRODUCT SEARCH
ATTRACTIONS MANAGEMENT NEWS
ATTRACTIONS HANDBOOK
PRINT SUBSCRIPTIONS
FREE DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTIONS