2014 Grants Challenge

STEAM Carnival

STEAM Carnival is a modern take on the traveling circus featuring high-tech games, workshops and spectacles!


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

STEAM Carnival is a modern take on the traveling circus featuring high-tech games, workshops and spectacles!

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

Central LA

East LA

South LA

San Gabriel Valley

San Fernando Valley

South Bay


Long Beach, Harbor/San Pedro Communities

What is your idea/project in more detail?

Our STEAM Carnival is a modern take on the traveling circus, bridging high-tech amusement with project-based learning. The Carnival is designed to inspire kids of all ages to engage in, and ultimately, pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, art, and math, hence ‘STEAM’! We ignite curiosity in young explorers through hands-on kit building, mentorship, workshops, and dynamic physical interaction with high-tech games. STEAM Carnival will draw 25,000 students, parents, and educators to our event held on October 22th-26th at the Port of Los Angeles.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

Support from the Goldhirsh Foundation’s LA2050 will help ensure that the first STEAM Carnival will be a huge success in 2014. Additionally, funds will increase the organizational capacity to immediately begin to plan annual Carnivals in Los Angeles, serving different neighborhoods each year. This creates an incredible opportunity to serve the needs of each neighborhood, highlight the unique cultural, commercial and community-based offerings in each area of Los Angeles and give a boost to these local economies.

Support will also help underwrite STEAM Carnival Student Preview Day. During Student Preview Day, visiting students and educators will participate in the STEAM Lab, a 15,000 square foot space dedicated to hands-on workshops exploring wearable electronics, musical robots, and additional engaging activities, and the STEAM Arcade, a high-tech midway encouraging purposeful play. In the STEAM Arcade, trained instructors will provide crucial links between Carnival games and STEAM disciplines.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to LEARN today? In 2050?

It was in early 2013 that Two Bit Circus became impassioned to design an event that fused STEM principles with our own dynamic inventions, gadgets and amusements. In researching the state of education in regards to STEM and STEAM education, we were made aware of several distressing statistics: The National Math and Science Initiative has called it a ‘STEM crisis.’

The need is so great that through his Educate to Innovate initiative President Obama has committed $43.1 billion dollars to STEM Education. In January 2013, the White House issued a call to tech innovators to work together to ensure that all youth—particularly those from underserved and historically underrepresented communities—have the opportunity to study STEM subjects and participate in the technology sector (http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/education/K-12/educate-innovate).

While this is a tremendous resource it is a national one and the regional need is what STEAM Carnival will address first in Los Angeles. While California used to be a national leader in K–12 and higher education, it now ranks 43rd or lower among all states in math and science proficiency in grades 4 through 8 (http://www.stemadvantage.org/stem-stats/).

Fewer than 50% of students who enter college intending to major in a STEM field complete a STEM degree (Ibid).

Two Bit Circus has accepted that call with the belief that if we want our students to be successful in the 21st century, they must be armed with creative problem-solving skills that allow them to thrive in complex and changing environments.

The 'A' (Arts) added to STEM instruction is crucial to our vision. Creative exploration in STEM disciplines activates students’ curiosity, in turn often leading to deeper understanding across seemingly disparate areas of learning. As STEM initiatives are slowly but surely integrating the arts into scientifically driven subjects, opportunities for STEAM expansion abound. Two Bit Circus seeks to bring unique and dynamic learning to STEAM Carnival attendees to utilize and harness the potentials of scientific inquiry through creativity and innovation.

Whom will your project benefit?

STEAM Carnival will bring together diverse facets of the community and offer a unique platform to address inequalities found in education and workforce development. To this end, Two Bit Circus will continue to partner with LAUSD schools to provide access to interactive learning tools during the Carnival as well as through its on-going related programs with Two Bit Circus and several nonprofit partners.

The primary population STEAM Carnival Student Preview seeks to serve is students ages 12 to 18 from underserved students in Los Angeles.

In the case of San Pedro specifically, STEAM Carnival is working with Dana STEAM Middle School.

After Student Preview Day, STEAM Carnival is open to the public on October 25th-26th. Then we will welcome families, teachers, mentors and learners of all ages to join the fun!

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Community engagement and collaboration is a founding principal of STEAM Carnival.

Education Technical Assistance - The Los Angeles Education partnership (LAEP) - serves as our primary education outreach partner which we are already working with. Two Bit Circus is working in collaboration with LAEP as it is a fit to their mission to provide all students access to interactive learning tools at our STEAM Carnival. Their expertise in working in high poverty communities to foster schools that support the academic success of children and youth brings that expertise to our efforts. We also have other working relationships through our on-site studio and in the community with LAUSD, Beyond the Bell, A Place Called Home, and the Girl Scouts. We are also exploring a relationship with After School All-Stars, a nationwide after school program operator.

A Host partner - The Port of LA - host of the inaugural STEAM Carnival and a key partner in bringing together diverse facets of the Los Angeles and Harbor communities.

Corporate and Government Engagement - The STEAM Committee - is a highly engaged group of community influencers who are passionate about STEAM education and are working on its behalf on several fronts. Chairing the Committee is Nolan Bushnell, Founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese along with John Ward, Sr VP Content Operations at Direct TV; other committee members include Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles Mayor; Don Knabe, Los Angeles County Supervisor and Chairman; Elizabeth Espinosa, CNN Host; Gilbert Cedillo, Los Angeles Council member; Joe Buscaino, Los Angeles Council member; Mark Francis, New Venture Lead at Intel; and Caine Monray, Caine’s Arcade. Committee members are currently all LA based and members are tasked with engaging new partners and supporters to make the first Carnival an unforgettable experience.

National and regional support has been secured for the STEAM Carnival and include sponsorships and grants from several sources including: Time Warner Cable, Hitachi, City of Los Angeles, and Popular Mechanics. We also have a two-year recurring commitment from American Honda Foundation for the development of our STEAM curriculum and professional learning costs.

Two Bit Circus in currently working with the Extension Program at the University of California, San Diego to create the first-ever STEAM certificate program for K-12 teachers. This was announced as a CGI commitment (http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/07/prweb12011117.htm).

How will your project impact the LA2050 LEARN metrics?

Youth unemployment and underemployment

Student education pipeline (an integrated network of pre-schools, K-12 institutions, and higher education systems that prepares students for seamless transitions between high school, higher education institutions, and the workforce) (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

With our partners, which include LAEP, LAUSD, local charter schools, and ultimately the UC extension system, the educational focus of STEAM Carnival will be centered more on the metrics of the “Student education pipeline,” as defined by LA 2050: “an integrated network of pre-schools, K-12 institutions, and higher education systems that prepares students for seamless transitions between high school, higher education institutions, and the workforce.”

As a start-up, we will instill our own metrics goals as described by our "Into, Through, and Beyond STEAM Carnival Scope of Impact". With future funding, additional hires will likely be considered to our education team in order to conduct this tracking and research.

One of the reasons that today’s students give for leaving school is “boredom” and the second reason are their economic factors. Educators across the country are working diligently to help students understand that if they stay in school, particularly through high school (if not beyond), they will have a much greater chance of making a livable wage, and/or have the skills to become entrepreneurs when they graduate.

STEAM Carnival has diverse community of partners, including K-12 educators, higher education teachers and the Los Angeles Mayor’s office through its Summer of Learning initiative. We are confident that STEAM Carnival will play a key role in attracting and engaging the next generation of STEAM learners and teachers. STEAM Carnival is poised to potential to be a continuous content provider in the STEAM learning fields as an innovative partner in workforce development and the pursuit of higher education.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

SCOPE OF IMPACT: Into, Through, and Beyond the STEAM Carnival

I: Leading Into STEAM Carnival Student Preview Day

To best describe the potential impact of the STEAM Carnival’s education program a more detailed description of Student Preview Day is needed:

• Teachers will receive a customized primer activity that targets specific


Their materials will include:

• A teacher’s Q&A guide about STEAM Carnival learning principles

• Access to official STEAM Carnival introduction video

• An age-appropriate engineering activity inspired by STEAM Carnival

• Day-of assignments and logistics overview

II: Moving Through STEAM Carnival Student Preview Day

As students move through the Carnival, they will be actively involved in hands on exploration as well as deeper discussion around the STEAM activities. Specific examples of activities include:

• Engineering: Students will build Musical Microchips using timers, capacitors, and other basic electronic components to create a synthesizer piano.

• Computer Science: Students will experiment with our Magic Mirror to explore and discuss facial recognition computer software.

• Technology: Students will explore our Robotics Graveyard and compare earlier prototypes with our large-scale attractions, such as the Button Wall, to problem solve mechanical engineering designs and solutions for technology integration.

Trained instructors will use discovery and inquiry- based learning to facilitate opportunities for students to create STEAM connections.

Students will be able to articulate their knowledge through group discussion, peer¬ sharing, and social media posts that will stream as a live feed throughout the day showcasing and aggregating student takeaways.

III. Creating Impact beyond STEAM Carnival Student Preview Day

STEAM Carnival will provide educator with a suite of reflective opportunities designed to capture student learning outcomes, explore new connections formed between STEAM disciplines, and identify critical thinking skills developed as a result of the STEAM Carnival Student Preview Day experience.

The program will be considered a success if the results of the assessment align with the following educational goals:

• Students engagement and enjoyment;

• Students can recognize and and speak to STEAM concepts;

• Students demonstrate the ability to create an electronic circuitry project;

• Schools contact us for follow-up projects and to be engaged in year two;

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

One defining lesson comes from the iterative process of creating. Many games we’ve tackled have required multiple versions to perfect. Roadblocks are part of the iterative process, and an invaluable learning opportunity. As each project presents a unique set of constraints, our team must be flexible, often acquiring new skills. We seek to pass this lesson along to students that attend STEAM Carnival: learning is ‘lifelong’ and the often the most valuable progress results from persistence through challenge.

Another big lesson for Two Bit Circus has been the deep need for STEAM education and activities in the Los Angeles community. It became apparent after our crowdfunding success that educators and students alike are hungry for something that incites awe and wonder in us all. Our goal for STEAM Carnival continues to extend beyond the conventional arcade and museum-like forums for amusements and technological innovation, so that every attendee leaves motivated to design a better world.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

STEAM Carnival has been ‘full steam ahead’ since early 2013. Our team of engineers and inventors have been developing our products before we had the idea for STEAM Carnival, but an additional 20 games and workshops are being created for the event. We have internal benchmarks, which we have met thus far. In continuing into the next three months before the Carnival, our team works tirelessly to ensure that the event is poised and polished for our 25,000 attendees.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

Assessing the impact of true STEAM education is not yet fully developed. There are Social Emotional Learning assessments that show promise, but we have been hard pressed to find off the shelf solutions to fit our needs for both pre-activity benchmarking and post activity progress. To that end, we will include developing these benchmarks as we continue to work on our innovative STEAM education program.

What resources does your project need?

Money (financial capital)

Volunteers/staff (human capital)

Publicity/awareness (social capital)

Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles, etc.)


Community outreach