Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Under the STEAMtop

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am joined by Brent Bushnell from Two Bit Circus to talk about his wonderful Kickstarter project, the STEAM Carnival.  Thank you for joining us today Brent.  

Thanks so much for the time!  I really appreciate it.

Now I notice STEAM is in all caps in your title which implies it’s not steam but an acronym, can you tell us more about STEAM and your project specifically?  

STEAM is the acronym created by adding Art to the popular acronym STEM for science, technology, engineering, and math.   We believe Art is a fundamental addition to the STEM fields and sadly is one of the domains that is getting cut from school funding.

Now you bring up John Maeda of RISD and MIT when you bring up the “A” for art in STEAM, but I always connect it with Adam Savage from Mythbusters and his 2012 Maker Faire speech.  Did John coin it first?  Do you think it’s a good thing that more and more people are seeing the advantage of putting that “A” in there besides making the acronym sound better?  

Interestingly enough, looking around online it's not that clear who coined the term.  In addition to Adam Savage and John Maeda, there are pointers to Harvey White, co-founder of Qualcomm, as an early proponent of the term.   I'm thrilled that the STEAM term is catching on as fast as it is.  The addition of art makes the traditionally more intimidating STEM fields more accessible.  

How will the STEAM Carnival be different then Maker Faire?  

With the STEAM Carnival, we're very focused on sparking that initial curiosity about the STEAM fields.  We're using high-tech as a hook that might get otherwise uninterested kids asking questions about STEAM.  We hope to turn kids INTO the inventors and makers that would ultimately exhibit their creations at places like Maker Faire.

What are some examples of the attractions I’ll be able to see at a STEAM Carnival?  

I'm so excited to show you our games!  We have about 40 designed.  We'll have a live-action pinball (where you're the pinball), Dunk Tank Flambe, Inverted Fascination and so many more.  I think you'll have a blast.

What experience in this kind of event planning does your team have?

Our team has been bringing our games to parties for years, including corporate events for clients like Microsoft and Intel.  Nothing beats real users pounding on your creations and we've learned a lot about just how robust our equipment needs to be for constant use by the public.  We've also thrown a lot of our own parties so we feel well prepared to take this on.  We've partnered with a great events company to help with the additional logistics we know will present during the run of the carnival.

Assuming you hit your $100,000 goal what will the money go toward?  Will the Carnival only be on the west coast or will I get to see the Carnival here in Las Cruces, NM or El Paso, TX?

Currently, only LA and SF are planned, but we're absolutely willing to bring it to more cities.  We're going to use the internet to let towns opt-in to our itinerary.  Currently, interested towns can vote on our website at STEAMCarnival.com.  

As someone who grew up enjoying all things STEAM and ending up working for NASA I’ve got a great appreciation for what you’re trying to accomplish here. How important is it for future generations to have a better appreciation of STEAM areas?  Do you think the STEAM Carnival will get more folks interested in exploring these paths?

Software and technology are eating the world.  If a business hasn't yet transitioned to requiring people trained in STEAM, it will very soon.  Regardless of the industry, it's getting harder and harder to function in this world without employees with a firm grasp of STEAM concepts.  Whether it's designing, prototyping and fabricating products, implementing, marketing and sales services, STEAM-related disciplines are fundamental to most steps in the process.   Businesses must understand that availability of employees trained in these disciplines will keep their products and services competitive in the global market.  Schools should understand that STEAM provides a framework for problem solving and that STEAM educated kids are equipped with the tools to learn anything.   STEAM studies are in decline and that's creating a real problem.  It's forecasted that in the next several years, in California alone, there will be 1 million STEAM-related jobs that are unfilled due to lack of qualified candidates.  That's insane!  The only way we can fix it is to start in school while minds are young and open to trying new things.

This project seems perfectly suited for all of the student groups out there from the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to the Maker Scouts even, how much have you reached out to these communities?  

We agree!   We're in talks with the Girl Scouts right now and will be at their upcoming Girltopia event.  

Have you reached out to the Maker community for this project?  How about the Tested team since I notice Grant Imahara is on your Advisory Board which I would think would bring you all sorts of exposure to your target audience!

Yes!   Thank you.  We've all been makers for years now and are going after all our favorite communities now.

How did you discover Kickstarter?

I heard about Kickstarter pretty close to their launch and our good friends at Lumi.co were the first friends of ours that ran a campaign on the site.  

A key part of successful Kickstarters is backer participation and how to convert a potential backer into a full backer.   How are you engaging your backers?  What kinds of things do you have planned for updates to give notice to those who just hit the “remind me” button and surf on?  Interviews?  Videos?  Stories from the project?

We have a bunch of videos we've been putting together about our games and our approach here.  We plan to have regular updates to keep the momentum going and get the word out as far and wide as possible!

What kind of media attention have you received with your project?  How are you spreading the word?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Google+? Youtube?  Advertising?  Are you using Kicktraq to track your progress?  

We've been using Facebook and Twitter a lot.  The press coverage has been great too.  So far, we've been covered by Mashable, The Next Web, IEEE Spectrum, LA Weekly, TechZulu, LA Business Journal, SoCal Tech, InsideHook, CNET, I Programmer, and The Real Stan Lee! Kicktraq is a great dashboard I just got turned on to.  

Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?

Yes!  Too much to cover here.  We did a bunch of research leading up to our launch and I would urge any potential crowdfunder to pour through the write ups online.   One particular point that was really effective for us was the work we did leading up to our launch.  We made sure to reach out to our community early and get feedback.  

Thank you for spending your time with us!  Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

Thanks again for this opportunity!  Really appreciate it.   We need all the help we can get, so any aid in driving people to our campaign would be wonderful!  Thanks again.  The link to our page is here:  http://kck.st/YiDtkm

Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!

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