[reprinted with permission by Hui Wen Zheng]
Last weekend saw the conclusion of the second year of Beakerhead, an often explosive festival that celebrates art, engineering, and science. I was lucky enough to have had the wonderful opportunity to volunteer through Youth Central at Little Big Street, just one of the several venues that Beakerhead employs to hold its wide array of events.
The first annual Beakerhead event took place in September of last year where 62,500 people sang with Commander Chris Hadfield, climbed a massive spaceship, and sampled specially-engineered foods at eateries all over Calgary, among other things. This year’s exhibitions included a giant cat laser show (sounds awesome, I know), a fully climbable blow-up net, and El Pulpo Mecanico, a robotic two-story octopus. I suppose I should mention that it breathes fire as well. Beakerhead ran from Sept. 10-14 this year, and if you missed it, don’t fret! It will be back in action again in September 2015, and is guaranteed to hold a world of exciting engineering feats. As well, most events are free, and people of all ages are encouraged to come out and interact with the exhibitions.
My day started off at 8:30 a.m., when 10 volunteers, including our team leader, Kirsten, gathered at the entrance of Little Big Street, which was situated on a small portion of the stampede grounds. Since the exhibition did not open to the public until 10 a.m., we assisted with the clean-up of the grounds. It was quite nippy early in the morning, and our first duty was to carry off 20lb sandbags. Though we all had sore arms by the end of it, the task did help warm us up for the day. Plus, I haven’t been to the gym in two weeks…
With a margin of time left to idle before 10 a.m., volunteers were given permission to check out the exhibitions:
This one hurt my eyes to look at, but acted as such a juxtaposition in it’s environment that I also couldn’t keep my eyes off of it. Birthed from a coalition between Plain porjects, Urbanik, and Pike Projects, the HygeeHouse is meant to bring about a warm tone.
This Drive-In Arcade was created by Brendan Matikin alongside Paloma Dawkins, and when powered, will deliver drinks right up to the front seats of this 1991 Toyota Previa. For more information about Brendan’s projects, visit http://www.brendanmatkin.info/
After the “Snowtember” storm, Californian Jayson Fann was able to utilize the branches of some fallen trees in the making of this two-storey tree-hut. For those interested in learning more about the so-called Sprit Nests, visit http://bigsurspiritgarden.com/Spirit_Garden_/Spirit_Nests.html
Ever dreamt of living in your own house but feared the giant cost? Of course, you could go the normal way and take out a loan, but what if buying a tiny house is the solution? There were two miniature homes at Little Big Street, and this model, The Acorn, happens to be made by Nelson Tiny Homes.
Three U of C environmental design students and Professor Jason Johnson came together after months of planning and a summer’s worth of work to complete this unique meditation hut. To learn more about this project, visit http://evds.ucalgary.ca/content/evds-brings-design-concepts-life-beakerhead-festival
This colourful station was created by a dedicated group of high school students taking part in the CBE-directed Beakerhead Summer Intensive. You can head in to the station to plug your mobile phone in and charge up by cycling on an adjacent spin machine.
I’m pretty sure that in our years of uselessly surfing the web we have all come across photos of “bubble habitats” and subsequently dreamt of being in one. Thanks to Casa Bubble, I was able to live that dream when I stepped into this module.
Right smack-centre in on the Little Big Street lot is the Gee-Gnome. A mechanical fire-emitting gnome
–which we thought was pretty cool, but then… Everyone within the perimeter of the grounds felt an intense radiating burst of heat. When we looked around, we saw this:
For reference purposes, here’s a comparison:
Yeah… pretty intense and VERY cool.
In terms of shifts, the jobs of volunteers were to help man the different tents and stations. The first station me and my partner Amy were assigned to was the Phidgets Sensory Garden. Assembled by U of C students with digital parts created by Phidgets, the “grass” and “flowers” of the garden played music when touched. One of the workers on the project, Kat, explained that there were vibration sensors located underneath the structure, which is thereby wired to a converter that changed the signal into one that a computer can read and play sounds to accordingly.
After a lunch of Asian-style tacos and ice-cream sandwiches, Amy and I were asked to help with the construction of the Spirit Nest. This was such an interesting experience. We got to help Jayson by adding extra branches onto the second floor railings and we were also responsible for crowd-control, as the lineup to enter the hut was ever-growing. They say you learn something new every day…
Volunteering at Beakerhead was unique, fun, and very engaging. Unlike some other events, all volunteers had a task to complete and were able to learn about the exhibitions all at the same time. There were so many opportunities to try new things, and now, I can proudly tell you how a vibration sensor works. On top of everything, I was able to meet new people and make new friends. If given the chance again, I would no doubt be all-too-eager to jump in. Special thanks to all event coordinators, contributors, volunteers and supporters. The experience of me and so many others would not have been so great if it were not for you all!
*Note: all photos taken by me unless otherwise stated