Beakerhead

Imagine a three-storey fire-breathing octopus made out of bake tins or a forty foot steampunk rocketship that you can climb and explore. That's Beakerhead - a Canadian charity whose mandate is to advance education at the crossroads of art, science and engineering.

A smash up of art, science and engineeringOur Story Why We Exist

Those who attended Beakernight on the Stampede grounds last September were wowed by the flaming octopus, El Pulpo Mecanico. A familiar sight at Burning Man, El Pulpo made its first trip to Canada for Beakerhead 2014. It is an amazing machine: simultaneously threatening and welcoming, the product of junkyard/hoarder artists who are both serious and playful. Fearsome jets of propane flames at 2000°C blast from each of El Pulpo’s eight legs and head. Its eyes alternately bug out and retract. No beak for this cephalopod; instead a fierce mouth with fangs. El Pulpo once was a 1973 Ford F250 4×4, but honestly, you could study it for hours and never realize that.

“Kids come up to it, look really closely and see things they are totally familiar with. And they realize that they too could build something like this—yes it’s fantastical, but practical too.”

At a distance it’s a powerful flame-throwing machine, the kind of art installation that allows you to warm your hands on a cool Calgary evening. But a close-up look reveals something much stranger. El Pulpo is covered with—in fact, is constructed of—odd combinations of muffin tins, aluminum pans, forks, pie pans and kitchen utensils of all kinds. Their ordinariness is their virtue. As designer and builder Duane Flatmo says, “Kids come up to it, look really closely and see things they are totally familiar with. And they realize that they too could build something like this—yes it’s fantastical, but practical too.” And Duane knows kids like that. He was one, creating mini-dinosaurs out of chicken bones atop a base of mashed potatoes and gravy at the dinner table.

The thousands who revelled in the dancing, music, engineering, technology and, yes, propane consumption in the Stampede parking lot on that Saturday night were experiencing only one—albeit the most visible—layer of Beakerhead. There was much more.

- Jay Ingram, Excerpt from Alberta Views, January/February 2015

Sometimes the worlds of science and engineering, or art, can seem out of reach. Beakerhead is for the artist and engineer in everyone. It creates fully inclusive experiences that encourage children, families, artists and engineers to see, touch, create and learn.

Bright kids suffer at desks. Students, especially girls, get alienated from math and science, because it does not feel socially relevant. The full potential of future leaders is trimmed. Both teachers and students feel bound to silos of teaching and learning. And it follows us into the workplace, where the reward system has a hard time recognizing and supporting truly innovative problem-solving. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Teaching is not entertainment but is unlikely to be successful if it is not entertaining.”             - Herbert Simon, Nobel Laureate

Problem: For decades, we have been directing people into either technical or creative streams and yet, it is precisely at their intersection where ingenuity lives. Solution: Beakerhead.

Corollaries: When you throw open the doors to science and engineering through a welcoming world of art and entertainment, a lot can happen. The core educational purpose leads to outcomes that are important to individuals and society.

Beakerhead visitors explore Daisy, the world's largest solar-powered tricycleOur Impact What We Do

On the surface, Beakerhead looks like a week of spectacular fun every September. But it’s more than a schedule of mesmerizing events: it’s a time and place where engineers show their creative sides, and artists get technical, where science hits the street, and everyone gets ingenious.

Leading with hands-on entertainment, Beakerhead advances the understanding of science and engineering as part of everyday life – through art and culture. It creates a world of collision and collaboration. Yes, indeed, sparks do fly when “things technical” meet “things creative”. Have we got your attention?  Welcome to Beakerhead!

THIS IS WHAT WE DO:

  • Inspire tomorrow’s workforce - Every child should have the chance to integrate both technical knowledge and creativity into future career choices.
  • Engage everyone - Sometimes the worlds of science and engineering, or art, can seem out of reach. Beakerhead is for the artist and engineer in everyone. It creates fully inclusive experiences that encourage children, families, artists and engineers to see, touch, create and learn.
  • Stimulate ingenuity - Learning through play, for lack of a better word, creates the bedrock for entrepreneurship by invigorating new ideas, designs and invention that cross traditional disciplines.
  • Build an authentic contemporary culture - Beakerhead takes a core strength of Calgary – science and engineering – and flexes it in a creative and original way.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:

The 2013 inaugural event involved more than 70 program partners, 62,000 in-person encounters, 5,000 students and 2.1 million social media impressions. We knocked it out of the park! 2014 saw growth ramp up – all events sold out, 73,000 people took part, and social media mentions rocketed to 5.3 million.

Our Programs How We Do It

BEAKERHEAD IS A SANDBOX FOR HUMAN INGENUITY.

Beakerhead brings together the arts and engineering sectors from across the city, province, country andworld to build, compete and exhibit interactive works of art, spectacle and entertainment, culminating ina five-day international phenomenon of art, culture,science and technology every September. From outdoor artworks and late-night laboratories, to student contests and celebrations, interactive digital eventsto event premieres, Beakerhead is a crucible forhuman ingenuity. 

BEAKERHEAD PROGRAMS:

SCHOOL PROGRAMS: Year-round initiatives that engage broad range of students in hands-on projects. We offer six different school programs:

  1. Summer Intensive - A team of artists, engineers, scientists, machinists, designers and technologists mentor the students and help bring their design ideas to life. 
  2. Field Trip - In September 2015, thousands of Calgary and area students will have the opportunity to participate in some of Beakerhead’s most spectacular programs, giving students the opportunity to learn... 
  3. Ingenuity Challenge - Schools are presented with a specific challenge and are given five school days and all the materials necessary to collaboratively design and build creative projects based on a scientific concept or theme... students will need to have unlimited creativity to overcome the challenge and build something enchanting.
  4. School Visits - Every September an amazing group of local and international artists, engineers, scientists and mentors come together to make Beakerhead happen. Beakerhead sends these inspiring individuals to schools... 
  5. Create Your Own Beakerhead - Create your own Beakerhead event and turn your classroom into a living laboratory. Write and perform a science fiction play, hold on an engineered-art exhibition...  The sky is the limit.
  6. Ignition Crew - The Ignition Crew is a special crew of energetic ambassadors who will fire up the Beakerhead spirit. They get special VIP access to Beakerhead events, meet the makers and help build the momentum leading up to Beakerhead. This provides unique career development and confidence building opportunities through unparalleled involvement in Beakerhead events.

PUBLIC EVENTS: Beakerhead events are in formation all year round and, come September, erupt onto streets and venues across Calgary. Everyone is welcome to take part.

INGENUITY CHALLENGE: All Beakerhead workshops require creative and analytical skills. The sky is the limit to win.

WORKSHOPS: “You can build anything!” is a bit daunting, right? Sure, you could build anything and use Beakerhead as a stage to show it off, but we find that workshops for specific projects can help you jump into the spirit.

COMMUNITY PROGRAMS: Beakerhead is an opportunity for community-building year-round with culmination in a high-profile and highly concentrated expression of social and cultural activity.

Our Requests What You Can Do

VOLUNTEER: DO YOU LIKE TO BUILD? …CREATE? …MAKE? 

Beakerhead is currently seeking volunteers to fill over a hundred opportunities leading up to and during Beakerhead. Whether you have lots of time to commit, or just a handful of hours to lend your expertise, there’s something for everyone. 

WHAT MAKES VOLUNTEERING WITH BEAKERHEAD UNIQUE?

Beakerhead is always looking for individuals of all ages and backgrounds. Whether you are employed, a stay-at-home parent, retired or a student, there is a spot for you! The Programming team is hard at work highlighting fantastic opportunities to also get families and youth involved to lend a hand. To VOLUNTEER click here: Beakerhead - Get Involved!

DONATEYour donation today (and throughout the year) helps open more entertaining doors onto the worlds of science and engineering for all ages during the five day, hands-on engineered spectacle of events happening each September in Calgary. 

INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES:  IN YOUR BACKYARD...

By sponsoring a school visit, you can empower the cross-pollination of ideas and enthusiasm. Each Beakerhead school visit is an entertaining,educational presentation by an inspiring Beakerhead presenter who would not otherwise be available to the school. A dozen or more school visits take place each year. You will be recognized verbally and on signage, and may attend the visit to offer welcoming remarks. Investment Cost = $5,000 per school visit. See page 7 of our 2014 Case for Support for investment ideas.

BEAKER'S DOZEN: 

Beakerhead tells a contemporary science and engineering story in a popular way. Beakerhead is in start-up mode. To reach lift off, we need the support of visionaries, who understand the value of early investors. Beakerhead is seeking the support of visionary Calgarians to support this campaign. Like the Calgary Stampede ... Beakerhead is a Calgary original. Now it needs its own “big four.” 

Except we need a dozen or more (blame inflation)! The next years are critical. In order to achieve the level of spectacle that will attract people internationally, the initiative needs core funding upon which to build a solid foundation. The Beaker’s Dozen funding will be used to shape larger-scale, multi-year projects and original engineered experiences that grab attention (and participation) globally – all in the heart of Calgary. This is a five-year campaign to raise capital.

Contact

Mary Anne Moser
President
587.351.7787

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Finance & Governance

Calgary