Digital Natives Get Hands On with High Tech Carnival Games

Two Bit Circus founder Eric Gradman plays the STEAM carnvival remote controlled human game

Two Bit Circus’ traveling tech carnival to inspire next generation of innovators.

The carnival is coming to town and an engineer sporting a red Mohawk is certain the experience will blow your mind. Eric Gradman and his merry band of interactive game developers have created a road show that puts a high-tech educational spin on the county fair.

Eric Gradman co-founder Two Bit Circus

“Especially with kids there’s all sorts of opportunities to enlighten them as to how high technology works,” said Two Bit Circus co-founder Eric Gradman, a former circus performer.

“We’re coming out with a slate of games that are completely re-imagined with robots, lasers, fire and high-voltage electricity,” said Gradman, a former circus performer. “Especially with kids there’s all sorts of opportunities to enlighten them as to how high technology works.”

Gradman, a self-proclaimed mad inventor, co-founded Los Angeles-based Two Bit Circus with Brent Bushnell, son of Atari founder Nolan Bushnell. The pair are leading a group of young, interdisciplinary entrepreneurs who build games intended to captivate kids with a blend of technology, art, amusement and education. Gradman and a team from Two Bit Circus recently showed off some of the games they developed at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco.

Earlier this year, the company raised $100,000 using Kickstarter to fund its STEAM Carnival events. STEAM is a play on STEM that adds art to the mix of science, technology, engineering and math. Two Bit Circus is building 40 new games for events to be held in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities across the country. Before the carnival arrives, the company will provide educational curriculum materials and mentors to help educators and students build their own projects that can be showcased.

Wyatt Bushnell demonstrates Two Bit Circus tablet-based Tone Tower game

Wyatt Bushnell demonstrates Two Bit Circus’ tablet-based Tone Tower STEAM Carnival game.

“We raised over $100,000 selling tickets to an event whose date had not yet been determined,” said Gradman. “People reached out to us from all over the world because they want the STEAM Carnival to come to their town.”

Making Technology Accessible to Kids

Many young digital natives use technology constantly, but rarely understand how it works. Capturing their attention requires reimaging the carnival experience, according to Gradman. The traveling STEAM Carnivals are designed to draw youngsters into tinkering with tech as they play.

“I think people realize that we need to inspire the next generation of engineers with science technology and engineering, art and math,” said Gradman. “This stuff is fun and it gets kids excited.”

Gradman’s interest in robotics has led him to work in electrical engineering, computer science and mechanical engineering. “If you’re having a problem in one area, you can switch disciplines and solve it over there,” he said.

Working on a budget often drives him to discover that by using commonly available materials, anyone can make anything if they really want to. “You can just buy the stuff online and start tinkering,” he said.

Two Bit Circus’ hands-on, low-cost approach is inspired, in part, by Steampunk culture and the Maker movement, but the company philosophy is rooted in Silicon Valley orthodoxy: Prototype stuff quickly, test it and let it fail fast.

“Our games are a good mix of things we’ve got off the shelf. We do a lot of our own custom software, electronics and firmware development,” said Gradman. “It all has an off-the-shelf and built-by-hand feel to it.”

Digital Natives Get Hands On with High Tech Carnival Games

Two Bit Circus founder Eric Gradman plays the STEAM carnvival remote controlled human game

Two Bit Circus’ traveling tech carnival to inspire next generation of innovators.

The carnival is coming to town and an engineer sporting a red Mohawk is certain the experience will blow your mind. Eric Gradman and his merry band of interactive game developers have created a road show that puts a high-tech educational spin on the county fair.

Eric Gradman co-founder Two Bit Circus

“Especially with kids there’s all sorts of opportunities to enlighten them as to how high technology works,” said Two Bit Circus co-founder Eric Gradman, a former circus performer.

“We’re coming out with a slate of games that are completely re-imagined with robots, lasers, fire and high-voltage electricity,” said Gradman, a former circus performer. “Especially with kids there’s all sorts of opportunities to enlighten them as to how high technology works.”

Gradman, a self-proclaimed mad inventor, co-founded Los Angeles-based Two Bit Circus with Brent Bushnell, son of Atari founder Nolan Bushnell. The pair are leading a group of young, interdisciplinary entrepreneurs who build games intended to captivate kids with a blend of technology, art, amusement and education. Gradman and a team from Two Bit Circus recently showed off some of the games they developed at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco.

Earlier this year, the company raised $100,000 using Kickstarter to fund its STEAM Carnival events. STEAM is a play on STEM that adds art to the mix of science, technology, engineering and math. Two Bit Circus is building 40 new games for events to be held in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities across the country. Before the carnival arrives, the company will provide educational curriculum materials and mentors to help educators and students build their own projects that can be showcased.

Wyatt Bushnell demonstrates Two Bit Circus tablet-based Tone Tower game

Wyatt Bushnell demonstrates Two Bit Circus’ tablet-based Tone Tower STEAM Carnival game.

“We raised over $100,000 selling tickets to an event whose date had not yet been determined,” said Gradman. “People reached out to us from all over the world because they want the STEAM Carnival to come to their town.”

Making Technology Accessible to Kids

Many young digital natives use technology constantly, but rarely understand how it works. Capturing their attention requires reimaging the carnival experience, according to Gradman. The traveling STEAM Carnivals are designed to draw youngsters into tinkering with tech as they play.

“I think people realize that we need to inspire the next generation of engineers with science technology and engineering, art and math,” said Gradman. “This stuff is fun and it gets kids excited.”

Gradman’s interest in robotics has led him to work in electrical engineering, computer science and mechanical engineering. “If you’re having a problem in one area, you can switch disciplines and solve it over there,” he said.

Working on a budget often drives him to discover that by using commonly available materials, anyone can make anything if they really want to. “You can just buy the stuff online and start tinkering,” he said.

Two Bit Circus’ hands-on, low-cost approach is inspired, in part, by Steampunk culture and the Maker movement, but the company philosophy is rooted in Silicon Valley orthodoxy: Prototype stuff quickly, test it and let it fail fast.

“Our games are a good mix of things we’ve got off the shelf. We do a lot of our own custom software, electronics and firmware development,” said Gradman. “It all has an off-the-shelf and built-by-hand feel to it.”