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Techno-circus brings robots, lasers to the big tent

Start clowning around. The interactive STEAM Carnival aims to reimagine the classic circus with high-tech games and digital art aimed at sparking kids' passion for creative science and engineering.

The STEAM Carnival will feature games like Circus call skee-ball, a digital version of classic skee-ball played using a huge circus ball as the input.
Two Bit Circus

Step right up, kiddies, the carnival is coming to town! And this time, it's bringing robots and lasers.

Well, it will be if the STEAM Carnival successfully reaches its Kickstarter goal and hits the highway with all manner of amusing geeky hijinks under its big tent. Think Maker Faire meets Burning Man, with a decidedly less naked, more kid-friendly slant. The goal is to not only get youngsters pumped about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), but to warm them up to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math).

"Our culture isn't doing enough to get kids interested in STEAM," say the creatives behind Two Bit Circus, a collective of builders, inventors, developers, and makers behind STEAM Circus. (They also helped create the wacky Rube Goldberg machine in OK Go's "This Too Shall Pass" video.) The carnival's advisory board also brings some serious geek cred to the proceedings in the form of MythBuster Grant Imahara; Brian Fargo, creator of the video game Bard's Tale; and Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari and father of Brent Bushnell, one of STEAM Carnival's masterminds.

STEAM Carnival

The STEAM team has already assembled several techno-games -- a digital version of classic skee-ball, first-person Asteroids where the person is the ship -- and is working to create more titles and get the whole setup road-ready. If all goes according to plan, the carnival will start in Los Angeles next spring and make its way up to San Francisco and other cities with digital art galleries, a concert featuring musical robots, a fashion show of wearable electronics, and competitions showcasing kids' own mad-scientist creations.

"We hope that the STEAM Carnival becomes a community of kids and mentors who share a passion for STEAM and for the many ways to make it fun," the creators say.

The techno-carnival has raised about $38,500 toward its $100,000 goal, with 23 days to go in its crowdfunding push. Backers who contribute at the $25 level get a ticket to the carnival in L.A. or S.F., while contributors of $200 get a kit aimed at helping kids create amusement-focused technical projects.