Rocket ship, catapults launch 1st Beakerhead event

The first annual Beakerhead — a citywide mashup of art, science, and engineering — is set to begin on September 11 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The sprawling five-day event takes place both indoors and outdoors, with everything from science-inspired film to sound-wave installations and a “green” carnival — plus, of course, plenty of robots.

Beakerhead is the brainchild of Jay Ingram and Mary Anne Moser, both of whom are well-versed in the combination of art and science. Ingram is a science broadcaster and writer who co-hosted the Discovery Channel’s “Daily Planet,” while Mary Anne Moser is a journalist and editor who holds degrees in zoology and communications. Moser also co-founded the art-focused Banff Centre in Alberta.

Beakerhead robot

What’s an engineering event without a robot or five? Image courtesy of Beakerhead
(source: Neil Zeller).

“Beakerhead is an invitation to everyone to imagine and build,” Ingram said in a press statement. “Engineer your bike, design an art car, build a robot with your family, race a kinetic contraption … anything goes. Think of it as turning the whole city into the most entertaining laboratory for five days.”

The lineup includes more than 60 art, science, engineering, and education organizations, according to Beakerhead. The event website suggests that visitors begin at the launch site — more specifically, the site of the 40-ft tall “Raygun Gothic Rocketship” from Five Ton Crane, an artist collective in Oakland, CA. This will be the first time the rocket ship has been installed since its two-year stay along the waterfront in San Francisco, according to Benjamin Carpenter from Five Ton.

Raygun gothic rocketship

The “Raygun Gothic Rocketship” from Five Ton Crane in San Francisco. Image courtesy of a Creative Commons license from Roshan Vyas.

Inside the gothic rocketship

A view from inside. Image courtesy of a Creative Commons license from Matthew Reyes.

The headline event on Friday will feature Chris Hadfield, former commander of the International Space Station, along with others such as German robot band Compressorhead, excellently self-described as the “world’s heaviest metal band,” and Lauren Segal, a Canadian opera singer with a master’s degree in physics.

The other sessions over the five days include, among many other things, an audience-interactive performance called “Diespace 3.0” (featuring the Internet for the afterlife); a discussion by designer Lara Pesber on integrating architecture and fashion; sound-wave sculpture and an interactive sound composition environment from artist Gary Joynes; a play called “i-ROBOT Theater”; and last but certainly not least, a group catapult competition on Sunday.

In a Q&A on SmartPlanet, Moser describes this element as a “catapult catharsis competition” where people can literally launch whatever is bothering them. “It appears a lot of people have something against Barbie,” she added. “I do believe somebody is building a Barbie catapult.”

Check out the event calendar for more information on what to see and do in Calgary.


Nicole is an editor and writer living in San Francisco.

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