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STEAM Carnival: Making Science Fun

STEAM Carnival

This is me (In the Cisco shirt, obviously) with the kids during STEAM Carnival.

What if I told you that babysitting 10,000 kids could be fun? Now instead of babysitting, let’s call it “supervising.” And let’s throw in some cool toys to play with and an awesome team of Cisco employees and volunteers. Does that sound fun now?

This sums up my weekend at the San Francisco STEAM Carnival in early November. It was an intense event, filled with all the adrenaline, caffeine, and sweat required to pull together an amazing experience for everyone who attended.

So what is STEAM Carnival? It is a celebration of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math that is geared towards younger students (and the young at heart). The idea is to excite people of all ages and show them how cool science can be. Anyone who came could play with robots, watch the Tesla Oscillator, try out virtual reality headsets, build circuits, and even talk with a real astronaut! How often can you do all of that in one place?

Cisco was one of the main sponsors of this year’s STEAM Carnival because the company believes in the importance of energizing students about STEAM fields. Besides providing internet for the entire event, Cisco led attendees through an interactive scavenger hunt that exposed them to some of our coolest tech.

At the beginning, guests would enter the large blue tent for a map and instructions. They would then visit the green, red, yellow, and purple tents along their journey to “find” the pieces necessary to build a circuit. Along the way, attendees could play with robots, talk to each other over telepresence, and have their emotions “read” by cameras. At the end, everyone sat together in the “create space” and connected his or her wires, batteries, and lights with a special, conductive putty.

Although all of the Cisco volunteers put in many hours for the carnival to come together, the enthusiasm we saw in the kids was well worth the lost sleep. They charged through the scavenger hunt, often racing each other to see who could finish first and who could build the best circuit. A few got sidetracked with our robots or spontaneous telepresence dance parties, but everyone had fun. And everyone learned a lot.

STEAM Carnival kids

I don’t know who enjoyed STEAM Carnival more, the volunteers or the kids.

In a time where everything is becoming digital, it is more important than ever to teach the importance of the STEAM fields. 20 years from now, these children will be solving our toughest problems in a world that we can’t even begin to comprehend. The only thing that we know for certain is that technology will be even more important to our daily lives. Judging by how everyone loved the carnival, I think we are heading in the right direction.

Everyone left with brains full of science, pouches of Cisco circuits, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play with the coolest toys that science has to offer. These youngsters will be our future doctors, scientists, politicians, engineers, and lawyers. If even half of them walked away with a stronger appreciation of STEAM fields, then I think we, as Cisco, are helping to change the world.

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