By Derrius Ivy, September 28 2017 —
Life-sized rainbow bunnies, a 168-foot firey serpent, a giant toy claw and musical see-saws were just four of 14 attractions at the 2017 Beakerhead festival in Calgary from Sept. 13–17.
The city-wide creations integrated art, science, engineering and entertainment to promote ingenuity and creativity. This year’s theme, “Snakes and Ladders,” is described on Beakerhead’s website as “a larger-than-life adventure across more than a dozen sites of engineered artworks and interactive experiences.”
The event felt like an exciting, grown-up version of a science fair. Interactive displays allowed people to partake in different challenges for fun and prizes. Each of the 14 sites highlighted the event’s goal — to advance education at the crossroads of art, science and engineering.
As a visitor from the United States, I attended alongside a Calgary local on Friday and Saturday. This was the first time attending for both of us. Two of my favorite displays were the giant toy claw and the massive firey snake.
“Claw,” which was located in the downtown Eau Claire Market, boasted a giant industrial-size claw game moved by giant controllers — similar to an old video game console, with red buttons and a joystick. Participants worked as a team to move the claw with the goal of recycling giant brown bags in a bin. My friend was in charge of opening and closing the claw, I operated the large joystick and some children helped us with the buttons. The ball of the joystick, which stopped at my chest, was like a giant beach ball that required you to hold it with both hands. It moved slowly and stiffly with an annoying but exciting creaking noise. I felt like I was in an arcade, endlessly inserting quarters on the questionably rigged claw machine.
The “Serpent Mother” was one of the most creative pieces of engineered art that I’ve ever seen. The mechanical, flame-covered metal snake could be spotted immediately as we moved toward a crowd of hundreds. The neck moved and the jaw opened wide as flames covered its long metal fangs.
I was honoured to be in Calgary among those who attended. Pieces like “Claw” reflect the talent, creativity and innovation of the city.
These two engineered pieces give reverence to science, art and, more importantly, the merging of both for education and entertainment. Whether you’re a visitor to Calgary or a long-time resident, be sure to check out Beakerhead in the years to come.