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Photo by Ramiro Bustamante Torres

Beakerhead 2022: Get in the mecha, Calgary 

By Ramiro Bustamante Torres, October 4 2022

After last year’s mini-Beakerhead exhibit during the Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF), this year brought a three-day weekend jam-packed with science events. Beakerhead had made a comeback to its somewhat former glory from before pandemic restrictions had caused a hiatus to the event. 

The event was split into two major venues with some after parties or single shows peppered elsewhere. On Friday, Sept. 23, Beakerhead had its opening night at the TELUS Spark Science Centre featuring PechaKucha — the Japanese word for chit-chat — where presenters shared their stories through a different way of storytelling. Also at the Spark, Hack-the-House was a presentation of creators over the age of 14, where they showcased sustainable machines using recycled materials such as old furniture. The Spark was also open to the public to enjoy the exhibits present like the Quantum Sandbox in the Digital Immersion Gallery where the science of quantum physics is brought to life with art and people can visualize how the concepts work alongside Indigenous worldview connections. 

Photo by Ramiro Bustamante Torres

Beakerhead was set Sept. 24 and 25 at the Century Gardens, featuring classic favourites like the inflatable bunnies, endearingly called Nibbles, surrounding the Dome — an inflatable dome with a stage inside and outside. One of the shows on the stage was the group called Le Cirque de la Nuit which presented a pleasant show of acrobatics and such. Another performance outside of the gardens, down the road, involved a mechanical giant — or also called mecha — called Prosthesis. It was a giant 14-foot, 4,000 kg exoskeleton created to amplify the movements of the person inside it. In a spectacle for the crowd, the mecha demonstrated its range of motion and proved its strength by crushing many shipping pallets. It was impressive for its size and it really had the crowd enticed. 

People at the Century Gardens could also enjoy some collaborative projects like the Chatterbox where you and a friend would have 60 seconds in a booth to share your thoughts about what collaboration means to you and how Beakerhead made you feel. Other events were occurring at the same time, like aerial yoga being performed on one side and a robotics team showing the basketball skills of one of their creations. The Hotchkiss Brain Institute was there all weekend showing off brains from humans and animals and answering questions from many curious onlookers. One exhibit that caught my attention was a mini-tour of Writing-on-Stone (Áísínai’pi) Provincial Park using virtual reality technology, inviting people to experience the park in downtown Calgary. 

Photo by Ramiro Bustamante Torres

The return of Beakerhead was full of exhibitors and fun for families to enjoy and definitely has opened the doors for the public to experience science in a more fun way. Whether you attended shows like seeing Flint the Robopup — a literal robot dog with a sense of humour — or took a photo with MirrorMan before heading to the after party at Dark Arts YYC, there was something for everyone and hopefully next year we can expect another vibrant science festival for their 10th anniversary. If you are interested in more science exhibits similar to Beakerhead, check out their partner TELUS Spark at their website here.

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