The festival of all things art and science was back over the weekend, returning after a pandemic hiatus that saw a much more limited Beakerhead experience.
The 9th annual outing for the festival saw thousands of Calgarians take in events and demonstrations at Telus Spark, Century Gardens, Dark Arts YYC, and Dickens Pub.
Heather Shaw, director of communications for Beakerhead, said that the full festival return was really important for Calgary.
“It’s really important that after the last two and a half years that we’ve had that people get a chance to have a sense of wonder, and awe and delight—not alone, but together in community and seeing what this wonderful convergence of science and art can bring to their lives,” Shaw said.
“I think people have really missed joy and Beakerhead has always been about joy, and we are super joyful to be back, and we’re very excited and we’re really glad to be able to make that feeling real for Calgarians.”
Shaw said that the festival has always been about combining culture, art, science, and engineering together in a way that makes it accessible to the average person.
She said that the ability to spark curiosity and wonder over the past decade has been something that Beakerhead has been able to do for Calgarians.
“People really are becoming aware that art is science and science is art, that every aspect of your life has one or both of those pieces of the puzzle and almost always both,” Shaw said.
“I think that’s something that we all learned from the pandemic is to maybe come back to those kinds of ideas like curiosity and wonder…. the pandemic has made that more real for people, and so Beakerhead is really a manifestation of that emotion, that feeling, and that desire.”
Mayor pilots world’s only human powered mech exoskeleton
One of the highlights for visitors to Beakerhead on Sunday was a demonstration of the world’s first human powered mech exoskelton.
Exosapien Tech brought their prototype called Prosthesis to show off to Calgarians. The eventual goal for Exosapien, and its founder Jonathan Tippett, is to create a mech suit racing league.
Shaw said it wasn’t hard to get Tippet to visit Calgary this year.
“Jonathan Tippett, the designer is a mechanical engineer with an insatiable curiosity, and he is so excited to bring this thing,” Shaw said.
“So for us to connect with Jonathan was absolutely easy, super simple, it made great synergy, and it was a no brainer that we could have this at Beakerhead. Once we posed it to him, he was like, ‘this is exactly where I belong.'”
Mayor Jyoti Gondek was given the opportunity to pilot Prosthesis before a crowd of several thousand Calgarians, before Tippett put the suit through it’s paces.
“It’s an incredible experience,” said Mayor Gondek.
“It’s hard to imagine that you can control a machine simply with your own movements until you get into something like this. The incredulity that I had around how I can move a machine like that, I can’t even tell you—it’s amazing.”
And as for whether Mayor Gondek would be joining the ranks of Sigourney Weaver as famous women mech suit pilots, she laughed, and said no.
“Oh my goodness, I highly doubt it. I mean I’ve tried it, I got the thing standing up, and then I got it into position that I couldn’t get it out.”
Shaw said it was a great message to send that someone who isn’t a creator like Mayor Gondek, could then be a part of showing off how something like Prosthesis is accessible to every day people.
“You know a regular person can be someone who can be creative, who can think outside the box, and do all kinds of things and be part of things like Prosthesis,” Shaw said.
“The mayor really made sense—this is our large, mechanical, 4,000 kilogram machine, and here we have this, you know, small yet powerful person in politics, and it made such a wonderful juxtaposition for Mayor Gondek to be in this incredible machine.”
Beakerhead returning in 2023 bigger, better
Jay Ingram, former Discovery Channel Canada broadcaster and co-founder of Beakerhead, spoke to the crowd prior to the demonstration of Prosthesis. He promised that the 10th anniversary in 2023 would the be even bigger than the 2022 event.
“We’re so happy all of you came, and just get ready for 2023,” Ingram said.
“It’s going to be as exciting, as dramatic, and as much fun, and more next year.”
Shaw said the plan was to have a much larger presence in the city, with even more locations and events to visit.
“Everybody who turns 10 should have a really great party,” she laughed.
She said that having the multiple “beacons,” more commonly known as the multiple event locations across the city, wasn’t possible this year because of pandemic planning.
However, she said, they want to have at least 10 locations to visit over 10 days.
“What we’ve seen this weekend tells us that people are hungry for it, and they really want to throw a 10 year birthday bash with Beakerhead next year.”