STEM-tastic! event open to all interested in STEM education for Ventura County students

High tech hijinks paired with old time carnival tricks will underscore how much fun a science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) career can be.

The inaugural “STEM-tastic!” event aimed at helping the community promote STEM learning in Ventura County will take place Friday, Oct. 21 from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at the Lundring Events Center on the California Lutheran University Campus at 60 W. Olsen Dr. in Thousand Oaks.

The public is invited to the presentation, which will include speakers from area universities, PK-12 education, businesses, non-profits and others who will speak about ways to promote and enhance STEM education from pre-school through the topmost rung of higher education.

“We will highlight excellent STEM programs happening in our community,” said Phil, Hampton, Ph.D., Director of the Ventura County STEM network (VC STEM) and Professor of Chemistry at CSU Channel Islands (CI).

CI is leading VC STEM as an initiative of the P-20 Council. The P-20 Council (VC P-20) is a group of decision makers from education, business, government, community and parent groups who are dedicated to strengthening education in Ventura County.

Hampton says a highlight of the event with be the introduction of a new self-assessment called a VC STEM 3-D: Discover – Dream - Design tool.
“This tool is designed to let schools and other educational settings do a self-assessment of their STEM programming,” Hampton said. “It’s a guide so educational settings can gauge their programming against teaching methods that the VC STEM has identified as high quality STEM learning. The settings can discover and implement other ways they could enhance their STEM learning.”
The keynote speaker, who sports a flame red Mohawk, is Los Angeles entrepreneur Eric Gradman, who helped found a company called “Two Bit Circus.”

“Two Bit Circus” is a cross between a think tank and an incubator where inventors, intellectuals, builders and other colorful characters create presentations to entertain and inspire STEM learning for all audiences.

The innovative business fuses the whimsy of a turn-of-the-century carnival with the magic of 21st Century technology to demonstrate just how imaginative STEM learning can be.

“My desk is filled with electronics and mechanical parts and software that I’m running,” Gradman said in an interview with “I kind of live at the intersection of all these different engineering disciplines.”

Bushnell and Gradman use everything from lasers to robots to carnival stunts to entertain their audiences. Gradman, who has a degree in computer science, also has a colorful history as a circus performer and a professional whistler.

Gradman co-founded the start-up with engineer Brent Bushnell, who called the company “a big band of nerds” during a recent TED talk.

CI President Erika D. Beck and California Lutheran University President Chris Kimball will welcome the audience, after which guests will hear from Hampton, Ventura County Superintendent of Schools Stan Mantooth and representatives from Oxnard College, among other presenters.

STEM-tastic! is the annual recognition ceremony for the VC STEM Network, which is a leadership hub for regional companies, universities, government agencies, parks, schools, museums and a host of other local organizations working together to improve educational outcomes in STEM for all students throughout Ventura County.

Photos courtesy Two Bit Circus and Wall Street Journal

About California State University Channel Islands
CSU Channel Islands (CI) is the only four-year, public university in Ventura County and is known for its interdisciplinary, multicultural and international perspectives, and its emphasis on experiential and service learning. CI’s strong academic programs focus on business, sciences, liberal studies, teaching credentials, and innovative master’s degrees. Students benefit from individual attention, up-to-date technology, and classroom instruction augmented by outstanding faculty research. CI has been designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is committed to serving students of all backgrounds from the region and beyond. Connect with and learn more about CI by visiting CI’s Social Media.