Nerv with Ryan Williams

Brent Bushnell is the co-founder and CEO of Two Bit Circus, an educational entertainment company that provides a wide range of high-tech and hands-on experiences. The company's goal is not only to entertain but, more importantly, to inspire participants to become involved in engineering, computing, inventing, the arts, and other creative pursuits. Brent is himself an engineer and an entrepreneur who has founded a number of tech endeavors, including Doppelgames, a mobile game company; Anti-Aging Games, building games that reduce the risk of early memory loss; Syyn Labs, which creates content for entertainers and large corporations; and Tapcode, which provided self-service and entertainment solutions for the hospitality industry. He was an on-camera inventor for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and he also works as a consultant and mentor for game development and entrepreneurship. Brent is the son of Nolan Bushnell, a gifted engineer and innovator and the founder of both Atari and Chuck E. Cheese.

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Brent believes strongly in the importance of the STEAM paradigm, which integrates the
arts (A) with the more traditional "teaming" of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). He works hard to expose young people to STEM topics in creative, engaging ways that will inspire both their intellect and their passion and thereby lead them to become inventors and creators themselves. He targets young people largely through his project called STEAM Carnival, a traveling event that includes a giant high-tech game arcade, a battling robot band showcase, a wearable technology fashion show, and much more. In Brent's words, it's "kind of like Cirque du Soleil for games".

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All of Brent's projects emphasize collaboration and interaction, and his advice for creators is no different. He has built his own companies and projects by listening to his passions and by seeking out collaborators who have similar passions and are willing to take risks. For example, when Brent started Two Bit Circus, he and his co-founder Eric Gradman started out knowing only the general direction they wanted to take. They spent the next few years experimenting with a wide variety of ideas. They funded their endeavors with entertainment consulting events (many of which allowed them to test their innovations) and invested the profits in further development. Only when they felt that they had sufficiently refined their vision did they seek out investors to accelerate their growth and mature into an established company. 

In this episode, Brent encourages listeners to "get their hands dirty" and make physical things. As an engineer and high-tech entrepreneur, Brent certainly appreciates the value of digital solutions, but he also understands the importance of physical solutions in a physical world and fears that our current education system is alienating young people from that kind of thinking. Inspiration isn't just for the young, however. This podcast will inspire all of us to trust our imaginations, follow our passions, and build our dreams.

Quotes from the episode:

"There's no shortage of hard problems. And, frankly, no shortage of capable humans. But what we do have a shortage of are inspired, tool-capable, invention-capable humans to go out and solve those hard problems.... We've got this perfect storm of needing it badly [and] the tools are easier than they've ever been; we just need people to be aware."

"I love online creation. My background is software. But I think we got carried away with the success of the internet and [thought] that all of the great innovations are gonna be apps. And that's just not the case because there's some things you can't solve with apps. You need other stuff."

"I think that humans are really naturally creative and that our school system kind of beats it out of us in a very heart-wrenching and terrible process, and that what we need to now do is sort of unwind that.... The thing is to not get too much in your head about it. Just start doing stuff!"

"Failure's rad! The second you fail, that means you've been out there trying and that's fantastic!"

"If your motivation is to try to make a buck, you're doing it wrong."


Personal Website:

Two Bit Circus:

STEAM Carnival:


Grand Challenges for Engineering:

United Nations Key Issues:

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Direct download: Brett_Bushnell_influencer_economy.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:12am PDT