Cal Poly Science Café

In mid-October of 2011 the Kennedy Library at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California invited Scott Hutchinson and me to participate in one of their upcoming Science Cafe events. Four months and well over three hundred hours later, we turned their giant, 72-step stairwell into a large-scale, physical computing video game.

On Friday, February 10th, with over 1200 feet of wire, 48 internet connected tin cans, 96 tennis balls and an enormous helium tank, participants helped setup our game board. After breaking into two teams, they competed by hurling tennis balls down five flights of stairs in an attempt to score points by knocking over cans. Our digital scoring system pushed live data through the internet to giant scoreboard displays positioned around the library and to participants’ mobile devices. Kennedy Library staff recorded the action on multiple video cameras and set up a live viewing center for overflow.

Special Thanks

This event was truly a huge undertaking and would not have been possible without:

  • Karen Lauritsen – For inviting us to participate at Science Cafe and putting together such an awesome event
  • Everyone at Kennedy Library, especially University Librarian Anna Gold; Dale Kohler, Patrick Kammermeyer, Carl Hunt & Jordan Hooper – For taking a big risk and letting us turn their epic stairwell into a giant, physical computing video game
  • The Cal Poly Robotics Club – For sponsoring and promoting the event
  • Kelly Hallman, Cindy Grant, Bennet and Kennedy Library staff and student assistants for helping us setup and get everything going on time
  • All the participants who came to the event, helped setup the stairwell and threw all those tennis balls
  • Andras Kanegson – For laying down some much needed kick-ass CSS and HTML
  • The guys at All Electronics – For tirelessly answering my questions, no matter how absurd
  • My wonderful wife, Katie, & our dog, Mister Hustler Man, for their endless support


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