Science shows that educate and entertain
Mix one part old-school technology with one part modern science. Throw in a generous helping of showmanship and Thomas Edison-era garb, and what do you get? Daniel G. Benes, founder of Daniel G. Benes Science Shows. His science shows are an entertaining, educational blend of physics, chemistry, and electricity for audiences of all ages.
Daniel says it was his role in “Showdown at Unobtainium 2012: Tesla versus Edison” that first inspired him to take the stage dressed as Thomas Edison, a tradition he continues today. According to Daniel, dressing the part helps him focus on giving great performances.
He thanks his relatives, Wimberley residents Keith and Melissa Busby, for their part in his success. As their Facebook friend, he made connections that led to an invitation to perform at Scudder Elementary. Shows for Jacob’s Well and Wimberley Christian Church followed.
Now Daniel sees audiences swell to over 300, but he doesn’t let the crowds unnerve him. “I’m actually less nervous the more people there are,” he says.” Put one person in front of me, I’m a little bit more nervous. Put all those people in front of me, and I feed off of their energy, then give it back to them.”
Excited children explore his antique science and technology exhibits, which are filled with equipment many kids have never seen before. They get to see and touch items like a 1920s Edison business phonograph recorder, a 1950s Van de Graaff electrostatic generator, or his most iconic piece, a 1905 Thomas Edison cylinder phonograph.
“I had thought, ‘These kids can’t relate to this. This is an old technology. The music sounds horrible compared to today’s music,'” Daniel explains.” But the first time I played it, 15 iPhones came out and they started filming. All manners of ages of kids, and they filmed the whole song. I was just blown away by that.”
The audience’s reaction to the phonograph encouraged Daniel to display more of his antiquities, like his 1880s quadruplex telegraph system, which children love to come up and tap on. Daniel built one of his most popular exhibits himself—a control board covered in a myriad of programmable timers, knife switches, and Edison bulbs dating from the 1800s up to 2016.
“You have a hundred years of lighting spanning across this thing with buzzers and knobs and an RGB screen. You can make any color you want on this little screen,” he says.
Daniel recently built a retro pong game with little robotic arms fitted with controllers. It’s proven so popular with children that he’s already replacing worn-out components. But it’s a small price to pay to encourage student interest in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math).
“If you look just at STEM, you’re leaving a lot of people out,” he says. “If you bring students in that way, telling them ‘We’re going to start out with the equations and the math,’ you might lose somebody who could become a prize-winning physicist one day.”
Some children come into the show excited, others in disbelief, but rarely do they leave unhappy. Daniel ensures everyone feels included by bringing audience members on stage and making lots of eye contact.
“If I see someone goofing off, guess where the radar goes? ‘Hey, you look like you’re bored, why don’t you come up here with me?’ After that, they may never be the same,” he says. ” That may have been the one thing that jumpstarts them.”
Daniel finds the children’s enthusiasm enjoyable and inspirational, and he wants to encourage them to continue learning. He says much of what he learned came from watching others, then building on their work. In that vein, science requires teamwork, just as Edison espoused when he employed collaboration in the invention process.
That message is paramount to Daniel, so at the close of every show he says, “Remember these two important things: science is a team sport, and in order to build what you are capable of imagining, you have to be willing to get your hands dirty. Thank you!”
Daniel G. Benes has performed across Hays County and Central Texas and has an affinity for introducing others to the wonders of science. He offers science shows, classes, and camps, along with antique science and technology exhibits for audiences great and small. For more information, visit www.scienceshows.tech or www.facebook.com/scienceshows.tech, or email Daniel at firstname.lastname@example.org.