Every spring, Carnegie Mellon holds their annual Spring Carnival. Carnival is one weekend where we get friday off of school and there are a number of interesting events that take place. The theater company has a show, there are concerts, and a lot of alumni come in. There is a line-following robot competition called mobot. Then there are the 2 big events, Buggy and Booth. Buggy is a race that takes place on some roads in Schenley park. A buggy is a small 3 wheeled craft that a small girl just barely fits inside and drives. There is a bar sticking up in the back that is used to push the buggy.
The other main part of carnival is the midway. One parking lot is turned into a carnival midway by clearing all the cars, importing carnival rides (and carnies), and by the building of booths. The booths themselves are built by various student organizations. There is an overall theme which each booth's idividual theme should conform to in some way. Each booth must have a game. The booths are 15' x 18' and can be 1 or 2 stories tall with a maximum of 20' high. The midway opens thursday at 4pm and is open thursday until 11, friday 11 to 11, and saturday 11 to 5. It has to run nonstop during those time with only 4 hours of downtime allowed. The booths are judged and trophies are awarded in 3 divisions, fraternities, sororities, and independants.
I love booth. Working on booths for AEPi is one of the most fun things I've done in my entire life. I think the reason I love it so much is because it is so much like what I'd love to do for life. Planning and coming up with idea is ok, but the fun really begins with constuction. Starting usually around spring break, we begin building our booth on our porch. On the friday afternoon before carnival is move on. This is where we carry whatever we have built so far and move it over to midway. For the next week there are people working round the clock to finish the booth by the time carnival opens. The last wednesday night many people are there all night. It is a really tough time because you don't get very much sleep and maybe don't go to as many classes as you should, but the experience and the outcome are worth it. The late hours building with your friends is a lot of fun. Seeing something that was meerly an idea come to life is amazing.
At AEPi we take a little different approach to building a booth. While most are really good at designing a booth that is either structurally impressive or highly and flawlessly detailed, these are not our strengths. Rather than build a booth that just looks beautiful but is more or less a museum with a game that is simple and uninteresting but there to fulfill the requirement, we like to compete with story and game. We like to build a booth that you interact with. It isn't just something to look at, but something to do. There is a story behind it and the people manning it aren't attendants, they are actors. The game is in theme and part of the story as well. Most of our games have been computer games, because we know how to do that well.
My first year I did some building and there were some great things about that and some great memories I have of it. Then again, there are great memories every year. My sophmore and junior years I took over being the lead game designer and programmer. While it is more like what I do the rest of the year and it isolates me away from the fun of building with friends, it has its advantages. First of all, game is worth about 40% of the score so it is a big responsibility that I am in charge of. The challenge of making a unique and fun game is what I really like to do. Plus there are those last few days where all the cool computer hardware from around the house all gravitates towards my room. The best part for me about writing the game, and doing booth in general is getting to man the booth while midway is open. We haven't won while I have been here but I don't really care. The prize for me is making people happy. The fun parts are watching kids who don't want to leave because they are having fun and taking adults and making them act like kids again. That's what I live for.
See what I had to say about past booths:
Booth 2000: Easter Island
Booth 2001: Outer Realm
Booth 2002: Batcave