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Battle Rap Histories of Epic Science (Brahe's Battles)'s video poster

Five professional music videos. Made by middle schoolers. Covering debates in science history. Rosalind Franklin wants her Nobel Prize. Read more

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This project was successfully funded on April 16, 2013.

Five professional music videos. Made by middle schoolers. Covering debates in science history. Rosalind Franklin wants her Nobel Prize.

About this project

Combining science, history, music, and video is a powerful educational experience. When students are given the tools to create a video that is viewed around the world, it can be life-changing.

Post-freestyle glory at KIPP Bridge (Oakland)
Post-freestyle glory at KIPP Bridge (Oakland)

From January through April I'm working at five inner-city schools in the Bay Area, helping students create entertaining, accurate, and professional music videos that explore important moments in scientific history. Once completed, these videos will be made available to students and teachers to enliven science education around the world.

Topics & Schools:

  • "Is Pluto a planet?" - KIPP Heartwood (San Jose)
  • "Rosalind Franklin vs. Watson & Crick" - KIPP Bridge (Oakland)
  • "Tycho Brahe vs. Johannes Kepler" - San Jose Community School
  • "Alfred Wegener vs. 'The Fixists'" - Mathson Middle (San Jose)
  • "Black Plague vs. Yellow Fever" - SUMMIT San Jose

How it works:

At each school, kids sign up to take part in the project. We meet once a week - either after school, at lunch, or during science class. I lead workshops covering each new topic or skill, including: science review, historical context, rhyming, lyric-writing, audio production, video production. Although the kids will be exposed to the technical sides of audio and video production, the final music video will be shot and edited by professionals in order to make a product that can reach as large an audience as possible. Some students have decided to make "making the video" documentaries about the process.

Current Funding:

This project is partially funded by a generous Social Innovation grant from Hewlett Packard and the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. However, that grant only covers production costs for one of the schools. The goal of this Kickstarter campaign is to fund the video budgets for the rest of the schools and to pay for my transportation costs as I traverse the Bay making science raps (I'm based in San Francisco). 

Let's do this! I'm looking at you!
Let's do this! I'm looking at you!

Budget Breakdown

  • Video Production - $10,000 for 4 music videos ($2,500 a piece). This  includes hiring filmmakers to shoot, camera rental, green screen, lighting rental, and three days of editing.
  • My transport during workshops - $1,000 I'm living in San Francisco but working each day in either Oakland or San Jose. I wind up spending about $62.50 on gas a week, and I am working with these schools for four months. 
  • Supplemental Audio Budget - $300 Our producer back in Sacramento has generously offered to make five beats and mix all of the songs. But he's doing it for a very cheap rate and I want to be able to give him a bonus for his hard work.
  • Kickstarter Fee - $565 Kickstarter will take 5% of the total
Green Screen & Camera. CCLicence ZapTheDingbat
Green Screen & Camera. CCLicence ZapTheDingbat

Any additional funds raised by this campaign will go to:

  • Equipment Purchase - I'd love to be able to invest in camera, lighting, and production equipment to make more videos like this at a cheaper rate. This would significantly lower the cost of video production when working with schools in the future.
  • Video Special Effects -  The students already have some big dreams for things they want to have happen during the videos. By increasing our special effects budget, we can make those dreams come true.

Are you a talented videographer wanting to get involved? 

This project will require multiple videographers because there are so many projects. If you're in the Bay Area, available in April and would be interested in shooting, editing, helping with green screen, or doing special effects on one of the videos, please get in touch! 

Previous Science Songs with Kids:

My most recent music video project in Redwood City, CA.
My most recent music video project in Redwood City, CA.

Risks and challenges

The main challenge is getting everything done on deadline. At this point I've covered the science, history, and song-writing workshops with all schools and we're now in the heart of writing the lyrics to the songs themselves. We're aiming to have the songs completely written by the end of March. Students will have some time to practice, and we'll have the song recorded by mid-April. We'll be planning the video at that point, and we will have the videos completely shot by the end of April. Editing will be done in May, in time to premier the videos to the students before the school year is over. Luckily, I have experience creating these type of projects on much shorter deadlines. "Save the Fishes" (see above) was written, recorded, and shot in less than a week.

Many of the students don't have formal musical training or any experience with this type of project. They need a lot of scaffolding, and it can take a while for them to get the hang of the basic skills: from rhyming to lyric-writing. However, one of my favorite parts about the project is that in any group of students, there is a diverse set of skills. Some students thrive on the science. Others are rhyming naturals. Others have epic visions for the video. Based on my previous experience, my strategy is to let different students shine for each part of the process, and to encourage them to teach each other the requisite skills. Students get to display skills not typically rewarded in the classroom, and get to collaborate with each other to make an incredible final product.

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  • You selected
    Pledge $10 or more

    20 backers

    MP3 DIGITAL DOWNLOAD: Get an audio download of the "Brahe's Battle" song of your choice when audio production is completed.

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    Pledge $20 or more

    50 backers

    BRAHE'S BATTLES ALBUM DIGITAL DOWNLOAD: Get digital downloads of the all five of the "Brahe's Battles" songs when audio production is complete.

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    Pledge $35 or more

    30 backers

    THE RHYMEBOSOME MIXTAPE: Get a digital download of the "Rhymebosome mixtape". This includes all 5 mp3s from the Brahe's Battles project, and almost every science song Tom McFadden has ever created (including hits like "Fossil Rock Anthem", "Regulatin' Genes").

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    Pledge $50 or more

    36 backers

    VIDEO DOWNLOADS: In addition to the Rhymebosome Mixtape, get digital downloads of all five music videos as well as any other "behind-the-scences" video content that the students decide to create.

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    10 backers Limited (5 left of 15)

    YOUR NAME "BEASTIE RAPPED": Have your name (or the name of your choice) "beastie rapped" by the stars of Brahe's Battles. (This is a rhyming game I play with all the kids where we finish each others rhymes. It was shown briefly in the intro video, rhyming with the name "Crick"). We will email you the video as a keepsake!

    (Includes $50 reward)

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    4 backers Limited (16 left of 20)

    GOOGLE HANGOUT WITH TOM: Tom McFadden will join you or the classroom of your choosing for a 20 minute session where he will answer questions, perform songs, or talk about science, music, whatever you'd like to discuss. (Includes $50 reward)

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  • You selected
    Pledge $500 or more

    0 backers Limited (6 left of 6)

    COMMISSIONED SCIENCE SONG: Tom McFadden will write you a science rap on the topic of your chosing (audio only). Could be anything from biochemistry to astrophysics. Your choice! (Includes $50 reward)

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  • You selected
    Pledge $700 or more

    0 backers Limited (8 left of 8)

    LIVE SCHOOL PERFORMANCE: Tom McFadden will do his 45 minute science rapping concert/talk at the school, organization, or event of your chosing in Northern California (or anywhere else if you can fund transport). (Includes $50 reward)

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  • You selected
    Pledge $1,000 or more

    1 backer Limited (3 left of 4)

    PLATINUM PACKAGE: In addition to getting the Rhymebosome mixtape and the Brahe's Battles videos ($50 reward), your name will be Beastie rapped by the students ($150), Tom will perform LIVE at your school/organization (see $700 reward for details) AND will write a science rap on the topic of your choosing ($500 reward)! Whoa!

    Estimated delivery:

Funding period

- (27 days)