The American rock quartet OK Go had their first hit, "Get Over It," off their self-titled debut album, in 2001. But it was the video for their second hit single, "A Million Ways," from their second album, Oh No, that turned them into internet superstars, thanks to a choreographed dance in singer Damian Kulash's backyard: It became the most downloaded video at the time, with 9 million views. Every video since has upped the creative ante, with the band members orchestrating complex science- and math-driven spectacles—like a four-minute-long Rube Goldberg machine and a cheeky space ballet performed in zero gravity. “Most rock music is used for catharsis,” says bandleader and video director Kulash. “That’s true for us, too, but our songs’ videos were also being used as teacher’s aids.” They figured, Why not make it official?
Last year, the musicians partnered with AnnMarie Thomas, director of the University of St. Thomas’s Playful Learning Lab, to launch the nonprofit OK Go Sandbox. This online resource for teachers, sponsored by Google, Morton Salt, and Cognizant Technology Solutions, offers STEAM-related activities and challenges based on the band’s videos, such as one (viewed 340,000 times) revealing the spreadsheets required to slow a 4.2-second-long chain reaction to sync with their video for “The One Moment” (viewed 25 million times on YouTube). Their latest initiative: The Art in Space Contest (https://okgosandbox.org/art-in-space/), launched in conjunction with Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Cognizant that will place a student’s art experiment aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard launch vehicle, a reusable craft designed to take payloads—and eventually people—into suborbital space. [Photo: Makoto Kubota]