An Acrobatic Feat: Engineering Student Combines His Passions for Circus Arts and Science

Fosse Lin-Bianco’s life changed under a big-top tent adjacent to the Santa Monica Pier.

Fosse 2 225x300 - An Acrobatic Feat: Engineering Student Combines  His Passions for Circus Arts and Science
Headshot of Lin-Bianco. Photo by Makenna Susman.

The Loyola Marymount University senior electrical engineering major and dance minor was 10 when he sat spellbound for the mega-spectacle of Cirque du Soleil’s “Kooza.” In the story, a lost clown happens upon an elegant trickster who brings him into the circus world. “I watched that character, combining fluid movements with acrobatics, and imagined myself on that stage,” Lin-Bianco recalls, smiling at the memory. He began taking classes at a circus school, ultimately becoming part of its troupe of youth performers. And from that day on, he was determined to become a professional circus performer.

But Lin-Bianco harbored a second passion. “I always loved math and science,” he says, “and when I came to LMU, rather than being a dance major, I wanted to explore that interest as well.”

He wasn’t sure how he’d do that until, during his freshman year, he met with Barbara Marino, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. “I told her about my background and how I wanted to somehow combine my major with my passion for circus arts,” Lin-Bianco says. “And she just lit up and started giving me all these ideas. It inspired me to choose electrical engineering, because I knew that both my artistic and technical abilities would be nurtured.”

Fosse 3 300x225 - An Acrobatic Feat: Engineering Student Combines  His Passions for Circus Arts and Science
Lin-Bianco designed shoe. Photo by Makenna Susman.

Last summer, with funding from the University Honors Program, Lin-Bianco conducted research with Marino on his Acrobatic Acceleration project — a shoe that tracks the acceleration of a circus performer and uses the results to create digital art pieces based on the movements. “I wanted to give the audience a new perspective to view the acrobatic movements that we see on stage,” Lin-Bianco explains. He has followed up that effort with Piano Pole, in which Lin-Bianco and fellow electrical engineering student Evan Mitchell are using a modified version of the Chinese pole circus apparatus to musicalize the circus performance by mapping the performer’s vertical position to different notes on a piano.

After graduation, Lin-Bianco hopes to enroll in a circus-college program on his way to becoming a professional. His ultimate goal is to start his own circus company that would allow him to incorporate the electrical engineering research into the performances.

“I never imagined I could have gotten so much out of my college experience,” says Lin-Bianco, who started a juggling club at LMU as a way to share his interest with the campus community. “I haven’t had to sacrifice one part of my passion for the other. I’m bringing a little bit of art to the engineering, while also bringing engineering to the circus world.”