How to live on $2 a day

In attempt to allow Brainworth the time and space it needed to become a reality, our CEO Ben Sand had to find a way to live cheaply... very cheaply.

What follows is a bullet point system of how it can be possible to live on merely $2 a day while still retaining all the dietary requirements of a human being - vital information for anyone else out there in the startup scene who may need to scrounge dollars in order to get their valuable idea off the ground.

To begin with, all food should be purchased at ALDI (bulk purchasing supermarket) or its equivalent. An ingredient list is as follows:

GOLDENVALE Oats: 250g/day = 33c
REMANO Spirals/Spaghetti/Penne/Fetuccini: 300g/day = 47c
OCEAN RISE Pink Salmon 130g = 80c
BENIFEX Multivitamin - One a Day x2 = 12c
BENIFEX Fish Oil - 1000mg x7 = 23c
= $1.95/day

These items can all be purchased in bulk to achieve these prices, so bring a vehicle and stock up for months at a time if you can.

Cook these items as follows:
Cook 1Kg of pasta and put it in the fridge. Eat a bit each day with salmon, or on it's own. You can soak the oats beforehand as some people believe that makes them healthier, or you can just microwave them with water.
This diet was built to be the cheapest nutritionally complete diet possible. You might be wondering if this is actually healthy. According to all the numbers it is fine - actually if you follow this you're probably eating healthier than everyone you know.
For a full breakdown of the nutritional value of this diet can be found here - it's fully sustainable: facts/recipe/2285413/2
As for some of the nutritional concerns one might have about sustaining yourself on such a diet, in Ben's own words, here are the reasons why it shouldn't be an issue:
Absorption of Vitamins from Supplements
I looked into this for a few of them, such as folate. Absorption was about 60% from the supplement vs natural sources, so I accounted for this when entering in the data. If you want to follow up on all the nutrients you can, but as you can see most are about 300-500% of the RDI. If you're really concerned about this, I have developed a $6 a day diet with natural/unrefined sources of nutrients that I can itemise if there's enough interest.
Selenium Toxicity
You can have too much selenium. Usually one a day is the recommended maximum for multivitamins for this reason. At the end of the day it's all about adding up the numbers and they seem within the acceptable range.
Mercury from Fish
I researched this very thoroughly. The lowest dose case of mercury poisoning observed would require you to eat 40Kg of salmon or sardines per week, 4Kg of tuna or 800g of shark. Most people need 50% more than this to experience ill effects. The FDA recommended safe limits are 10% of these numbers, so thats 4Kg of salmon. This diet calls for 1Kg so its well within limits.
Canned Wild Alaskan Pacific Salmon
This is the best salmon in the world and fortunately the cheapest as well. Tasmanian salmon is farmed and probably has more pollutants, less omega 3 and more omega 6, like all farmed salmon. Most of us are getting far too little omega 3 and far too much omega 6. Atlantic salmon is typically farmed too. Alaskan pacific salmon comes from commercial hatcheries and fish are kept there for the first year before it travels into the ocean to grow. Alaska has no fish farms. The only healthier salmon would likely be wild hatched pacific. This is available, but is both highly expensive and probably unsustainable. Canned Wild Alaskan Pacific salmon is sustainable, incredibly healthy and also the cheapest source of animal protein on the planet.
Omega 3
The value of Omega 3 comes from keeping it in balance with Omega 6. The balance of the two is where the inflammation factor is calculated from. Many foods that claim to be high in Omega 3, just make this worse (eg. most nuts and vegetable oils contain much more omega 6 than omega 3, and market themselves as sources of omega3 when really they're just making the problem worse). The ideal ratio is supposedly 1:1 (omega 6: omega3) but a modern diet could have 30:1 (due to all the canola oil from processed and fried food). If you're vegetarian or don't want fish for some other reason, the next most viable omega3 source is probably an algae extract (this is where fish get it from), but that gets very expensive.
Protein Balance
The fish is included as the cheapest source of balanced protein with the added benefit of some omega 3. Balanced protein from other places (including all vegetarian sources) is more expensive. I investigated all the options, canned pink salmon is the cheapest source of complete protein unless you want to buy whey in 20Kg drums and risk spoilage.
Too Boring
You can eat fancy food once you've built an awesome product.
So there you have it. The amazing wondrous Brainworth $2 a day diet, which has allowed our project to become a reality, and will hopefully allow others to learn the value of frugality in starting your own business.

Hacking away at Ember JS

For the past week, our CTO Dave Wilcox has been taking a look at potential web app frameworks. For Brainworth's purposes, tooling around with these kinds of things needs to be rigorous as we're demanding a lot, so a solid five days Dave's been trying in vain to get Ember JS do the job.

Our first set of challenges will teach prospective programmers about AI by asking them to learn the basic steps of creating an autonomous snake from the game popularised by the Nokia 2110. Ember JS would have been used to spice up the currently somewhat rudimentary challenge client when controlling the snakes, however it was still very much in its early stages, making implementation difficult.

While the functionality it promises is encouraging, at present its documentation is sparse and 'working examples' from only 2 months ago no longer working.

Two days ago, Dave went back and reassessed Angular JS, having initially made the jump from Angular over to Ember, so the challenge client will continue to be driven by Angular for the time being.

This is not to say Ember JS isn't a robust piece of technology, and one that we can very well see ourselves using in the future - just that it's currently languishing in the wake of a more polished and professional product. Time will tell, however, and within our network of nodes and challenges, there will be countless other opportunities to experiment with different frameworks moving forward.

Our environment doesn't demand that we affix ourselves too strongly to any one choice at present, so we look eagerly forward to seeing what Ember can do in the future.

Conceptualising a vivid world: The evolution of Brainworth’s art style

The game world in Brainworth is designed to flourish and teem with life. Our fictional world has seen many iterations over time, with our gradual move from the most basic concept of an airborne view of a lush environment gradually taking inspiration from panoramic views of foggy mountaintops, sweeping vistas and violently lush waterfalls.

From the few images below, you can get an idea of where we're going with the background art from Brainworth. One of the drives which must reside in each of our players is an affinity to the game world which will allow them to feel a genuine sense of pride each time one of our nodes flourishes.

As each node flowers and joins the vibrant blue background and the presence of the barren, brown nodes is reduced, players feel a sense of completion as the islands fall into sync with the gorgeous backdrops we've created.

Along the way, we were looking at the world in a few different ways. To see where we finally ended up, check out the video on our home page.

Brainworth Recommends

In this blog post, which we hope will be the first of many in this series, we're looking to provide brief links to some of the more inspirational talks which and thinkers who have driven our vision to try and re-shape education. They'll be Ted talks, gamification articles, neuroscience articles discussing the ways in which the brain becomes engaged and much more.

We are not alone.

Two years ago, Tech Crunch covered Bill Gates proclaiming that within five years, he fully expected the best education around to come from the web. Indeed, he proclaimed that the era where young adults would have to actually physically go to a university was soon to come to an end.

Gate's favourite teacher, he said, was Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy. "It is awesome how much he has done with very little in the way of resources, " Gates said of the educator cum entrepreneur. CNN did a lengthy write up off the back of this Gates-based praise, outlining the reasons behind the continued success of Khan Academy.

As we make no bones about being heavily influenced by games and populated by gamers, we'd also like to share with you a talk given at the DICE 2010 summit. In it, Jesse Schell gives a charismatic speech wherein he dissects the changing paradigm of gaming being brought about by Facebook games. These browser-based initiatives will, according to Schell, bring about a miniature revolution in the world of gaming, with browser-based content engaging the benefit of a nearly unlimited audience to take on new shapes and forms.

Brainworth, in Schell's world, is but the tip of a very large iceberg.

Upcoming Art Bomb

Brainworth is pushing a number of angles with trying to give people a compelling reason to keep on coming back. With drop off rates on almost all online learning platforms through the roof, it bares considering the multitude of methods we have at our disposal which are often underutilised.

Today, we'd like to share with you some of the art we've been working on which will drive one of the until now unmentioned aspects of Brainworth's plan to keep people logging in and learning: narrative.

We've created a set of narratives, some large and some small, which will give the player a reason to keep on going. Stranded on a strange planet, players will advance from node to node, island to island, discovering new portions of our story as they go.

Some of the characters we've started working on already include the scientist (pictured left) and the Colonel (right).

These and many more characters will pop up in the Brainworth world to drive players onward. Small, self-contained plot arcs will be run through within each island, and will tie into a larger plot arc spanning entire courses.

This combines with our three other major tenets for creating an addictive game world. The social integration (which we'll go into more detail about later), the game mechanics and reward systems, which will be woven into the fabric of the game world from the very beginning, and the contextual approach to learning, demonstrated elegantly in our graph, which, incidentally, one of our team found represented as a Lego sculpture (below). Stay tuned for further updates as we get ever closer to launch!


Brand new look Brainworth incoming

Thanks to the tireless efforts of Brainworth Team member Nelson, our humble site is about to get a redesign, with our brand new homepage bring made sleeker and easier to read. Showcasing Brainworth in a step-by-step introduction format, the new site will keep our latest and greatest videos front and centre with all the information you need about how Brainworth works presented in a trim and neat format.

Speaking of new looks, our sci-fi control panel theme is soon to be complemented by another couple of instances of new game world art, as we finalise the look of our 'control room' and player avatar elements. In keeping with the naturalised, pseudo-realistic theme, each will slot right in next to the current colour scheme, leaving our island nodes as the most standout feature of the visuals at all times.

Stick around for some back history of our islands and to catch the work-in-progress development of our avatars and other visual features, due on the blog very soon!


Sir Ken Robinson stares unafraid at the impending education revolution

This was six years ago.

We've all seen this coming for a very long time, but with a chance so fervently on the wind, we here at Brainworth wanted to remind you of one of our favourite TED Talks on the matter from Sir Ken Robinson.

Robinson argues for something now well accepted - a personalised learning experience. Of course, such things are already up and running over at places like the wildly successful Khan Academy, where your progress is based on... your progress. The way it should be, with no skipping sections or slowing down on account of others' experiences.

That said, we need to ensure that at every stage of the way, pupils are able to engage with one another. One of the primary reasons people continue to pay for high quality education is the environment in which they learn - not the content available to learn per se. Considering the vast amount of information at everyone's finger tips and the slow opening of the floodgates of previously restricted course content from major universities, that content should be priced at a premium is no longer certain.

What is certain, however, is that personalisation works, incentives must be tantilising and tangible (and tangible in this sense needn't mean physical), and that the social and tutoring elements simply cannot be ignored.

Robinson, a creativity expert, forcefully argued to harness the power of each student's creativity, wherever it may lie. As we push forward into the future of gaming, of education and of socialising online, we ought to ensure that our systems enable those with creative minds in all fields are given access to a system which combines all of these things and nourishes them in a way which will keep them engaged.

For us, Robinson's form of change has been the base line by which we understand the coming shift in thinking about play and about education for some time. We're one of many groups who have been thinking about this problem for some time.

Stick around as we get into more detail.


Hard at work on all fronts

It's been a busy week here at Brainworth HQ.
Our CTO Dave Wilcox has been migrating from SQL to a graph database on the one hand, while our CEO Ben Sand has been spending his time acting as a mentor for students at One Can Grow, helping them align properly for becoming budding social entrepreneurs.
Meanwhile, our implementation of an instructional story into our opening offering is progressing well (thanks to team members Kenni, Daniel and Chris), and of course there's been the fantastic news we've been waiting to announce that we're now officially being developed in collaboration with support from the IMF.
Down in Melbourne, our Marketing Head Leigh has been soaking in industry legends, meeting with Tim Schafer and Warren Spector at the Game Masters exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and listening on countless panels and discussions about the state of the Australian gaming industry. Small hint: it's been reborn thanks to the startup scene. Way to go, everyone else out there pushing the boundaries of what we can do from humble beginnings!
Stay tuned to the Brainworth site for an entirely new look soon. There's only so long we can stick in the same style when we've got our diligent artists turning out so many amazing assets.

Interactive Media Fund Press Release


Startup Brainworth secures Screen NSW funding for educational games for adults

Sydney, 28th June – Brainworth aims to change the face of education, providing an educational online game world for adults.

Using a new and unique presentation format, Brainworth will teach a high-level programming subject in a series of challenges, tasks and games, and will branch out from there into other fields of science and business. Brainworth will serve third-year college students looking to test and improve their skills in a rich online game world, providing new ways for students to collaborate and take charge of their own education.

Such a mammoth task requires assistance for a new startup, and Brainworth is pleased to announce that it has secured an AUD$50’000 grant from the New South Wales government, as part of the Interactive Media Fund project.

The Interactive Media Fund is designed to support the growth of the digital media sector in New South Wales, and is being used to bolster the work of cutting edge technological endeavours. The funding will be used directly to support the hiring of new talent to work at Brainworth, which is aiming to launch a closed beta in late July.

“We’re thrilled the New South Wales government is backing a broad vision like ours,” said founder and CEO Ben Sand. “Brainworth will be the first online educational world to unify a completely personalised experience for each user with the social interaction of student clubs and the fun of an interactive game world.”

NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Stoner said, “The NSW Government is pleased to support Brainworth through the Interactive Media Fund. The electronic games industry has an increasingly important role to play in other sectors such as health, finance and – as in this case – education.”

“A company like Brainworth has great potential to achieve export success, and I hope the assistance offered under the Interactive Media Fund will help make this a reality.”

Brainworth is aiming to release in late 2012, and is accepting early signups now for college students.


For more information, follow us on Twitter at @PlayBrainworth, stay tuned to

Developed with the assistance
of Screen NSW

Leigh Harris
[email protected]
+61 (0) 424 967 263


About Brainworth:

Brainworth was founded by Ben Sand in July 2010, and was built up with CTO Dave Wilcox. Leigh Harris joined in May 2011 as Head of Marketing. Advisors include Rohan Story and Soren Harner (VP Engineering at BigCommerce, former VP Engineering at Atlassian) with Guy Blomberg (Mana Bar) as a Creative Consultant. In total Brainworth has 22 people contributing to the project, primarily from leading game design colleges and universities in Sydney. Brainworth aims to be a poster child for low burn rate startups while securing its initial funding and launching its prototype product to the world. It is based in Sydney, Australia.

Brainworth receives funding from the New South Wales government

After a long wait, the Brainworth team can finally confirm that it has received funding from the Interactive Media Fund, and our continued growth is now thanks not only to the dedicated team working tirelessly here, but also to Screen NSW (who are in charge of the fund), who are now partnered with us on our ambitious endeavour.

An official announcement from Brainworth, including further words on our project from Screen NSW, is coming very soon, but in the mean time the news has already begun to spread, with the announcement reaching Mumbrella and MCV Pacific.

Meanwhile, one of our team is down in Melbourne attending the opening of Game Masters, an exhibition which celebrates some of the greatest game designers of our time, and includes special guests Tim Schafer and Warren Spector. Back in Sydney, progress is being made on sourcing additional support for Brainworth in the form of supporting programs and in-roads for where we'll need to be when we move into closed beta soon.

Stay tuned for more updates, these are very exciting times!