Salad Days at Gadget Lab
I’ll just be out with it. Gadget Lab is in my basement. Not the dungeon kind with tiny windows and crickets gone wild. It’s a walk-in basement that has been pretty quiet since my kids moved out, an unused resource waiting for a new purpose. That’s how I see it anyway.
I know to some it may seem unprofessional. I see it as part of the new economy, like Uber, Airbnb and other services that make reuse of an existing asset. It has allowed me to embark on a new business with minimal investment and to keep costs affordable to the local community.
But more importantly, it allows me to run a computer summer camp that offers more than chair time in front of a screen. There’s a back patio where we break for popcorn and popsicles and where the potted plants work off a drip irrigation system that offers useful analogies for how electricity works. At my inaugural camp, the kids made a cooling system out of irrigation tubing, misters and drippers. It was a spontaneous project that provided hands on fun and cool mist in the face. Not all gadgets have batteries.
The flower and vegetable gardens serve as an extension of the lab. Last summer I had a camper who was not so interested in circuitry but he enjoyed wandering through the yard and could identify most of the plants. He was a talented naturalist was more interested in making a salad from the vegetable garden than in robots.
Someday Gadget Lab may outgrow the basement but if it doesn’t, I’m happy to stay put. A home based camp might not offer the most impressive facility but I’m guessing that Gadget Lab is the first technology camp to come with a free cucumber.