(My sassy daughter made this meme about me.)

My love of motors is a running joke in the family.  Just last week I pulled a lipstick out of my handbag which actually turned out to be a small DC motor.

But motors are more than lipstick impersonators. If you’ve seen the latest Mad Max, you know that mastery of motors will be required for survival in the upcoming dystopia.

You’ll need a motor for pumping water from deep within in the ground. And you’ll need a motor for running the retractable saws that puncture tires and create other mayhem. That was the best part of the movie for me. The Gadgets.


The water system, hydroponic farm and outlandish vehicles made from old cars and discarded junk were like landfill come to life. A land of the living dead but zombie appliances instead of zombie humans. I’m not suggesting that success in the future means survival in a desert wasteland. But I’m convinced it will require original thinking and resourcefulness. A working knowledge of  motors won’t hurt. Combine that with some engine smarts and you could be Mad Max’s next boss.

Salad Days at Gadget Lab

Salad Days at Gadget Lab
MI’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.