What We Teach
Gadget Lab operates under the premise that our homes are a laboratory of joy and learning. While we sometimes use 3D printers and computers, our main goal is to find the magic in ordinary things, then tear them apart and see how they work. Our workshops are divided into three primary categories: GadgetHeads, CodeHeads, Arts and Design. Short format workshops offer a variety of one or two day workshops on various topics.
All workshops have a "Screentime" rating and include a list of the skills for a Tech Resume where kids keep track of what they've learned. They can use this resume for summer job applications or for bragging to the relatives.
Circuits and Engineering
Our circuits and engineering workshops offers fun hands-on activities that teach about the world of circuits and their components. We take a close look at the ordinary objects around us and learn how they work. We learn about motors, circuits and batteries then make our own robots in the CodeHeads workshops.
The theme of GadgetHeads is "Robots the Inside Story". You don't actually make robots (we do that in CodeHeads) but you'll learn about motors, circuits and batteries - key components of robots- by making cool projects like a spinny motor, a doorbell for your room, a cool copper flashlight.
You'll learn to use a heat gun and a soldering iron to make circuits and an electronic Simon Says game.
This is Gadget Lab's core workshop and every activity is designed to build skills, inspire curiosity and instill a joy in making things yourself.
Ages: 10 -14
Screentime Rating: Moderate (Just the 3D Design for the doorbell).
Tech Resume Skills: Circuit building, safe care and use of a soldering iron and heat gun, through-hole soldering, wire splicing, basic electron theory, structure of LEDs and transistors.
This fun hands on workshop covers all the topics from the regular Gadget Heads program but in a simpler format. Learn about electricity, circuits, magnetism and mechanics by making a rigged out cigar box house for your tiny “Power Pet”. You'll also make a floating magnet sculpture and more.
Screentime Rating: None
Tech Resume Skills: Intro to electricity, circuit building, safe care and use of a power drill and a heat gun.
You know those cool hallway circuits where one switch turns on the hall light and the other turns it off - or back on? That's one of the many circuits you'll make this this fun hands-on workshop where you'll learn about the different switches and circuits that you use everyday.
You'll use through-hole soldering to make a mini keyboard, and splice various components to make a fun sampler of switches that show your mastery of different circuit building techniques. You can use our circuit diagrams or design your own.
This project is based on the SwitchBox project from the book Snip, Burn, Solder Shred by David Erik Nelson. I highly recommend it for kids and adults!
Ages: 10 -14
Screentime Rating: None
Tech Resume Skills: Circuit building, through-hole soldering, wire splicing, basic electron theory, the safe care and use of a power drill, a soldering iron and a heat gun. You'll also gain a thorough understanding of the structure and use of electronic switches and components including resistors, capacitors and potentiometers.
Engines are very cool and we have a lot of them here at the lab in various stages of disassembly. They offer insights into important engineering topics like crankshafts (vertical to rotational motion), the Venturi Effect, cams, gears and more.
In this fun hands-on workshop, you'll learn about different types of engines and will make a piston and cylinder model to take home. Wear old clothes because this workshop gets messy!
Screentime Rating: None
Tech Resume Skills: an understanding of two vs four stroke engines, internal vs external combustion engines, Stirling engines, steam engines, mufflers, carburetors, Venturi Effect, crankshafts and more
Circuits and Engineering
Coding and Robotics
Our CodeHeads workshops use both drag and drop code blocks and typed code to make things happen in the physical world. You'll make lights flash, motors spin and can even make music using a buzzer.
Our projects are built around age appropriate projects that use the same coding techniques you'd learn in a high school or college course but with an emphasis on coding circuits so you'll have time with your eyes off the screen as you make something fun.
CodeHeads Prep: Make a Museum
Find a topic you’re passionate about and make an interactive museum exhibit that includes an animated interactive quiz about your topic. Add an original animatronic model using our Hummingbird Robotics boards and your own imagination. Past exhibits have featured medieval castles, fantasy creatures, sharks, bears, penquins, and other animals. We’ll code our quiz in Scratch using drag and drop code blocks.
As part of our research, we discuss reputable sources of online information and how to safely use the internet.
When we’re done, we’ll invite family members and other campers to take the quiz and admire your work.
Screentime Rating: 60%
Tech Resume Skills: Block Coding, If-Then Statements, Intro to Controlled Circuits
Our Digital Sandbox boards offer fun way to learn key coding and engineering concepts by isolating the coding process from building circuits and typing.
You'll use drag and drop code block to put on light shows and make will a game to test your reactions skills.
Once you've gotten the hang of it well use the same digital sandbox to start typing our code, then we'll build some simple real world circuits and control them with typed code. The Digital Sandbox is a great way to boost your coding skills up to the next level.
Screentime Rating: 85%
Tech Resume Skills: Analog vs Digital Circuits, Inputs vs Outputs, Variables,
Pulse Width Modulation, If -Then Statements
Our coded circuit sampler is a low stakes entry into Physical Computing. We’ll write small programs that make lights flash, motors spin and take input values from distance sensors and remote controls. By breaking down each topic into a separate program, you’ll get a chance to learn important coding tools without the pressure completing a complex project. This is the perfect gateway to our more advanced coding workshops – and it’s really fun!
This workshop offers a great introduction to microcontrollers and prototyping boards. You’ll borrow mine for this workshop so the material fees are minimal.
Ages: 11 -15
Screentime Rating: 80%
Tech Resume Skills: Analog vs Digital Circuits, Inputs vs Outputs, Variables vs Constants, Pulse Width Modulation, If -Then Statements, Circuit building on Prototyping Board, functions and Recursive Loops
Arcade Games and Handheld Player
Use Make Code Arcade to make your own original pixel art games (like Mario Bros. and Zelda!). You can make platform games, maze games, chaser games and more. You can create your own backgrounds and characters using the Pixel Art tool or choose from a pre-made gallery.
That's not all! We'l also make a handheld game controller using a miniature computer called a Raspberry Pi. You'll design your own 3D printed case and take it home. You can keep it indefinitely or sell back the Raspberry Pi when you're done as part of our new Gadget Lab Recycling program.
Screentime rating: 60%
Tech Resume Skills: Game design concepts. Coding tools such as conditional statements, recursive loops. Intro to 3D printing.
Using a mini computer and hacked toys, you'll make a remote control robot from the ground up. This is not a click together kit so each one is unique. Your robots can self drive to avoid obstacles but will respond to the commands you send using an ordinary TV remote control.
Once you get your robot working you'll add some personality by customizing your bot with art supplies and toy parts. You'll learn key concepts typical of a first year high school or college coding class but without the homework and with a lot more fun.
Screentime rating: 40%
Tech Resume Skills: Analog vs Digital Circuits, Inputs vs Outputs, Variables, Constants, Functions, Pulse Width Modulation, If -Then Statements, Recursive loops, Binary and Hexidecimal Numbers, Use of Geared and Servo Motors, Fabrication Skills.
C++ Game Module
Make a 3 game module using an Arduino Microcontroller with a prototype board to hold the circuits. This workshops has plenty of fabrication but the empahsis here is on the C++ coding language itself.
You'll dive deeper into all the coding topics covered in the Sampler and RC Robots workshops and will go a step further by learning about memory mangement and arrays. You'll write and share your own code library with a keyword file that can include your name as a keyword or whatever you choose.
This workshop is great choice for a rising 8 or 9 grader who may want to take coding in high school. All the key concepts will be covered here but without the homework.
Screentime rating: 75%
Tech Resume Skills: Analog vs Digital Circuits, Inputs vs Outputs, Global vs Local Variables, Constants, Functions, Conditionals, the Mod, Binary Numbers function, Libraries and Key Words
Note: If you're younger than 13 we highly recommend you take at least one other CodeHeads workshop before this one