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. 

 
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GadgetHeads

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.

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GadgetHeads Prep
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.

Ages:  8-9

Screentime Rating: None

Tech Resume Skills: Intro to electricity, circuit building, safe care and use of a power drill and a heat gun.

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Circuits Circuits
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. 

EngineHeads

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!

Ages: 9-14

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.

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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.

Ages:  10-12

Screentime Rating:  60%

Tech Resume Skills:  Block Coding, If-Then Statements, Intro to Controlled Circuits

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Digital Sandbox

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.

 

Ages: 10-13

Screentime Rating:  85%

Tech Resume Skills: Analog vs Digital Circuits, Inputs vs Outputs, Variables,

Pulse Width Modulation, If -Then Statements

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Circuits Sampler

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

RC Robots

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.

Ages:11 -15

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.

 

Ages:12 -16

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.

 
 
 
 
 
Arts and Design

At Gadget Lab we see no reason to separate the worlds of Art and Science.   The science of sound, the joy of making music and the thrill of crafting a working instrument all belong under the same roof.  We also include art and design made by hand and by digital tools.   Check out our workshops below and come back because we keep adding more. 

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Electric Ukes and Amps

Build a concert scale ukulele,  make an amplifier for it, learn to play it, write some songs, leave camp a musician.

Gadget Lab is thrilled to have acclaimed author, songwriter and expert Uke player Mary Amato  as a guest instructor for this awesome Ukulele making camp.

The Ukes are beautiful,  easy to play and make a great first stringed instrument. Mary and I will help the kids make their instruments while they learn to play and even write their own songs.

And that's not all.  The kids will also make a beautiful cigar box amplifier that they can use with their electric ukuleles or any electric uke or guitar.

Ages: 10-14

Screentime Rating: 10% (Songwriting)

Tech Resume Skills:  Safe care and use of a power drill, precise measuring, clamping and gluing. Ukulele playing and songwriting.

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Art With Claire: Make a Zine

 

Using various art materials and techniques you'll make your own zine (short for magazine or fanzine). A zine is a self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images, that can exist as a 1 of 1 copy or is reproduced by scanning and photocopy. Zines are the product of a single person or of a very small group.

In this workshop, you'll explore a topic of their choice: a memorable event or moment in time, a significant individual or group, a favorite place or thing, etc. They will create these zines with a variety of materials and they can be kept private or shared by photograph, scanning, or video. There will be 45 minutes of instruction and 15 minutes of studio time.

Ages: 11 -14

Screentime Rating: 0 (if the workshop is in person)

Tech Resume Skills:  Use of water colors and pastels, collaging, zine making and publishing.

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Music Discovery Lab

“Music Discovery Lab is an interactive workshop that offers students a unique opportunity to create and explore sound through guided experimentation in a fun and casual environment. Drum instructor and veteran musician Jason Mullinax will discuss the properties of sound, demonstrate a variety of homemade percussion and electronic instruments and then will teach students how to build the instruments for themselves! During this week-long course, students will make and take home an electrified spring box and a small DIY amplifier plus the knowledge of how to play them in creative ways.

With a primary goal of unleashing creativity and fostering experimentation, Music Discovery Lab is appropriate for students of all musical backgrounds; no experience is necessary.”

Ages: 11 -14

Screentime Rating: 0 (if the workshop is in person)

Tech Resume Skills:  Percussion skills, a basic understanding the science of sound, safe care and use of  a power drill, a heat gun and a soldering iron

2D and 3D Design

Learn the basics of 2D and 3D Design to make a  fold-up nightlight/small lamp, a personal logo sticker and a t-shirt with your own original logo. Then bring your creations into the real world using a computerized vinyl cutter and a heat press.

Use 3D design tools to make an original project using our two awesome 3D printers.  Make a motion activated night light, a doorbell or your own  3D printed invention.

Ages: 10 -14

Screen Time Rating: 50%

Tech Resume Skills:  Introduction  to Inkscape/Adobe Illustrator, Use of a vinyl heat press, Care and safe use of a soldering iron, Circuit building, Care and safe use of a heat gun, 3D design and printing