Geeking Out in Leonardo’s Basement

Geek Culture

Underneath the ultra-hip Anodyne Coffee House in Minneapolis’ Kingfield neighborhood, a gaggle of GeekKids work on mysterious projects, sawing, hammering, gluing. What’s going on? They’ve got an after-school class at Leonardo’s Basement, an educational organization for boys and girls ages 6 to 16 and their families. Forget macaroni art and kickball in the gym, after school at Leonardo’s Basement is all about exploring science, art and technology. The wise organizers even have special events planned for days when Minneapolis Public Schools are closed — next up, their Creativity Convention, coinciding with a convention the teachers will be attending. But I don’t think there will be drills and glue guns and LEGO at the teacher’s event.

During the summer Leonardo’s Basement offers six weeklong sessions, with topics including producing YouTube videos, making catapults, building LEGO Mindstorms NXT robots, creating art cars for the Minneapolis Art Car Parade, building rockets with RockSim design software, creating model crash test cars and contraptions with cake mixer motors, and building 20-foot cardboard galleons. There’s even a “take apart class” where gadgets are “deconstructed” (no hammers allowed) and remixed into new gadgets! Rounding out the selection are topics just for girls as well as a special class for kids ages 4-5. And to balance out the more structured classes, Leonardo’s Basment offers their Saturday Open Shop where kids work on any project they can conceive of, supplied with all the materials and tools they need. Instructors are on hand to give them as much help as they want.

But kids aren’t the only ones who benefit from Leonardo’s Basement. One of their spinoff projects, Studio Bricolage aspires to be an adult version of the kids’ programs, with a target audience of “adults who like to make things,” including “artists, engineers, scientists, educators, technicians, craftspeople, tinkerers, [and] inventors.” They have periodic building parties as well as workshops and classes.

If you want to learn more about Leonardo’s Basement, check out these two great videos:

For a very nicely produced promotional video showing a lot of cute kids making geeky fun.

A great YouTube video of a fantastic Lego Mindstorms NXT Rube Goldberg machine some 10 & 11-year olds made in their “Sensors and Motors and Gears, Oh My!” class.

The above photos are courtesy of Jeremy Pavleck. Thanks!

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