Tag Archives: geek

Making Friends at the Airport

An old extension cord makes new friends.

An old extension cord makes new friends.

Although I’ve kept this technology blog going for a little over a year now, I’m hardly a gadget geek.  Consequently, I’m not that guy at the airport juggling the laptop, cell phones, pda, digital camera, etc.  Perhaps it’s because I’m a bit of an edupunk: I like the challenge of hacking together affordable technology to wring every last ounce of usability from it.  Or maybe it’s just my lack of disposable income. Either way, I just don’t obsess over all the latest gadgets.

I do have a laptop that I use a lot, though, and I had it open in the airport recently when I found myself sitting next to that guy: He was pulling phone numbers from his laptop which he kept dialing to follow up with sales calls during which he made several references to the various cities and airports he had visited in the past week.

Of course he was talking loud enough for everyone to hear and of course he had two chargers plugged into one of the few electrical outlets in the boarding area for my gate.  I was planning to top up the battery in my laptop for the next leg of my flight, but there was nowhere to plug in.  What to do?  Easy.

A $5 commercial version.

A $5 commercial version.

I had brought along my three-way splitter which I cobbled together from an old three-way extension cord.  (I had used the long cord to make a formerly hard-wired flourescent light plugable and was left with this one foot piece to which I added a $2 replacement plug head.)  Of course, there are plenty of reasonably priced commercial options available, too.

I walked up to that guy, caught his attention, and gestured to my splitter and his chargers.  He gave me a quick be-my-guest wave and kept talking.  I unplugged one of his chargers, and plugged my splitter into the wall.  Into the splitter, I plugged his charger, my laptop charger, and the mp3 player of another passenger.  Instantly, I’m the life of the departure lounge.

If you travel with a laptop, cell phone, or other device that requires charging, bring one of these devices.  You’ll always have a place to plug in your charger and you might even earn some travel karma by helping out a gadget geek in need.

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Service Learning @ Free Geek

Service learning at Free Geek Columbus.

Students installing and testing Ubuntu Linux.

Last week I set up a service learning trip to Free Geek Columbus.  Service learning falls roughly in the middle of a continuum between an internship, which largely benefits the student, and volunteering, which largely benefits a community organization or charity.

Free Geek is an organization that takes donated computers, refurbishes them, and gives them to people and organizations in the surrounding community that cannot otherwise afford new computers.  They also offer training so people can learn to use the computers.

Students disassemble donated computers and sort reusable parts.

Students disassemble donated computers and sort reusable parts.

After a quick tour, students were trained to do two tasks: pull and sort parts from donated machines, and install Ubuntu Linux, an opensource operating system, on computers which had already been assembled.  The tasks were simple and straightforward, but interesting and productive.  Students also got to work alongside other volunteers, who were native speakers of English, which gave them more opportunities to communicate.

In addition to being a great organization, Free Geek was a great place to volunteer because students can go back on their own, if they wish.  At least three of the students expressed an interest in volunteering again.  By participating in this project, these students have made an authentic connection within the community, which can be very difficult to do.

Thanks to Scott Merrill and the other great volunteers at Free Geek, we plan to continue this relationship by offering this activity to students each quarter.  I also plan to seek out other organizations that can offer this kind of opportunity to our students.

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Filed under Projects