Freaks and Geeks 

Kids turn e-waste into art.

A local computer company's recent decision to downsize created a windfall for Oakland's Museum of Children's Art (MOCHA), in the form of donated parts: keyboards, capacitors, computer speakers, resistors, motherboards soldered with a gazillion little registers, and scads of electronic miscellany that nobody could identify. Museum Program Director Rae Holzman was mesmerized. "When you see all the parts it's very inspiring," she assured. "'Cause you go, 'Oh, those look like teeth,' or 'Those look like little eyeballs, or little mustaches.'" Holzman realized that once you took these doodads out of context, you could easily pretend they were Fisher Price toys or dollhouse parts — not to mention that some gadgets lent themselves to anthropomorphism. Just imagine what a little kid could come up with, she thought.

Thus, Holzman hatched plans for the Techno Geek Art Challenge, happening this Saturday at MOCHA (538 Ninth St., Oakland). Armed with a massive number of glue guns, the museum staff will present the spoils of their e-waste bonanza to junior "gadgeteers." Participants may use the parts to assemble whatever they like, said Holzman, adding that the event will cap off with a contest similar to the Mr. Potato Head beauty pageant the museum held in November. At that event, kids were given a Russet potato and a choice of recycled adornments, including toilet-paper tubes, zippers, tiny crocheted fruit, ribbons, yarn, un-spun wool, and pieces of fabric they could cut up and make into clothes — generally, the materials were "softer" and "more doll-like" than anything you'd find at a geek's work station, said Holzman. The Tech Challenge, meanwhile, veers into new uncharted terrain. After all, most kids are familiar with toilet-paper tubes and potatoes, but few have ever played with a motherboard or resistor — much less turned it into something. The Techno Geek Art Challenge runs from 1-4 p.m. and costs $7 per kid. MOCHA.org

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