With technology constantly evolving and older models often phased out to collect dust and make way for new, it’s easy to forget about the once-shiny and exciting machines developed in our recent history. For the Rhode Island Computer Museum (RICM), even though the luster may have faded, the thrill is still there. With collections, courses, workshops, and engaging events, RICM traipses back in time to show the lingering value of techie artifacts.
What began in 1999 as an assemblage of large systems like servers, old desktop computers and laptops, video game systems, and more has grown into an educational outreach nonprofit that engages with the community through more than just its physical inventory.
“We expanded to offer programs to libraries, schools, after-school programs, and community organizations, and we offer workshops at our facility,” explains Jen Piehler, RICM education coordinator and STEAM educator. When the Rhode Island Museum of Science and Art (RIMOSA) in Providence closed last year, RICM adopted a range of RIMOSA workshops to their roster.
RICM’s educational opportunities are wide-ranging, allowing participants to dive deep into unique interests, including animation, video game design, sound technology, computer-aided design, computer programming, robotics and engineering, and more. The museum also offers courses through the Rhode Island Department of Education’s All Course Network, which is offered to all students in grades K-12 (with registration online at EnrollRI.org/acn). Fall offerings include STEAM in Space, BioDesign, and 3-D Printing, Coding, and Design.
In addition to courses, RICM hosts open-to-the-public events, including the upcoming Fabrication Fest at Providence Innovation District Park in September (date yet to be announced at press time). The outdoor gathering of exhibitors debuted last year when RICM member Brian Jepson, known for coordinating local Mini Maker Faires, had the idea to work with DESIGN WEEK RI to celebrate the intersection between design and fabrication. Experts and enthusiasts in both traditional and digital methods showcased their work to over 500 attendees.
To accommodate its growth, RICM recently moved from North Kingstown to Bald Hill Road in Warwick, and with the help of a RI Rebounds grant has designed an engaging space to host its ever-growing agenda of activities in a more accessible way. Whether perusing the “computer crypt” of old machines or expanding your tech knowledge, RICM is a great first stop on any retro journey. RIComputerMuseum.org
Teams turn their STEM knowledge into practical application building electric race cars for RICM’s Greenpower F24 Racing Challenge. Participants work from a kit or from scratch to create a car that adheres to Greenpower Education Trust’s technical and sporting regulations, and come race day compete for the gold. A fall race takes place October 23. Learn more at Sites.Google.com/ricomputermuseum.org/
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