George Boyce and his wife Eva Fallon have finally made their lifelong dream a reality.
Last year, the couple founded GreenSTEMs
, a non-profit that promotes science and creativity.
They turned an empty store in downtown Greenbelt, Maryland, into a community clubhouse. It's a space where people, especially kids, come together to work -- individually or in groups -- on science projects and hobbies.
From the outside, Club 125, which is named for its street address, looks like any other store in a shopping area. But step inside and you'll see a science club with dozens of computers, laptops, wires, light bulbs and screws.
“Our three core areas are robotics, micro electronics and computer science,” said founder George Boyce. “[It] gives us an opportunity to introduce kids and families and adults to science and technology. It gives people an opportunity to work hands-on and learn some new stuff that might not be able to learn at school, or as adults, they don’t have they don’t have the opportunity to work with because they don’t have the right resources.”
Boyce and his wife Eva Fallon, both work in Internet technology.
School children come here with their teachers or parents.
“I like science, but I like making robots better,” said Dinah Cohen, 11, a student who is schooled at home.
With her father's help, she used the resources at Club 125 to make a robot in a shape of an elephant.
“We want to make it move," she said. "I'd like to make the elephant work better.”
Her mother - and teacher - Leah Cohen views Club 125 is a great learning opportunity.
“She comes here and has to solve a problem with her Lego robotics," Cohen said." Coming here is really great because it’s a really diverse group of people, so Dinah learns from kids who are younger than herself. She learns how to work with kids who are older than herself. She also works with the wide variety of adults that are in here too.”
That’s exactly what Boyce dreamed the creative space would provide.
“We're actually open more hours and different hours from the library," he said. "So we’re able to provide access to resources like our computer network and our laptops so that kids can come in.”
Boyce and and his wife Eva Fallon, who both work in Internet technology, founded the club after transforming a dry-cleaning store into the community club.
“It’s very hands-on. It’s also very self-directed,” said Fallon, adding the the club is a work in progress. “If someone is interested in something, we try to help them figure out how to learn about it, how to do something with it. Yes, there is some level of direction, but we really try to encourage them to puzzle it out on their own. And then show us what they did.”
And the club isn't only about science and technology.
“We include some art and crafts, predominantly because I’m a knitter," Fallon said. "We have popular events: repair café, 'Don’t throw it away, repair it.' So people bring in broken items and volunteers repair them or if they’re not repairable, we take them to electronics recycling, but we do jewelry repair, we had bicycle repair, small appliances, some furniture repairs.”
Volunteers like Windy Cooler help run the club.
“The space serves as something of a community living room," Cooler said. "It’s like an extension of my home. It continues to challenge us to have to have better and more meaningful relationships with each other, to share skills, and share food, and share our lives with each other and help raise each other’s children.”
Club 125, she says, defines what a community is and in the process, promotes experimentation and curiosity.