At the Akron-Summit County Public Library, you can find a new food computer. No, it doesn’t print food or magically materialize it – rather, this unit grows it.
The food computer is a Plexiglas box that's a yard square with lights on top, tubes down the sides, and hydroponic plants growing up from the bottom. “Hydroponic” means soilless germination, usually in nutrient-rich water.
This unit is especially productive because its growing process is controlled by custom software. Science and technology librarian Michele McNeal says that’s why the library has the computer.
“To see what kinds of things are taken up and gone forward with. To see what kind of programing can be done around those things,” McNeal says. “And also, to beta test it.”
“They’re taking SCRATCH out of the computer and having it interact with physical devices, wearable stuff," McNeal says. "Things that you could put on door handles, or anywhere; so that kids could write their program to interact with the world around them.”
The Knight Foundation is helping with the costs of bringing these projects to libraries around the country.