How to Be a Geek Dad

By Ken Denmead | 05.16.12 5:33 PM

Geek Dad

Before I was a geek dad, I was a geeky kid—with all the classic credentials. I played Dungeons & Dragons, watched Star Trek reruns every night, and had an awesome HO-scale train layout. But at that stage of our cultural evolution, geek was still an epithet. I didn’t want to identify with such a blighted subclass.

What a difference a few decades make: Geeks are no longer social outcasts. Indeed, my obsessions have seeped far enough into the mainstream that even my kids share them. My sons’ passion for exploring every last detail of the role-playing videogame Skyrim mimics my own love for pen-and-paper D&D campaigns. They race to the latest superhero movies at the multiplex, just as I frequented the comics shops for the source material. And my tech skills now let me play IT manager for their devices, which when I was young existed only in science fiction.

Yes, my kids actually think I’m cool. Well, about some things. They still recoil in horror when I wear my Jedi robe. (It’s very comfy!) But raising geeks goes beyond teaching them the difference between Darths Vader and Maul. It means teaching them an empowering worldview. It means showing them how things work and that with a little research, determination, and trial and error, they can bend the world to their will. It means raising them with the maker call to arms echoing in their ears: “If you can’t open it, you don’t own it!” It means getting them to approach problems technically and solve them with imagination, which makes anything possible. It means encouraging them to tinker, even if it means voiding warranties. It means building a better world.

For five years, we at the GeekDad blog have been coming up with projects that dads (and moms!) can do with their families. We’ve published a bunch of them in a series of books, including—plug alert!—The Geek Dad Book for Aspiring Mad Scientists. And on the following pages we’ve culled a bunch of tips, tricks, and projects to help turn your offspring into GeekKids. We’ve also asked übergeek and awesome dad Adam Savage (of MythBusters fame) to share some of his family projects. Whatever your children’s age, whatever your level of technical expertise, you’ll find something here that will inspire you to have fun with them, educate them about geek values, and do your part to build a better future.