3. Find a facility with computers or make plans to rent, borrow or buy them.

Photo of Bill and Shawn in the computer lab

Life will be easier for you if you can use a facility that already has computers connected to the Internet. This could be at your camp site or at a local school, educational service district office, business, or library. If that isn't possible, there are other options.

Most metropolitan areas support businesses that rent or lease computers. Just as with renting any piece of equipment, this can be expensive, and you may be required to purchase extra insurance as part of the deal. However, you may find just the right camp supporter who will pay for the computer rental.

Sometimes computer companies, schools, or universities will let you borrow computers, free of charge, for the duration of your camp. It will probably take a few phone calls to find a group willing to lend machines, but the effort is worthwhile.

If you have the funding and plan to incorporate computer activities regularly into camp programs, buying the equipment may be a reasonable option. If you decide to buy, it is important to purchase computers that can serve your needs for many seasons - this requires research and careful planning. Purchasing bargain, low-end computers can be more expensive over the course of several years, as upgrades will most likely be required in the future.

Your computers must at least have the capacity to run communications software (to connect them to the Internet) and Web browser software. If you use Apple computers, you'll need Power Macintoshes with at least 16 MB of RAM and System 7.1 or higher. For Pentium class computers use at least Windows 95 and 16 MB of RAM. For either platform be sure you have enough hard disk space to save the programs you will run.

Costs of computers and software depend on many variables. And, as we all know, last year's hottest item is this year's old hat. Sometimes if you buy equipment that is not the newest version, you can get bargain prices. But be careful not to buy something that is inadequate for Internet use and/or may be hard to service or upgrade. Below are rough cost estimates for products you might want to include in your lab.

  • Computers for campers: $1,500-2,500 each
  • One printer for printing camper creations: $200-800
  • One scanner for scanning in pictures and artwork: $200-500
  • Software (including CD-ROM reference library, word processing, publishing, draft- ing, security, and telecommunications applications): $200-400 for each computer