Tents and Technology

I’m getting too old for this.

Although the Girl Scout year starts on Oct. 1 councils like to bribe I mean encourage existing troops to register in the spring so in the fall they can just concentrate on new girls and setting up new troops. For this Girl Scout year one of the early registration incentives was a Night Under the Stars. Katy and I were all over that since she doesn’t get much opportunity to camp with Girl Scouts.

Every year the council also hosts a STEM Expo with all kinds of neat science, nature and technology-related booths and exhibits. The expo is held at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds every year and since we don’t have a camp large enough to hold the 1,700 people who RSVP’d for the camp out they decided to have it at the fairgrounds the night before the expo so you could do both.

The camp out was held on a grassy area near the exhibit hall and was really more of a big slumber party with tents. Troops who “auditioned” with a YouTube video could take a crack at breaking the current world record for the world’s tallest s’more as documented by our friends at Guinness and there was a movie on a big inflatable screen.

As I said, about 1,700 people RSVP’d but “only” about a thousand showed up. The two troops I knew weren’t able to come and several others ended up changing their mind. We were worried because each troop was being allotted a 10×10 space for every 10 girls. As a “troop” of two, Katy and I only got a third of an allotment. However, everyone fit in just fine.

Katy gets home from school about 4 p.m. so I had the car all loaded and ready to go. Heath put the tents and accessories in the trunk and then looked at the pile of stuff I had in the house — sleeping bags and food and pillows and our duffel  bag —  and said “this is why I hate camping”. So we left a few minutes after 4 and got there about 5:15 thanks to Friday rush-hour traffic. We got our third of an allotment and set up camp.

Katy setting up the tent

Heath wanted us to take the two-man tent, too, in case it turned out to be really crowded. We were next to a very nice Cadette troop and they were just setting up their tents. One was on loan from a parent and when they set it up, found out the shock cords in the poles had rotted or broken or something so the tent immediately collapsed. So I offered them the two-man tent. I said “It’s small but you’re welcome to use it” and they were happy to do so.


We’re the tent way in the back.

This is the area we were in. It eventually filled in. One troop moved in right in front of us about 8 p.m. and put their tents up in the dark. As we were finishing up dinner another troop was setting up nearby and having trouble with one of their tents. Finally Katy said “I can’t stand it, I have to go find out why their tent is crooked” and ran over to help. Turns out one of their poles was shorter than the others. The leader said “I can’t figure it out, we put it up the other day and it was fine”. I guess they got it worked out.

There was a tent-site decorating contest and I’m sure this troop that was next to us will win once the photos are submitted and judged. They had a really cute Candy Land theme and most troops didn’t decorate. One that set up next to us later in the evening had an inflatable palm tree that scared me to death in the middle of the night. I had to make a restroom run and there was this thing waving next to me.

Neither of these photos is very good but it was tent city out there.

We couldn’t have a fire out there, council set up a few portable fire pits for s’mores, and no camp stoves or anything so we packed a picnic dinner. They had three food trucks but I wasn’t sure how busy they would be. I noticed one said Mexican fusion but what they were actually selling were hamburgers and hot dogs. A few people bought dinner from the trucks but it looked like most brought a picnic.

A picnic in front of the tent.

The troop next to us competed in the s’mores build-off. They came in second for the tallest s’more but no one broke the record. To be in the contest you had to have three girls from your troop build a tall s’more following specified guidelines, film it and upload the video to YouTube then the top 10 teams I think it was got picked. The contest was held in a building (they used Sterno cans for their fire source) and the whole thing was live-streamed on Facebook and shown on the big inflatable movie screen. At first Katy couldn’t figure out why Facebook on the screen.

They had about 10 fire pits set up so everyone could toast a marshmallow or two. They had to have the grates on the pits so it was hard to really catch your ‘mallow on fire. I’m sure that was a requirement by the fire department or someone. I’m surprised they got permission to even do that but we’ve had rain lately.

Following that they showed a movie. They hadn’t said ahead of time what the movie would be and when we picked up the schedule we saw it was Hidden Figures. I told Katy “these little girls will never sit through it”. I was right. The big girls and adults watched the movie and the little girls made jump ropes out of glow sticks and ran around and made a lot of noise. The Cadettes next to us used the time to make some really nice sit-upons. So everyone had fun one way or another.

Katy came back from the movie freezing. I’d put some boiling water in two thermoses before we left the house and then put them in an insulated bag. The water in one thermos was still steaming and she was happy to have some hot chocolate. If they’d done this a week earlier it would have been much warmer but sometime last week Georgia’s weather looked at the calendar , realized it was October and turned down the heat.

Next time I find myself having to sleep in a tent I’m getting an air mattress or a cot or something. I had an egg crate but it was still a long lumpy night. Actually the biggest issue I had was the traffic on the highway. I haven’t slept in a tent like this since my interim semester trip to Australia in 1984 and I’m sure the ground used to be softer.

And it was an early wake-up call. We brought milk and cereal for breakfast but it was too cold for that. Chick-fil-A was there with chicken biscuits so we went for that and Katy had more hot chocolate although the water was more warm at that point.

After breakfast we got the everything packed up and loaded the car. Most people left, I think very few troops stayed for the expo. It really turned out to be a lot to do both. I was very tired. I talked to a few leaders in line and inside who said they had planned to camp but then decided not to. Both sessions of the expo were sold out.

Katy had a great time. She built a rocket from a straw, did some virtual reality, operated a robot, made a bracelet with her name spelled out in amino acids and learned how to make a battery-operated bug from the head of a toothbrush.

Straw rocket
Brush bot

They had the ever-popular slime made with white glue and borax. There were two Brownie leaders behind us and it sounded like they were there by themselves and were looking for ideas for troop meetings. They’d never heard of slime before and were very interested in how you make it. Katy told them how to find the instructions online and the gave them this big explanation of how it’s a Newtonian solid and how it works. I asked the ladies “Do you want her to come lead your meeting?” and they said “well, we live an hour and a half away”.


Trying her hand at virtual reality. This was something new for her.


Trying on a few things from Georgia Power while waiting in line for the VR


This lady was freezing Teddy Grahams in liquid nitrogen and you could eat one and make smoke come out of your nose.


Her name in amino acids. And Medieval Times was there, too. I don’t know what they had at their booth but she wanted a crown.

Video of Katy operating the robot.


The toothbrush bugs. Katy was really intrigued by this. The girl running the booth said you can buy the motors on Amazon.

They had a STEAM van out back but there was a line and Katy decided she was ready to go home. Found out later it had some really neat activities. Oh, well. With no rush hour traffic we zipped right home. Katy had the energy to meet some friends for pizza and ice cream. I took a nap. It was a tiring but fun weekend.


2 thoughts on “Tents and Technology

  1. How fun this looked! Yes, I can feel the ground a lot more lately too…at least last time I was camping in a tent. “tiring, but fun” sounds like a good time. Thank you for sharing your experiences! 🙂

  2. I enjoyed reading about Katy’s adventure. We had a blast too . We did not go to the STEM Expo afterwards, with 11 girls, that would have been a bit too much, just like you said.

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