Thursday, April 10, 2014

Rube Goldberg creativity

Our young teens have discovered Rube Goldberg!
Not only are his illustrations funny and timeless, but it is more challenging than it looks and I am convinced that learning how things work together mechanically is a big plus in the Maker World.
This kind of making doesn't have to cost much. You can pull found object from an amazing array of places. The 2 metal pulleys cost a total of $5 at our local hardware store in the clothesline section. We always need to put it all away so another program can use our room. That's where a screen really comes in handy.

Casey and Peter send a marble down to hit a whiffle ball which
drops the cup, sending the counter weight up the pulley.....
Here are some shots of our teens experimenting with pulleys, levers, chain reactions...

Check out the Rube Goldberg app you can purchase from your app store:

Robert and Stephen experiment with
a fan, a feather, and an inflatable globe....


Monday, April 7, 2014

Visit to the MakerBot Store

Sometimes it is hard to wrap your brain around a new technology until you see it in action. This weekend I had the opportunity to visit the new MakerBot store on Newbury Street in Boston, MA. If you have not had contact with a 3D printer yet, the MakerBot store offers you a convenient glimpse of multiple 3D printers/scanners in action with examples of a wide range of things to print. The store offers you opportunities to print your own designs or choose an already made design on Thingiverse for a fee. If you don't want to wait for something to print, it also has already made printed objects such as small 3D models of Fenway Park for purchase. For $5, one could obtain a Doctor Who Tardis out of a toy vending machine.  On display in the window were various printed Easter Eggs and rabbits with their attributed designers. Churches, garden gnomes, and even a large samurai bust were on display near each printer. I was amazed at how far the technology has come this year. The quality of the models and the detailing is getting better and better. There is even a giant scanner photobooth so you can print out a bust of yourself in 3 sizes.(I was tempted!).
The store is hard to miss with its HUGE windows.

Although I'm not sure if the store conveyed the multitude of useful functions 3D printers of the future will bring to everyone such as replacement machine parts, food, or even organs, it is nice to generate interest and spread the word about 3D printing in such a busy location. The store will be offer workshops this month for a fee on maintaining your 3D printer for adults or designing Mother's Day cards for kids. They also offer information on educational discounts for schools to acquire their own 3D printer. Next time you are in the Boston area be sure to check it out.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Creating the atmosphere of tinkering

Jessica helps Andrew trouble shoot his Larson Scanner
Tinkering is the goal of any Makerspace.

It's not enough to have people sign up for pre-planned projects. What we are striving to do is train patrons in skills, give them some experiences to draw from and then let them explore and discover how their own imaginations, skills they have developed and an appreciation for what is possible to build, construct, develop their own projects.

Groups are not herded into the same project. Choice is an important component.

On Tuesday, we came just a bit closer to the ideal of open tinkering....

Eli, Jackson, Peter, Martin and Stephen build their siege catapults

Robert explores the possibilities of our new 3Doodler to "draw" in 3 dimensions.

Andrew and Ben work on their Larson Scanners

Monday, March 24, 2014

Making Tilt Switches: Intro to E-Textiles

After our leap into LED wearables with the candle bows, I thought it might be best to take a step back to the basics. Last month, I went to the Eliot School in Jamaica Plan for an Introduction to E-Textiles Class.  If you haven't ever been to the Eliot School, I highly recommend it if you are looking for something a bit out of the ordinary in crafting and hobby classes. What I also love is they do one day weekend classes, in case the weekly driving commitment is too much.

Our goal of the class was to make a battery and bulb experiment. Don't know that is? Neither did I but it didn't involve hand sewing so I was pretty happy about that. I also thought it was funny that we were using the telephone wire that I bugged the AT&T guy to give us when I was younger for my wire bracelet business.

Here is my video explanation:

View from the back

Tilt switch housing
LEDs with compactors

Tilt switch: The fish weight covered in steel wool and some electrical tape housed in a punched water bottle top would hit the screws to the left and the right completing the circuit and making the LEDs on the other side light up.    It looked like a fuzzy Christmas bulb. I can't imagine trying to wear something like this but a simple on/off switch can replace this for adding to clothing and it can be done on a smaller scale.

Materials List:

Electronic Parts From Tayada Electronics

Battery Holder SKU: A-746

Red LED SKU: A-705

Yellow LED SKU: A-1583

Large Capacitor SKU: A-4525

Disk Capacitor SKU: A-4022

#22 Solid Wire SKU: A-49999

Batteries & Tools from Harbor Freight:

AA Batteries Item #92404

Hole Punches Item#3838 (For LED & scew holes)

Voltage meter (optional) but a great trouble shooter if circuit doesn't work
telephone wire

Hardware From McMaster:

QTY Item

2 10/32 x 2” Zinc Plated Machine Screw

4 10/32 Plain Nuts

4 10/32 Brass Thumb Nuts

2 10/32 x 3/8” Thumb Screws

1 10/32 x ¾” Thumb Screw

1 #10 x ½” Nylon Standoff

1 1” Angle Bracket

Parts from WalMart

#2 Fishing Weight

Fine Steel Wool

Electrical Tape

Carpet Tape (To stick down the battery holder)

Tips for any e-textile circuit project: 

*Always mark your positive side of your LEDs, it's the longer side, but you couldn't tell that once they are split.
*Alkaline batteries are best.
*This project, as opposed to E-L Wire is very low voltage. 
*A voltage meter is handing for troubleshooting. Out of the whole class, mine was the only one that didn't work. Apparently I did not hand wire wrap tight enough and with a few voltage tests and some pliers I was able to get my LEDs to light up. 
*You always want to make a electronic swatch like this one that can attach and detach to your clothes for easy on/off removal to wash.
*Good water flow analogy (thanks our smart cookie teacher George!): the amount of water pressure through the pipes can be thought of as the voltage going through a wire. It's one way!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

PHILS Open House today

Just when I thought they couldn't surprise me any more, my Middle School group did it again.
We held an Electronics Open House this afternoon to show the world the kinds of projects and areas of discovery we have been exploring this year in our Makerspace. They rose to the occasion by being ambassadors of making things and seemed to have fun, too.

Soldering badges, Stop Motion with our ipads and iStop Motion software, Scratch programming, MaKeyMaKey goofiness (asparagus game controllers anyone?), how to build a basic electrical motor, and the ever-present "Take Apart Table"rounded out the activities.

We had parents, kids, staff members, librarian friends from other towns come to see what we were doing.  Of course we hung our club banner by the door. Now if we could only interest some girls to join us.  But I'm working on a plan......!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tinkering Tweens : the possibilities are formitable

For a full year, we have held a weekly tech session for young teens - mostly eighth grade boys. We played with Little Bits, Legos, MaKey MaKey, soldering, construction projects, programming challenges, and more. Though we regret girls haven't participated, we have some plans to grow in a more inclusive direction.
More about that in another post.

What we DID accomplish by holding weekly sessions, was an experiment in content and form. We tried a variety of skill-building sessions, physical and intellectual challenges and learned a lot about what we can and cannot do in an after school setting at the public library.

Today, we did a "dress rehearsal" for the Open House we are planning for next Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. - to which we hope many kids and adults come!
Learning how things work is, ultimately more important to us then magically assembling things that fly, move, interact, etc. It's super seductive to merely assemble cool stuff, but we feel it is a deeper experience to look under the hood and explore how and why.

We have some ways to go with the tinkering concept, but we are learning a tremendous amount from our snazzy eighth graders and we will miss them when they move on into the bigger pool that is high school tech classes next year!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tinkering with Marketing

We have these origami trees on our children's help desk that one of our talented staff made for her winter themed display and they received so many compliments and questions that we made a QR code sign that directly led people to the instructions.  The desk has been one of those places traditionally kept without advertisements but so much attention made me start to wonder...

As librarians, we tend to get flyer crazy. I've walked into many libraries where there are signs and flyers everywhere: No cellphones, No food or drink, Musical guest this Sunday, Printing- 15 cents a page, or Please sign up at the desk (just to name a few). You can see that it might be overload for anyone walking in especially if they are trying to chase a 2 year old around. But how to engage the child without text?

And so begins my marketing experiment, based on all the excitement and interest in the origami trees at the desk, it seems like this would be a great place to start marketing STEM programs and showcasing our skills.  Out came two of my favorite toys: littleBits and Legos. It's really fun being a librarian sometimes.

Would more people notice a windmill made out littleBits and Legos than a traditional flyer to promote my upcoming littleBits progam? Of course! If I could make a hypothesis, I would say that by adding interactive elements on the desk, the programming attendance will likely increase rather than traditional marketing.  This is entirely based on observation because unfortunately the date and time of the event vs children's schedules would be an uncontrollable factor for this one time experiment. It would be hard to definitively conclude using the scientific method that in fact it did increase attendance without a survey of some kind but it definitely didn't hurt! It has only been two days and everyone who asks a question comes up to the desk to play with it. It also doesn't hurt that we have a huge box of pencils at the desk for the after school crowd which are always a hot commodity. Food for thought for today.

Video explanation:

littleBits Windmill from Duxbury Free Library on Vimeo.

Bits needed: RGB LED, 3 Wires, Power and battery, motion sensor, pulse, servo motor.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Teen Tech Week coming up

As national Teen Tech Week approaches, it seems smart and energy-saving to survey my teens and ask them, "What can you provide the library during Teen Tech Week that will be a value-added service to our loyal patrons?"

That's what I plan to be asking my incredibly tech savvy teen friends in the up-coming weeks as national Teen Tech Week is March 9 - 15, 2014.  I know we're gonna be doing some awesome stuff....!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Duxbury High School Robotics gets a thumbs up from us!

Great things are happening in Duxbury regarding tinkering and engineering.
On Saturday, Jess and I trooped over to the Duxbury High School to see the final result of the robotics teams efforts.  Duxbury senior, Evan Nudd explains it all.
Competitions on March 21 and 28th. Go Dragons!

Duxbury High School robot explanation from Duxbury Free Library on Vimeo.

Here's a link to the team's blog:

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Seeing a Playgroup as Tinkering

I had one of those eureka moments at a meeting a few weeks ago, when a fellow staff member was talking about her writing group and the importance of having open ended free writing components. I thought, "Hey that's tinkering too!" I think if we all look hard enough we can find lots of examples of tinkering that we do in our everyday lives or in already established library groups that doesn't have to involve electronics.

I've always been a "don't read directions first" kind of person, which was tough during my schooling years but that's the beginning of my tinkering. Can I figure it out without looking at the directions? We all develop educational and life strategies based in part by our personalities. For me, this tinkering led me to always jump head first into technology. I was never afraid of "breaking it." I'm the kind of person that purchases Adobe Photoshop and just begins by pressing all the buttons before I crack open a tutorial book (if I do at all). It's an unorthodox strategy but one that brings unique problem solving and unexpected confidence to the table. I learn different ways to do a variety of skills that works for me. It's the beginning of self-directed learning.

We recently started a playgroup for children under 5 in our children's department as an experiment to see if it would take off. When we talk to parents, they seem to always be looking for safe, appropriate places to play with their child and meet other parents especially in the winter. One of my friends always tells me that she goes to libraries during long car rides with her 1.5 year old as a break in between destinations when she gets fussy. Although they can always play with our puzzles and blocks that we provide in our children's room, the opportunity for interactions in the space could be limited.

Sometimes as librarians, we can really over think programming. For instance in our playgroup, we could have made flyers with instructions and explanations for each table with early literacy definitions but have you ever tried to read a paragraph with a 3 year old? It's hard! With that in mind, playgroups can foster that "no directions" tinkering as well. We set up stations with early literacy inspired tools that invited children and parents to explore and interact with each other but we don't tell them what to do at each station. This also helps keep parents engaged. One of our biggest stations was building. We had cardboard blocks, magnet blocks, and Duplo blocks with a Duplo table top. We also had these wonderful Duplo Read, Build kits that included a picture book story with building activities.   

Another hot station was the magnet and chalk boards. We purchased stove top covers from a thrift store and chalk board spray painted them (Thanks Pinterest!).  This became dual purpose because you could put letter magnets on it or practice your own letters or even learn to rhyme. Many parents began spelling the names of their children, the beginning of letter recognition. We never told them to do this, they just began prompting on their own or taking cues from other parents.

For our sensory bin we were recently shipped a box of Mango promotional material with orange and green shredded paper which we hid figures in to find. The kids enjoyed playing in the paper, especially putting it on parent's heads.  Caution: it DOES get messy.

As librarians, we are experimenters. We try different programs without a guarantee of how they will work but we jump in time and time again, mostly without instructions from other libraries on how a program is done. We find what works for us and we constantly try to improve and try new things. We also receive unexpected results. One mother had said how nice it was to not be distracted by all the other things in her house while playing at home which sounds a lot like why I can successfully go to the gym but the treadmill at home collects dust.

Our playgroups are on Fridays after Gather Round story time at 11:00am. Registration is required.