Saturday, April 19, 2014

Arduino training presents a steep learning curve for us humanities majors!

With the DFL Children's Room recent purchase of ten
Sparkfun Inventor's Kits, a number of us boldly went where no DFL librarian had gone before: into the fascinating but brain-cramping world of Arduino:

Arduino is a tool for making computers that can sense and control more of the physical world than your desktop computer. It's an open-source physical computing platform based on a simple microcontroller board, and a development environment for writing software for the board.

Arduino can be used to develop interactive objects, taking inputs from a variety of switches or sensors, and controlling a variety of lights, motors, and other physical outputs. Arduino projects can be stand-alone, or they can communicate with software running on your computer .

Luckily, we had as our guide, Kevin Osborn, engineer and Arduino enthusiast. He led our merry band of librarians, trustees, patrons, and teachers, through the jungle of code, into the swamp of breadboards, out onto the arid plains of switches, buttons and blinking lights.  It was kind of perplexing, but as librarians, we are trained to conquer our fears, laugh in the face of logical complexity, and tame the errant and irrational.

I can't say that we arrived at the Promised Land of understanding and competence, but we are now able to tackle some of the projects and challenges in the Sparkfun guide book on our own.

We are hoping to build our competency and help library patrons construct some interesting interactive modules in the future.  More to come on this exciting new front!

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: