Saturday, April 27, 2013


In a recent Globe article, the word "Skillshare" was used which is kind of an open class room where people can teach others their particular expertise.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Cambridge Science Festival Part 2

     On Sunday of the Cambridge Science Festival, I had the pleasure of visiting Artisan's Asylum in Somerville. For a seemingly inconspicuous building in the middle of a neighborhood, a plethora of creativity is going on within their walls. Artists are welcome to take classes, store materials, or rent a space for their work. Space includes high tech plasma cutters, welding and wood working workshops, 3D printers, screen printing. bicycle maintenance shop, and more. After getting a grand tour from one of the Asylum members, it was time for hands on activities. This included a tinkering table which allowed anyone to disassemble various discarded technologies and see what is inside them.  Sometimes the simplest projects are ones that are the most rewarding. Only supplying the tools, they encouraged families to explore and problem solve by taking apart the machines. How many libraries have old computer equipment in storage with nothing to do with? How about making mosaics when they are done tinkering? Wooden boards were given a new life at the next table with magazine/wallpaper scraps, modge podge, wood glue, and various computer parts.
This box was actually STOLEN! so the artist decided to make a new one.
On display was a recyclable garden made out of old CDs, umbrellas, etc. to decorate any library or home lawn.  Another creative display was artsy local Dig boxes. Each artist redecorated a weekly Dig magazine box to be placed all over the city. See if you can spot them next time you visit Boston.
     Another hit craft was balloon powered cars.  Made from paper plates, empty tape rolls, pipe cleaners, straws, and balloons, students constructed cars that could actually race when the balloon was full.  Here is a more involved example but you get the idea.  My brain is already buzzing to introduce this to our Lego Club  for racing. Simply blow up the balloon, release your finger over the straw, and viola!
     Being a librarian who organizes programs, I realize what a vast undertaking in scheduling, materials, and volunteers to make a week like this happen. Special thanks to everyone involved. It was truly inspiring!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Cambridge Science Festival Part 1

Rocket Blast Off
Rocket Building
     This weekend I visited the Cambridge Science Festival, which is continuing all week long in various sites around the area to offer free/discount programming for all ages. On Saturday, I visited the Cambridge Public Library for a free Robot Petting Zoo and Mini Maker Fair.  Here are just a few highlights that can be integrated into maker spaces at home or in the library. 
Squishy Circuits

     An outdoor crowd pleaser was air rockets. The rockets, constructed from magazine paper, glue, and tape, were placed on a simple PVC piped stand with an empty soda bottle on the end. Kids were then invited to stomp on the bottle which produced the air to propel the rocket.  Not only did the kids enjoy the rocket taking flight, but there was a group gathered to try and catch them.
The Match Game
Bread Board Building
     Many of the DIY projects were various forms of circuit building.  Squish circuits were built using salt in the play-do as a conductor to attach between a battery pack and a LED light. There was also a project using aluminum foil, batteries, and a LED light to make a simple bread board. More complex circuits were built using the electronic "The Match Game" which challenged students to light up an LED light by connecting wires to screws in a crisscross matching pattern.
    And that was only a small sample of all the activities taking place outside! Inside the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School gymnasium located next to the library, many companies, high schools, and colleges hosted booths to demonstrate their robots such as a robot that hurled frisbees and a Harvesting Robot that could move plants. Other robots explained new surgery or oceanography techniques. It was great to see kids so excited about science.  One booth was explaining how someday 3D printers will be able to use the environment to create entire colonies on Mars before we even got there.  Everyone's eyes went wide. It sounded like something out of a science fiction novel. Another great maker space activity came from The MIT Society of Women Engineers who hosted a drawbot building event where kids were invited to make a robot made from a simple motor, cup, and markers that draws through vibration to make beautiful art projects.  Stay tuned for my next write-up which will highlight my visit to the Artisan's Asylum in Somerville on Sunday.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Turn your kids into Makers. Start a DIY Club

Click here to see what it's all about
Here's an idea to jump start a Maker movement at your library:
Start a DIY club!

As described in the May 20, 2012 New York Times article by Nick Bilton:

"It was refreshing to discover a new start-up called DIY, which offers a do-it-yourself — or maker, in Valley jargon — community for children.

DIY is seeking to be like a Boy Scout troop for the modern day. Instead of teaching children how to tie a clove hitch that seems fit for teenagers in the 1920s, DIY, a Web site and mobile app, will encourage children to build things, document them with an iPhone or iPod, and then receive rewards for their work.
I hasten to add that DIY isn’t just for boys. Zach Klein, DIY’s chief executive, said, “It’s really important to us that the tree forts allow boys and girls.”

Children will soon be able to learn to program and make cardboard birdhouses, soda bottle safety glasses, duct tape wallets and toothbrush robots that scurry across a desk like alien life-forms. All these projects will allow children to earn virtual badges, which will appear on the site. They can also receive embroidered, physical badges in the mail."

On another note, for yet another inspiration from a young Maker, Caine Monroy, check out Caine's Arcade, the real life cardboard arcade from East LA:

Not to be outdone, The PHILS club at the Duxbury Free Library is working on a cardboard world which, after seeing Caine's movie, we want to make interactive.

The power of sharing ideas cannot be overestimated!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Green Screen wall

Jason Bloom suggested that we could have the wall of our potential maker space painted as a green screen and use it for making videos.   - dm