Thursday, August 1, 2013

Summer Makerspace Mondays Recap

For four Mondays this summer, the DFL children's room transformed into a place to create and experiment with innovative STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) themes as part of our library Makerspace.   This was our first experiment with Makerspace programming in the children's department.

On our first Monday, we set out KEVA planks for families to use their imagination to build structures. A simple instruction handout is given with each set of 200 which provides examples and a short tutorial on proper building techniques. KEVA planks are perfectly balanced. They require no glue or other assembly assistance.  Most structures can be built with 50-100 planks but it is handy to have multiple boxes.  Buildings, trees, and even a marble run was created over the course of our 2 hour drop in program.  We now have a set of planks out among our various board games to encourage free play.  It was inspiring to see everyone dive right in and work on balancing. Many expressed how it was like Jenga, a board game where structures are built and players must remove one piece without the structure falling.

Our second week, we made balloon powered cars.  Recyclable materials such as bottle caps, discarded CDs, cereal boxes, yogurt cups, and even Dunkin Donuts cups were provided for  body and wheel construction.  The "exhaust" part of the car consisted of balloons and straws. This project explored Newton's laws of motion. 1. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction; By blowing up the balloon and releasing it, the air propels the car. Potential energy is transformed into kinetic energy. 2. Heavier objects require more force to move; We realized during car construction that straw size , balloon size, and car weight were variables that affected distance.

Our third week was a bit hit. We ordered Makey-Makeys, circuits that allow users to turn ordinary conductive objects such as bananas, aluminum foil, or nickels into a computer keyboard/video game controller. Makey-Makeys are connected to any computer with a USB.  Alligator clips are then placed strategically to control commands that correspond to the keyboard such as a piece of celery turns into the space bar, and the banana becomes the up arrow key. Your body acts as the ground circuit. From there, games were bookmarked onto each computer to try. We used PAC-Man, Super Mario Brothers, Flash Flash Revolution, and Scratch Piano.  Families experimented with the organization of their controllers and what to use as a ground. A student made an aluminum foil bracelet/ring to connect to himself so his hands were free.  Another family began using materials they brought with them themselves to test conductivity such as play-doh. To develop this program further, students could use Scratch, free MIT computer software, to construct their own games that respond to the Makey-Makey. We hope to use Scratch to make our own staircase piano.

Our closing week was Little Bits. These are magnet circuit kits broken down into easy color coded segments (no soldering required). There is the power circuit (blue) which includes a 9V battery, the input circuit (pink) which includes a multitude of switches and knobs, and an output circuit (green) which could be an led light, fan, vibrating motor, etc. These pieces can be taken apart and reassembled into many combinations with just a starter kit.  Students could then build a device around the circuit such as a lighthouse or brush bot. Many projects are exemplified on their website from child creators and the inventors.  We used Legos. We found many students just enjoyed the many facets of the circuits without touching the Legos. Imagine that!

The DFL children's room is excited to take our findings during our Makerspace Monday experiments and implement it into our fall programming. Stay tuned!


  1. This is such an inspiring series of programs! Bravo, Jessica!

  2. Can't wait to dig into Scratch and combine it with the Makey Makeys to create our own unique devices...!


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