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Showing posts from 2015

Hour of Code Review

This year was our most successful Hour of Code yet (IMHO). We had lots going on and it was pretty noisy in the kids room. Hour of Code on the website was assigned for homework so I don't have accurate stats on that but I did try to keep track of the extension activities with pictures and video. So here is the reflection on the week after the previous blog post about setup:

As I have previously mentioned, every library has great services and events but how do we market them effectively? The most successful marketing strategy for us has been leaving demo projects out on the children's help desk. We had many conversations over the past week about Lego WeDo Robotics because the Ferris Wheel, which was built by a student during Tinkering Tuesdays, was on display for kids to ask about. As soon as we reeled them in, we could say, "If you have 30 minutes you can build one yourself today!"  Consequently, this also helped all the staff to learn how to do a quick programming d…

Happy Hour of Code Week

Hour of Code week starts today!

In addition to the free one hour tutorials on the website. We have a few passive unplugged activities such as binary code jewelry and "my robot friend":
















Along with iPads loaded with a whole folder of coding apps to try.
My favorites are:
Kodeable
Scratch Jr.
Daisy the Dinosaur

We also left Lego WeDo kits at the front desk for kids to try and we'll have a special demo from the high school robotics club with Lego Mindstorms on Thursday.


Our new Sphero robot will be debuting this week. I'll bring him out during our regular Tinkering Tuesday session and after school for kids to try. He is connected to one of our iPads. My favorite app so far is Tickle.   It has a Scratch like block interface which requires a bit more thought to get him around than just driving him back and forth with a controller.  For quick fun demonstration try, Draw & Drive. You literally draw something on the iPad screen and Sphero will replicate the line.  Among the …

Circulating Science Toys

Circulating toys can be challenging. How many parts is too many? What to do about replacements? What about propriety software?  I would not recommend kits like Lego Robotics WeDo or Mindstorms to go out of the building. First, the programming software is proprietary and second having all the parts is important to each of the pre-designed constructions. Sparkfun Inventor's Kit, an Arduino beginner's package, is also something I wouldn't circulate. The parts are very small (less than a penny in size), including 2 different color coded resistors that need up close examination to determine which is which. That being said, there are plenty of small reusable kits that can circulate without hassle to any departments.

As I write this, we have just bought Sphero, an already built "ball" robot that focuses on coding through free apps as our newest circulated STEM toy. We already have two successful STEM kits that circulate for 2 weeks and are holdable by patrons with a val…

Importance of Documentation

I just read about cognitive load theory, developed by John Sweller, a professor at New South Wales Australia.  It's the notion that people can only hold seven pieces of information in their heads at one time.

According to SLJ's "The Cognitive Connection," May 2015, recent research claims that we might be holding less, maybe 2 or 4 things (pg. 25).  With that in mind, I recently tried to recreate a "talking skull" with the Sparkfun Arduino kit that I made last Halloween (with hands on help from our local maker at the time). It was much easier said than done.

I thought I had taken detailed pictures of the breadboard layout but upon recreation, I was flummoxed. I completely forgot how to do this! I should have taken the shots from above and clearly labeled the wires. I also should have taken a photo of the entire thing. I had a few white wires, one from the PR motion sensor, another from the servo. Which was which?



So I shot a video, surely I shot up close o…

First test of Strawbees

My Strawbees came into the mail today! How exciting! I ordered the 368 piece kit for $50.

I opened the box to my only complaint about the item. It contained sheets of the connectors. I had to hand pull off every single piece with a kit of 368 pieces. It made me wish I had a volunteer handy. Make sure you have a hole punch because the middle circles of each piece all need to be taken out too.

All the pieces were separated into small Tupperware containers for later use and I got to work.

Like most maker space tinkering activities, there are going to be those students who don't know where to start (neither did I honestly). You can build ANYTHING. That's alot of possibilities! So I thought, why not a helicopter so I have something that moves? My first attempt right out of the box without instructions was less than stellar. So I consulted the internet and used this lampshade strawbee tutorial to begin with a cube. My favorite part of the tutorial was they laid the cube out …

Makey Makey Floor Piano

If you are looking for a short, low cost project to do with your Makey Makeys, this one is sure to be a big hit. It's a great small group project as well as an eye catching interactive display in some noisy area of the library (as long as you can keep library staff sane). This was made as part of our Tinkering Tuesdays lab. We had low tech cardboard construction, 3D printing, and the Makey floor piano going on simultaneously. It took us about 1.5 hours with 3 teens helping.

Materials List:
Aluminum Tape $12
Duct Tape (any color) $2
Makey Makey $50
CAT cable (there's one lying around your library trust me) or just use regular wire
Wire strippers
12 x 12 x 1.5 in puzzle piece exercise mat $12
white 6 x 8 tarp (but could be smaller) $12
Computer with internet running Scratch

This video shows a demonstration with step by step picture instructions and a more detailed video explanation. I got the idea from two sites that I used for consult: Ed Tech Junkies & Make It At Your Li…

Attending the World Maker Faire in NYC

As I was already on New York on family business, I decided to swing by the World Maker Faire at the New York State Hall of Science in Queens on Sunday. It was fun!

Lots of corporate booths and lots of small start-ups were present. One nice thing about it was that there was a lot for all ages of kids to do. There was a construction area for very young children and lots of small venues for talks, which weren't going on when I was there.

The corporate presence was very heavy: Google, Intel, Microsoft, Little Bits, Lego Mindstorm and a host of 3D printer companies all had big tents.



The funny thing is, I feel that we have already done a bunch of the stuff the World Maker Faire was touting: learning to solder, exploring Arduino, building with cardboard, making marble shoots and slides... we'll continue to do these things here in Duxbury, but I'm just as happy that we focused on attending the Cape Cod Maker Faire each year as opposed to making the huge investment of time and mon…

Inventions to Make Cardboard Construction Easier

I have come across two products that would make cardboard/recyclable construction creations (especially for younger kids) much easier without all that scotch tape, staples, and box cutters.
Strawbees
Strawbees securely connect to straws to allow them to move and build crazy contraptions. After watching the video, I was sold. The opportunities are endless: bridges, masks, even a lantern fish that actually works! They come in sets ranging from $20-$80 through their store with a $15 standard flat rate shipping. I bought the $40 box which includes 368 connector pieces.  Could I have printed out my own on a 3D printer? Possibly. I'll have to see when the kit comes in. We have LOTS of straws at the library that I discovered after cleaning the craft closet.  They could be left out on a makerspace cart for students to explore on their own time or built into an already designed program. This will be used in our Tinkering Tuesday STEM programs as well as our drop in building programs (which…

3D scan and print yourself

Posted by our talented Simmons Graduate School intern, Tyler Kenney:

3D scanning has come to the library, and with it the ability to 3D print yourself.  By using an Xbox 360 Kinect and simply spinning in a chair, you can scan and print a bust of yourself.


To get started, make sure the Kinect is plugged in (into the computer and into the wall) and launch Skanect, which should be located on the iMac's desktop.  With Skanect launched just click 'new' (the default settings will work fine), and then 'start' - shown below:
After clicking 'start' it will bring you to this screen:

Now is when you want to correctly position yourself.  The white box outline shows the area that will be recorded.  Grab the mouse (you will need it later) and position yourself accordingly.  With the mouse on your lap, click the record button (the red button with a black center).  Once it starts recording, stay as still as possible and slowly rotate the chair with your feet 2-3 times.  Wh…

Using Tinkerplay app for 3D printing action figures

In just 15 minutes (besides the fight I had with our laptops not having a .zip file extractor) I was able to create a 3D action figure using AutoCad's Tinkerplay app for the iPad. That's the easiest part.

Tinkerplay, from the makers of Tinkercad, comes with already made parts that anyone can select to build a customized action figure in minutes. Although the options are a bit limited, tinkerplay could be a jumping off point for kids interested in designing their own toys with connectable parts.


Once the app is opened,you are brought to a blank plane. The top right corner allows you to select each part. The outer line of the wheel are the available options, while the wheel before displays the location of the part (head, chest, feet, hands). Once the grey part is selected merely drag it with your finger onto the plane. A simple tap of your finger on the part will bring up deleting or moving options.
Once you have built your figure, press the bright green button on the b…

The marriage of art and technology

We finally had our Grand Reveal for our Arduino Garden Wall last Thursday and it was fun seeing the reaction from youth and adults alike. Some found the Garden Wall perplexing, "What is this doing here?" Some found it delightful, "You had youth, an artist, and an engineer working together on this?"

Bringing over our Ultimaker2 and having it running a loop of bracelet-making was also a big hit.

Because the artwork is on a rolling partition, bringing it up to the Reference floor was not a huge problem. We had made sure there were no delicate wires dragging and no reason why we couldn't fold it up fairly close to get it into the elevator.

Because it is so colorful and the visuals Sally Dean created are so delightful, it can hold up to being turned off most of the time and still be a visually pleasant addition to the surroundings.

We will keep it in its current location for a few weeks and then move it back against a wall near to the Digital Media Lab where so much …

3D Printing Etsy Store: Empowering Local Crafters

Looking for a fun way to empower the local crafter? Check out Etsy, an internet based shopping website that allows anyone to buy and sell their hand made merchandise. 3D printed materials still count in the "hand made" universe. All you need to do is set up a shop and take pictures of your work. If someone were to print with our $1 an hour charge, they could make earrings for a product cost to them of $1-3 (based on size), use a dremel or small drill to make a hole, and go to Michaels, or another local craft store, for the stainless steel earring hooks and you are in business for profit! (beware of copyright infringement such as printing items from Nintendo, Disney, etc.)

This is from Fish3Ddesigns, which prints using a Makerbot Replicator 3D printer in PLA. It sells for $22.00 on Etsy plus shipping.

I'd be interested to hear from an Etsy shop owner how good business is but with such a low start up cost it would be worth a try anyway.  Just another way to show librar…

3D Printing: The New Reference Interview?

If you are thinking about implementing a pay to print service with the 3D printer for kids, it won't be something simple as dropping off a file and walking away at least for the first few prints. It is as much a trial and error process for us as it is for the designer.  In library school, they teach us the importance of the reference interview, how to properly cull what a person really wants out of a simple question. If they were looking for architecture books, do they want photography? how to build? famous builders throughout the centuries? Is it a school project or just a hobby?

When a student comes to drop off a 3D print job, questions need to be asked. The librarian will have to look at the design as a .stl file and open it into the propriety software of the 3D printer they have before printing. Cura in the case of the Ultimaker for us, or Cube for our Cube 2D printers.  Once the file is saved as a Cube file, it cannot be edited so always saving the original .stl file is impor…

Mad Science Mondays come to a close

Another round of weekly summer Mad Science Mondays comes to a close. These were drop in science & art based programs for grades K and up with an adult taking place in the children's room for a 2 hour drop in. We did this for the first time last summer. It was so successful we decided to do it again. Our schedule was as follows: (keeping in mind Superheroes as our summer reading theme)

Superhero Gadgets-Use littleBits to make your own gadgets for your hero tool belt
Superhero Lairs- Make your own secret hideout
Superhero Traps-Make Rube Goldberg inspired designs to capture your enemies
Superhero Minions- Build and program your own Lego robot to do your bidding

We were fortunate enough to get a donation of refrigerator boxes from a local appliance store to help us with lairs (think about where you can store these before the program. In our case we had a delivery of boxes two months before and things got tight!).  If lairs would be too big to store, I suggest making superhero ca…