Sunday, April 26, 2015

Breaking the barrier between techie and artist

Moving library programming from passive to active modes has attracted and revealed many people's dual strengths. We love it when the artistic side of people's personalities meets up with their nerdy, techie side. Regular, reliable times when teens can come in to tinker has opened up programs to many busy teens who may have thought they couldn't possible squeeze in another activity.

Cases in point:

Lauren Matthews, a poet, fan fiction writer, and excellent conversationalist, is also keenly interested in creating sculptures and objects with our 3D printers. She is also a whiz at Garageband and photo editing tools, a useful skill when creating our Radiofaces podcasts.

Ted Wahle is a big, big, music fan. He hosts one of our music-themed podcasts and has become an expert on designing for the 3D printer. He likes to pursue his artistic as well as his techie side.
He's hoping to do some live streaming interviews for us at the Levitate music festival this summer!

At the library, in our open-ended, Hackerlab-style programs, these two talented teens can go as far as they want without feeling like there is a grade or a performance riding on their efforts.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Do you want to be a littleBits global chapter?

littleBits has rolled out it's latest collaborative venture, global chapters. Global chapters have an 8 event commitment per year which is easy for any library or school with a variety of littleBits collections and regular after school science programming.  Why not use this as a stepping stone into a year wide goal of science programming?  8 events is not even once a month and we are already planning for 3 events this summer with the superhero theme. In our Mad Science Mondays littleBits will be out for use in setting superhero traps/gadgets and building lairs or hideouts. In our Cardboard Car Drive In, littleBits will be out to add horns and lights as design options for the cars. Kids will watch a short film after they decorate their cars.

In exchange for becoming a chapter, you can get lots of swag, a global resource of educators to share ideas with in monthly support calls, and free event marketing from the littleBits website. The only chapter so far in Massachusetts is the Museum of Science so what are you waiting for? Getting your application ready!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Happy National Library Week!

I was so glad that this year's ALA National Library Week was "Unlimited Possibilities @ Your Library" because I feel that way in my job most days. Today I'm designing displays, tomorrow I'm coming up with a new marketing campaign, and the day after I could be 3D Printing. The profession itself is full of possibilities that can tap into a wide array of talents. I am rarely bored. This year we have made many updates to our collection and the library itself to include checking out hobby/science kits, ROKUs, interactive displays, a Digital Media Lab, and 3D printers to change the way the community sees the library and to invite new collaborators to share in our experiences. We have had the chance to meet inventors and fellow makers due to our Makerspace initiatives that didn't consider themselves regular library users in the past.
In honor of National Library Week, Ellen made 3D printed pins for us and the children's department hosted a science based program to use the #librarymade hashtag component on our social media sites. Our Science Wednesday had to compete with a very nice outdoor day but we still managed to spark some interest by putting up a Ferris Wheel made from the Lego WeDo additional kit on the help desk during our after school rush.  Kids asked how it worked then they could then go to any public computer with a WeDo set and work on their own project. At one point, we experimented with 3 projects going from one computer and they all worked using the same code. I love when tinkering and asking science questions actually WORKS!

It's fascinating to watch all the different learning approaches. We had 2 students who just started picking up the Lego pieces and making their own working machines while others meticulously followed the directions on ready made projects. One student watched another kid make a lion and then he went back to rework his lion and edited the code so he jumped like a jackhammer. A parent who wanted to purchase Lego Mindstorms for her 3rd grader said that this was a much easier entry into the robotics program than Mindstorms for the younger audience.  By only having 3 easy to distinguish control modules: the motor, the tilt switch and the motion sensor, kids are not overwhelmed in the building or coding aspects of WeDo (and neither are parents or other librarians).

Our origami bunnies even went for a ride on the wheel. Talk about high and low tech makerspaces converging.  The word makerspace itself has unlimited possibilities.

Using TinkerCad to build a 3D project

The best way to start designing for a 3D printer is to play with the online program, TinkerCad. This has been our go-to program for our Tinkering Tuesdays in March & April. It does require an internet connection so prepare in advance for any wireless connection issues.

We have been able to go from zero knowledge to creating some funny objects pretty fast using this powerful software. Sign up for a free account and you're ready to build. They have online tutorials to guide you through the beginning process upon your first sign in. My only complaint is they don't have anyway to accurately tell you that you have completed the lesson before moving on to the next. We are fortunate enough to have a account which hosts TinkerCad tutorials too but she talks very fast! Between these two resources, we quickly came up to speed with an accessible program that patrons can work with even at home.

For TinkerCad, it's all about already made shapes (including letters and numbers) so if that's the way you like to draw you are in luck. By combining and manipulating circular shapes, our talent staff member Lindsey was able to make a PEEP award for our diorama contest.

In my opinion, one of the hardest things about TinkerCad is making sure you are level with the work plane (the graph in blue) and each piece sits directly on top of each other.

Always be aware of the size of what students are designing (it is in metric).  We required everyone to stick with very flat designs in the beginning which was easier for our Cube printers to print (since they don't have a heated plate and tend to have issues sticking to the glass plate if the base design is flimsy) and it enabled more kids to get a chance to see their items printed in real time. If a completed print job was over a half an hour they had to come pick it up next class.  When students couldn't finish their project during our hour and a half each week they were able to go home and work on them through their own web browser and internet connection. This was perfect homework motivation because the next week they would be ready to print something when class started and feel the accomplishment of taking it home that very day.

Check out these great keyboard shortcuts-tinkercad.