Archive for August 13, 2013

Maker Camp: how, what and why

If you have been following libraries in the news lately (I’m sure you have been, right?) you may have heard about Maker Spaces or Hacker Spaces and how libraries are getting into the game. At it’s simplest form, a Maker Space is place for people to come together to connect, invent and create.  It’s like taking what traditionally happens at the library – phase 1 stuff – stuff like research, learning new skills, book learning – and taking it to the next level of doing.

So the question becomes how? If you build it will they come?  Build what, exactly?  A room of gadgets and gizmos? 3D printers and soldering irons?  Who will supervise it and how will it work?  You can see why libraries are hesitant.  Not because it’s a bad idea, but because of the fundamental question of how.

I did some research (phase 1 stuff) and stumbled upon Make Magazine. Then I dug deeper and saw they had a Maker Camp program of free virtual summer camp for teens.  It had Google+ hangouts you could join and archived YouTube video instructions for all kinds of awesome programs.  Material lists were provided and it seemed like a good match.

And it was.  I’ll be honest, I was a little terrified.  I mean, screwdrivers, robots and dirt aren’t normally my jam.  But I do love crafts.  And I’m game when it comes to trying something new for the sake of the teens and to get them excited about the library.  So I decided on the what part of it – the projects we would try.  I originally picked last year’s Maker Camp Mason Jar Terrariums as a good place to start.  Besides the fact that I had to cart bags of dirt and rocks into the library from Home Depot, it seemed small-scale and easy enough for me to handle.   So that was on the schedule. And it was awesome.  Major thanks go out to the wonderful custodians who know I’m crazy and don’t complain about the mess.

I tweaked the terrarium idea to something I’d been seeing on Pinterest – fairy gardens.  So with the addition of some miniature objects (and zombie hands made from clay) we made the terrariums into fairy gardens/graveyards.  Creepy cute!


Next, I felt I needed to do something with robots, because, well, just because!  I don’t know squat about robots, but I did find robot kits online.  Not too expensive, and all I had to do was pick out a few different types (like this: from, get a few screwdrivers and batteries and figure out the program format.  As you can see from my previous post on Robot Wars, it was a big hit and the teens worked together in teams to get their robots down the track.

I wanted to round out the slate of Maker Camp programs with something educational and we were lucky enough to have a local team of inventors stop by the library in the spring with their own homemade 3D printer.  So, thanks to Alexander Santoro and Hamilton Fredericks, we were able to hold a 3D Printer Demonstration at the library.  And although they teens themselves didn’t make anything this time around, they got to see the process live and ask really intelligent questions about the implications for medical technology and manufacturing.

They will be returning in the fall for a 2-part workshop where the teens WILL be able to design and make their own 3D prints.

That sums up the what of what we did.

That leaves us with why? Why the library?  Well, because it’s an extention of what we do already – teaching by doing.  We’ve always held workshops, crafts and lectures, but it’s time to pass the baton and let the teens learn STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) by doing.  They had a great time and probably didn’t even realize how much they were learning along the way (which can be key with teens)!

Just wanted to share a little about how I come up with new programs and how I was inspired by Make Magazine and their Maker Camp.

Sharon Long

Teen Services Librarian

Robot Wars!!!

Monday night was our first ever Robot Wars at the library.  Marketed as part of our Maker Camp series of programs, (which included a 3D Printing demo and the Mason Jar Terrariums we’ll be making this upcoming Monday) Maker Camp: Robot Wars was a chance for teens to get out the screwdrivers and battle their ‘bots down the runway.

We had 26 teens participate and divided them into 5 teams:

Each team received a mystery package containing a kit to create a robot.

After  reading through lengthy instructions and a lot of assembly:

We had 4 completed robots to try out the runway:

(Yes, 4 robots.  The Smart Bot had a broken wire and sadly didn’t make it.)

Check out our robot video on facebook!

Sharon Long

Teen Services Librarian