Other than its width, the 3D Scribbler feels and works like any other pen with one main difference: It can draw in the air. And the only thing standing between you and this rudimentary 3D printer is a library card.The 3D Scribbler is one of six different pieces of “maker” equipment now available for check out from the Latah County Library. These “Make Kits” are designed to give tweens and teens more access to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) exploration.
“Making is similar to crafting and DIY (do it yourself) — you’re creating something,” explained Jacki Fulwood, the former youth services librarian who set up the program. Making uses technology, she added, whether it’s high-tech or low-tech.
“You’re experimenting with design skills in a way that’s open-ended,” Fulwood said.
Besides designing, experimenting and using technology, Fulwood added there is typically some kind of social component to the process of making, whether it’s in-person or interacting online as people explore ideas and solutions.
“You want people to come and learn (at the library), but you also want them to go and experiment on their own,” Fulwood said. The take-home kits allow for just that.
The 3D Scribblers pen gets hot like a glue gun and “writes” with plastic that is fed into the back of the pen. It takes some practice to get used to it, Fulwood said, which is why the product recommendation is for ages 14 and older.
Some of the items are designed for kids as young as 8, including the Makey Makey, a pre-programmed controller board that connects to a computer. Alligator clips then connect the Makey Makey board to — well, anything that conducts electricity including bananas, friends and playdough. These objects then become “keys” that tell the computer what to do, just like a keyboard or mouse does. In that way, the Makey Makey can turn your friends into a drum set, bananas into a piano or playdough into a game controller.
“It’s supposed to encourage people to invent,” Fulwood said.
Other kits include a Raspberry Pi (a credit-card-sized computer), an Arduino controller (similar to the Makey Makey, but not pre-programmed) and a Little Bit circuitry kit that allows kids to magnetically build a circuit that can be used to do various things like rotate lamp shades and set off buzzers. Rounding out the current collection is a Finch robot with environmental sensors that can be programmed to move forward and avoid objects.
Not surprisingly, you’ll have to wait in line to get one of these kits.
“They’re all checked out, all of the time,” Fulwood said.
Latah County Library patrons can place a hold to get in line for a kit they are interested in and pick it up at any of its branches. Additionally, books that explore making are available in the teen area at the Moscow Library.
The equipment and training to use them was made available by grants; a second round will be available in coming months.
“Nationally, a lot of libraries are using dedicated maker spaces,” Fulwood said. “But for us, we don’t have a place to do that. We needed something portable that could go to our branches.”
The library also has multiple copies of some of the items for use at library programming, like those that will take place at Teen Tech Week next week. Programming details can be found by calling the library at (208) 882-3925.
STEM at the Whitman County Library
The Whitman County Library has STEM bags available for check out that are designed for kids ages 3 to 5. Each themed bag comes with books, related tangibles and a lesson plan for younger kids as well as ideas for teaching concepts to older kids. The bags are available at any of the library branches and in schools; there are currently 11 and more will be added as additional grant money comes in.
In addition to STEM bags, the library offers a Coding Camp for tweens and teens. The first ongoing camp allows students to create controls for an LED light apparatus and a second camp, expected to debut this summer, allows students to program a robot to follow a drawn black line.
Related Upcoming Events
WHAT: Fifth annual “Imagine Your STEM Career Conference for Girls” with nine hands-on workshops and a presentation
WHEN: Saturday, 8:30 to 11:15 a.m. for kindergarten through fifth grades and 8:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. for grades sixth through 12th
WHERE: Lewis-Clark State College campus in Lewiston
COST: $10/student at the door
WHAT: “Adult STEM Training” designed for teachers, providers, librarians, and others interested in STEM concepts for preschoolers. Includes four free State Training And Registry System (STARS) hours.
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 12
WHERE: Whitman County Library in Colfax
COST: Free. To register or get on waiting list, call Sheri Miller at (509) 397-4366.