Posted in Holiday Programs, Makerspace

Christmas in the Makerspace

We recently turned out teen room into a makerspace and while we used to decorate the teen room for the holidays, I wanted to do something different for the makerspace.  Instead of simply putting up decor and trimming the tree, teens will make ornaments for our the tree and to take home.  All of my ideas came from Pinterest.  If you’d like to follow me on Pinterest, I have a link to my page on the right of this post.

Ornaments Ideas:

Ornaments with Hot Glue

Hot glue -For some strange reason, our teens love the hot glue gun.  It’s like normal glue is useless because they only want to hot glue things together.  To satiate the love, they’ll make snowflakes using hot glue and nail polish or paint.  Here’s the craft on Pinterest.

Hot glue and Modge Podge Snowflakes

Pipe Cleaner and Borax Snowflakes

Don’t have a tree but have windows? Snowflake Window Cling Snowflake Window Cling

Ornaments with Popsicle Sticks


Tree Tree

Clear Balled Ornaments-  I purchased ornaments at The Dollar Tree for 2/$1

Harry Potter Themed


Teen’s Names

Melted Crayon

Sewing/Yarn Ornaments

Trees & Stars

Yarn Hats

And of course you can’t forget good old 3D printing ornaments.

Happy Holidays!




Posted in Makerspace

Unicorn Party

Yes, teens still like unicorns so we hosted a maker party for these unicorn enthusiasts.

Supplies Needed for Headbands:

Felt sheets, headbands, poly-fit, hot glue, ribbon/string, flowers

Optional Supplies (Craft Closet Cleanout!)

Ribbon, gems, tule.

How to Make Horn Headbands:

  1. Print, cut out, and let teens the stencil on the felt.
  2. I followed this site.  I had teens use hot glue to make the horn instead of sewing because my teens don’t know how to sew and I was by myself and wouldn’t have had time to teach hand sewing.  I would, however, highly recommend teaching hand sewing; it’s a useful skill many teens lack.
  3. Teens could then use anything they wanted to decorate.

Using LEDs

Supplies Needed

Coin battery, battery holder, LEDs, hole punch

  1. This should be done before teens glue flowers to their horn.
  2. Using the hole punch, punch a hole through the center of a flower.
  3. Assemble the LED to the battery holder.
  4. Place the LED head through the flower hole.
  5. Hot glue the batter pack to the horn behind the flower.


Unicorn Shirts

E0fOVUmpSgOJH7OpcRnVGwDisclaimer: I bought t-shirts and screen printed a unicorn on the shirts using a stencil I made with my Silhouette and a cheap screen printing kit.  

If you have a Silhouette, Cricut, or some other vinyl cutting machine, you can make a stencil, have teens sponge fabric paint, let the shirts dry while the make their head band.

If you don’t have a cutting machine, you can buy a stencil and let teens sponge fabric paint.

Teens used puffy paint, fabric markers, and fabric spray paint to decorate their shirts.

We hired a face painter.

Have Fun!



Posted in Makerspace

Quick STEAM: Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead/Dia los de Muertos is November 2.  If you are crafting during your celebration and you are looking to add STEAM to them, check out this chibi mask.

You’ll Need:


Markers/colored pencils

Puffy Paint (optional)

Craft Stick


Copper tape


If you are looking for cheap ideas, the mask in the picture can be printed on cardstock. There are other masks to choose from if you do a Google image search.  You can also purchase masks for teens to color.

I will print the linked masks and blank masks for teens to make their own designs.  You can use puffy paint and markers to add dimension.


How to Add Chibis

I put the chibi on the front of the mask because it shines the brightest.  Please refer to the picture for directions.  Make sure the positive side of the copper tape touches the positive side of the battery and the same for the negative side.  If your chibi blinks or goes out, make sure your battery is taped down tightly.

Posted in Uncategorized

Teen Read Week: Unleash Your Story

Teen Read Week is October 8-14, 2017 with the tagline-Unleash Your Story.  At our library, we are taking this theme literally and will be hosting creative writing activities.  If you need creative writing ideas or you’d just like to see what TRW will look like at the Zion-Benton Public Library, enjoy.

Please find the worksheets mentioned here.

We will be hosting our annual short story contest during the month of October.  I wrote a post on hosting short story contests and you can read it here.

Monday, October 9th-Columbus Day-You Wanna Write Good?

Because students have the day off, we decided to take advantage and do hourly creative writing activities while serving pumpkin spiced treats. There will be a total of eight activities and they include:

  • Fantasy Maps-Many fantasy books include maps and the most exciting map I can think of is Game of Thrones.  To capitalize on map popularity, we will have teens create a fantasy world around a unique map.  To do the map, we’ll give teens plain or graph paper, a pencil, and a handful of gems, rocks (something that won’t roll).  they will drop the gems on the paper and trace around the gems to create their map.  After they remove their gems, they can name their world and the individual land masses, designate bodies of water, mountains, etc.
    • Teens will then begin their world building by filling out the worksheet.  If time permits, teens may begin writing their story.
  • Emoji Storytime-We have a big spinning wheel with removable inserts.  We will insert popular emoji’s and teens can spin the wheel four times and start a story based on the emojis they were given.  If you don’t have a wheel, you can buy large dice and glue emojis or you can print a bunch of emojis, lay them face down, and have teens pick at random.
  • Show Don’t Tell-I found this on Pinterest.
  • The Upside Down-This will be a lesson on writing parallel universes.  I had my coworker draw the picture in the Google Doc.
    • I will explain the definition of a parallel universe and how it differs from time travel and alternate universes.
    • Teens will then fill out the worksheet based on the picture to outline their story.
    • Teens may then begin their stories.
  • Cootie Catcher Fairytales-(We call them cootie catchers but your teens may call them fortune tellers.) Teens will choose a fairytale to reimagine.  They can swap the villain and the hero; turn the hero from a princess to an assassin; swap gender roles; etc.  See the cootie catcher below for instructions.
  • Brown Bag  Time Travel-Teens will choose a historical time period to send their hero/heroine.
    • I’ll make cards containing historic world events and attach the first Wikipedia page of that event.
    • I’ll have three paper bags that contain a genre, a mode of transportation, a mission.  Teens will have to pick from each bag.
    • Teens will then begin to outline their story by deciding the identities of the other crew members; what happens the moment they return from their mission (how has the world changed); and the info from the paper bags-genre; transportation; and mission.
  • Mashed Origin Stories-Teens will work with a partner and play MASH. They will re write their super heroes origin story based on their outcome.  Theywill then redo their superheroes logo.
  • Scary Stories-Teens will learn how to write a scary story
    • We will play Plinko.  If you don’t have a Plinko game, teens can choose from a cauldron, skeleton, or anything associated with Halloween.
    • From your containers, teens can choose a location, hero, or a sentence starter.
    • Teens will then outline their story and begin writing if time permits.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017-Webcomics

Webcomics are short comics that are posted to the web.  A notable webcomic is Cyanide and Happiness.  The graphic novel, Nimona, began as a webcomic.

  • First, you need to find a free hosting site or a free website for teens to upload their webcomics.  We will be using Comic Fury.  Teens will create their own account.  They do not need an email that they have to check to get started which is GREAT!  The website is cluttered but it’s easy to customize.
  • Next we will be working on the comic.  We will not be teaching art because webcomics rely more on story than art.  Teens don’t need to be great artists; they can draw stick figures, etc.  We will be stressing that webcomics are usually short and should have an engaging story.  Teens need to decide the genre-humor, fantasy, horror, contemporary, etc.  We will provide pencil and paper for teens to story board.
  • Once they have an idea, they may begin.  Our teens will use Adobe Draw on an iPad.  They can draw panels, the art and the words.  The advantage of Draw is that you can upload directly to Comic Fury without the possibility of blurry imagery.  You can create on paper but teens will have to scan and upload and make sure their image is at least 300dpi.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017-Animated Shorts

Animated shorts are short animation stories.   Our stories will be under 7 minutes.

  • We will be using the Do Ink Green Screen App and the Do Ink Drawing and Animation App. When purchased together, the cost is $5.99.
    • The Green Screen App is pretty easy to use once you figure out what goes in the foreground and the background.  The green screen tutorial is pretty good. The drawing app has one tutorial on how to animate stock drawings which is easy but doing your own animation was a bit of a challenge.
      • How to do your own drawings:
        • Tap “new drawing” in the new project window (+) and draw your picture.
        • Go back to gallery and tap “new composition.”
        • At the top of the new composition screen, tap the star shape to find and insert your original drawing. Tap your drawing to insert.
        • Watch the drawing app tutorial to learn how to animate.
  • Teens will begin by writing their short story.
  • They will then storyboarding each scene including dialog and animation.
  • They will use the Do Ink Animation app to draw or use stock images to animate.
  • Using the Do Ink Green Screen app, teens will film each scene and then add animation during editing.
  • If there is time, we will have a film festival and watch everyone’s shorts.  If there’s no time, we will post the films on Facebook and/or Youtube.

Thursday, October 12, 2017-Comic Jam

We are actually doing zines but our teens don’t know what a zine is so we changed the name to get teens in the door.

Zines are small magazines about whatever you want. Here is a link on how to make a zine.

Have a great Teen Read Week!

Posted in Makerspace

Quick STEAM: DIY Skull Caps

WINTER IS COMING so nows the time to do winter craft programs.

In October, we are hosting a week of bling where teens will decorate ball caps, skull caps, and will make a cell phone case.  I’ll post that in mid-October but I decided to do a separate post on our skull cap crafts.


Puff Ball

We’ve noticed that our teens do not understand the concept of reading directions.  So we now put paper instructions for most of our craft programs.  Paper instructions are also helpful when you expect a lot of teens but only have one or two staff.  TIP-Use more pictures and less text for your instruction sheet.  As you are practicing the craft, take pictures of each step including the supplies you are using for that step.  Put your pics together to make a step-by-step instruction sheet.

Here are my step-by-step instructions:

LED in Puff Ball

  1. Push the LED through the puff and into the hat.  Always test the LED to see if lights up.
  2. Turn the hat inside out and fold back the prongs into a curl.  Be sure to remember which prong is the + side.  Curl it differently or mark it with a Sharpie.
  3. Using the conductive thread, sew the positive side of the battery holder to the positive prong.  Sew about three loops around the holder and the prong to make it tight.  Make sure your stitches are small, otherwise, your LED may not light.  Cut the thread and repeat on the negative side.
  4. Insert the battery and your all done.
  5. You may want to sew or glue the puff ball to the hat to secure it even more.
  6. If your LED doesn’t work, change to battery, check your stitching, or make sure the threads you cut don’t touch.

Flowers on the Hat

The final step is missing, sorry.  Simply wrap the felt and glue the ends.


Glue gems in a desired shape.  Pom poms could also be used to decorate your hat.

The glue in the picture takes about 15 minutes to dry.  You can use hot glue if you’re in a time crunch.


Posted in Holiday Programs

Halloween Parties

Halloween Parties

It’s the end of August and school’s almost back in session so it’s time to start planning for Halloween.  Tired of your same old Halloween party?  Here are some Halloween themed parties that we’ve done at our library and some horror type activities that could fit for a Halloween party.

Poe Party (Edgar Allen Poe)

Believe it or not, teens like Poe.  Many middle schools and especially high school read his work in class and since teens like anything scary, they usually like Poe.

Please click the link to see our Poe Party.

Sugar Skulls/Day of the Dead

sugar skullsWe hired someone to facilitate this program and chances are there is someone in your community you can hire.  Sugar Skulls is part of Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and you literally decorate skulls made of sugar.  If you bring in a facilitator, they will probably provide a short history lesson and bring all the supplies which is great.

If you want to do them without hiring someone, you’ll probably have to order the skulls and frosting from a speciality store because I don’t think they are available on Amazon.  If you just want to do a Day of the Dead party, you can find ceramic skulls and wooden skulls on Oriental Trading.

If you want to pair with a book, Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier and Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova feature The Day of the Dead.

Murder Mysteries

Murder mysteries are a popular program at my library that we do annually. We do ours in January but one could still do them during Halloween.  The great thing about murder mysteries is that they are cheap but the bad thing is that they require A LOT of staff time.   our murder mysteries always require teen participation (actors) and an original script and these are the time suckers.  If you aren’t worried about that, please click the links below to see our past murder mysteries.

Death at a Slumber Party

Library Horror Story

We had a Medieval Murder Mystery and the actors were staff.  For this program, we had a joke contest, a joust tournament (NCAA style), and they learned a traditional dance.  We also had one of the staffers read a story from Canterbury Tales-Miller’s Wife.  We served fried chicken, potato wedges, and “mead.”

This was my first murder mystery so I didn’t save the script but the characters were a queen, a king, a prince, a princess, and the queen’s maid who was having an affair with the king.  The queen is poisoned and the teens had to guess whodunit.  Everyone had a motive.  The queen’s maid was the murderer because of the affair but we didn’t make their affair obvious to the teens.  If they were paying attention, they would have seen the one clue.  This was actually one of the best murder mysteries simply because the staff really committed to the play.

The following programs we did not do at our library but they are still good ideas that we might try.

Spooky Nails

pumpkin spice 5

This is a bit girly but some of the boys did it for fun.

We asked staff to donate any unwanted nail polish.  We purchased black, white, and purple if no one donated.  We also purchased polish remover and cotton balls.


Not-Quite-Halloween-Yet-Still-Fall-Themed: Pumpkin Spice Party

pumpkin spice 11

Somewhere around the middle of September, everything at the grocery store has a pumpkin spice flavor, thanks Starbucks.  So we decided to turn this into a themed party!

Decorations: We held this around Halloween and we were in our teen room so however we decorated the room, that was our decor.

Promotion: Besides our normal newsletter and flyer promotion, we did a book display of orange/red covered books in a nice fall basket.

Food: Pumpkin Spice flavored hot & iced coffee; pumpkin spice donuts; pumpkin spice Oreos; pumpkin spice popcorn; pumpkin spice cupcakes.

Activities: We made pumpkin spice lip gloss.  Search Pinterest for DIY lip gloss. It’s really easy to make-bees wax, essential oils, pumpkin spice food flavoring, and we did crayon for tint. You can purchase little glass containers at Hobby Lobby or Michaels.


Haunted Gingerbread Houses

Halloween at Hogwarts-You can recreate the Deathday Party Harry, Ron, and Hermione attend hosted by Nearly Headless Nick in book #2/chapter 8.

Jack Skellington Party (Nightmare Before Christmas)

Goosebumps Party (for younger teens and if your Goosebumps books still go out)

Breakout EDU-The kit costs $200 and Google provides step by step instructions for several escape room ideas.

Posted in Big Programs

Teen Read Week: Short Story Contest

The theme for Teen Read Week 2017 is Unleash Your Story which makes it the perfect time to host a short story contest for your teens.  At my library, we run an annual short story contest and 2017 will be our 5th annual.  If you are interested in hosting a contest at your library, here’s how we organize ours-ZB Inked Short Story Contest.

What Should the Rules Be?

Rules are IMPORTANT for your participants and your sanity.  Make sure your rules are appropriate for your demographic and something you can handle.  Here are our more important rules:

  • Stories should be no longer than 4 pages.  You may be inundated with hundreds zb inked 2of stories and to maintain your sanity, limit the number of pages.  In previous years, it was a three page max but our teens complained and we increased it.  We also have the rule…
  • Teens may submit up to two stories.  Once again, please be mindful of your sanity.  We did this because our contest is not themed and our teens were conflicted between what story to submit.  One teen also found this as a loophole to the 4 page limit.  He was frustrated because he couldn’t condense his story so he submitted chapter one and chapter two as two separate stories.  He won first place that year.
  • The contest is only open to teens in our district.  Some libraries open their contest to anyone but we live in a lower income community and some of our submissions are good stories but poorly executed.  We also live in one of the wealthiest counties in the state with the best schools and many, not all but many, of our teens can’t quite compete.  We want the teens in our district to have a shot at winning. I know that sounds like we have no faith in our teens/schools but in previous years, teens in neighboring districts took all three awards so we decided to limit the contest.  We occasionally get the teacher who lives out of the district and asks if their kid can participate but we sadly decline their submission.
  • We only allow emailed submissions.  This is actually a new rule for this year.  We create an anthology of the winners and it’s easier to print from email than copy from paper.  If you are opening your contest to younger teens, 4th-5th grade, you may consider paper submissions as younger teens don’t have computers or email at school.
  • Grammar Counts.  We have a strict grammar rule and since then, the submissions have been thoroughly proofread.  We also tell our teens they will be judged on creativity, originality, and use of characters.
  • We have two grade categories: 6th-8th & 9th-12th. If just isn’t fair to make a 6th grader compete with a 12th grader.
  • Not all prizes are guaranteed.  In other words, there might not be a third place winner.  On low submission years, we didn’t have good stories but we said there would be 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes awarded.  This year, we will not award bad stories.
  • We don’t sensor the teens.  We do ask that they use family friendly language but they may write about abuse, LGBTQ, violence, gore, mental health, etc.   We have received submissions about abortion and gay characters and we’ve never received any complaints from parents.  We do however, put a disclaimer on those stories in the anthology.
  • Other important rules: Have a clear cut of date and time for submission deadlines.  9pm to midnight is best because teens tend to work late into the evening.  Have one email for submissions and questions.  Express an acceptable type font and size-we do Times New Roman/12/double-spaced.  Express the date when you will announce the winners otherwise you’ll have teens asking every day. Give yourself two to three weeks to judge.

ZB Library Short Story Flyer/Rules


zb inked
Contest winner with Stacey Kade

Prizes are up to your budget but whatever your prize, list it on the flyer.

  • We host an author visit every Spring and one of our contest prizes is to have dinner with the author.  Teens enjoy this because the dinner is usually limited to 10 teens and they can ask all the questions they desire.

Get The Word Out-CHEAPLY

We live in a community where we have to jump through hoops to promote our programs and services.  If you work at a library where people actually read their newsletter, congrats and you can probably skip this part.  If you aren’t so lucky, here’s what we do:

  • Schools. We usually just send flyers to English/reading teachers and librarians but this year we will also send free books.  We received a large donation from Scholastic and we will be giving out approx. 500 books.
    • Asking Publishers for Book Donations.  We simply visit all book publishers, find the school/library marketing contact, and ask for donations.  We always describe our program and intent with the books.  You’ll receive lots of no’s but you may get lucky like we did.
    • Teachers.  Ask a teacher, librarian, or principal from each school to judge the contest.  They will be invested in the contest and encourage their students to enter.
      • At our library, our teen staff chooses the top six finalists and we have teachers judge the finalists.  Teachers are busy so don’t give them more work.
  • Social Media.  
    • Try a Facebook or Instagram boost.  Boosts are cheap ($7-$20) and they reach hundreds of patrons IN YOUR COMMUNITY.  When you post on FB, you’ll see a blue button that says, “boost.”  Click it and follow the directions.
    • Weeks leading up to the deadline, I post creative writing tips.  This is a different way of reminding your followers of the contest without being annoying.
  • Wattpad
    • Wattpad is a website where people publish their short stories and novels.  LOTS of teens read and write on Wattpad so this year we will include it in our contest.
      • We’ve created an account and teens can easily share the story with us on Wattpad and it will count as their entry.


We use a rubric that you may use below.  We also deduct points for not including a full name, grade, and school.  We put this on the rule sheet.  We do this to make teens accountable for life.  In life, you have to put your contact info; might as well start now.

We take the average from every judge to determine our winners.  We also encourage judges to make comments.

Judging Rubric

When you’ve chosen a winner, take a picture and see if you can get it in your local newspaper so that your patrons will look out for your contest next year.

zb inke


Posted in Makerspace

DIY Smashbooks

Smash books are a type of journal that includes one’s interests.  For example if you are a theater buff, you can put all your stubs, playbills, pictures, etc in your smash book.

Smash books are an inexpensive program which gives your teens an opportunity for expression while allowing you to clear out your old craft supplies.

Supplies Needed:


  • Binder Ringssmashbook2
  • Cardboard for front and back cover
  • Scissors
  • Glue/glue dots
  • Paper Inserts


  • Envelopes to hold concert tickets/stubs, etc
  • Hole Punch to add additional decorative paper and envelopes.
  • Gems
  • Washi tape
  • Magazines for cutting pics and words
  • Decorative paper
  • Fun Stickers
  • Anything decorative you have in your craft closet

How to Smash Book

  1. Pre hole punch your cardboard and paper inserts.
  2. Give each teen two pieces of cardboard, paper inserts, and three binder rings.
  3. Set out all the supplies in the middle of the table.
  4. Have teens decide the theme of their smash book first so that they can choose their pictures, stickers, and decor accordingly.
  5. Let teens create.


The Smashbook program was organized and facilitated by my co-worker, Elise.

Posted in Makerspace

Terrariums & Fairy Gardens

Terrariums are a great, albeit expensive, way to introduce the S in STEAM and fairy gardens are a great way to introduce a new A in STEAM.

Disclaimer: Both programs were created a facilitated by my co-worker, Elise

Terrariums-garden science is actually quite popular among a specific group of teens.  These teens like planting and if you are unable to create a garden at your library, terrariums can be an alternative. 

Each layer in a terrarium has a purpose and this is where you can incorporate science.

Supplies Needed:

How To:  We made an assembly line with instructions.  FYI, this is a drop in type program and will take no longer than 15 minutes to complete.  

Layer One: one to two inch layer of pebbles for drainageterrariums 5

Layer Two: a thin layer of charcoal to prevent bacteria and mold

Layer Three: an inch or two of potting soil

Layer Four: Place the Succulent

Layer Five: Add figurines

Caring For the Terrarium: We gave each teen a sheet with care instructions

  • Keep terrarium in indirect sunlight
  • Lightly water each week with a spray bottle


Fairy Gardens are decorative and are more about an expression of art than science.  The folklore of fairy gardens is that they bring good luck. 

Supplies Needed:

  • Container- (we found random shallow boxes from Walmart, Target, and Dollar Store.  I’ve seen fairy gardens in tea cups.) terrariums 7
  • Bird Houses
  • Pebbles/Polished gravel
  • Moss (we used loose moss but it was messy and difficult to glue)
  • Figurines
  • Glue (E6000, hot glue, rubber cement)
  • Twigs (Picked from outside)
  • Pine cones (store bought or outside)
  • Craft sticks or other random craft supplies from your closet. (small plastic flowers, sea shells, fake leaves, butterflies)

How To: We put the house and the base on the main table and we laid out all the extras on a different table.  We gave each teen a plate to “shop” all the extras-grab what they liked to add to their garden.

Tip: Leave out pictures for inspiration and provide a couple of minutes for teens to design their garden on paper.  If you want to turn this into a design class, you can teach the basics of city planning.



Posted in Makerspace

Quick STEAM: eTextiles

Looking for a quick LED project on something other than paper? Try sewable LEDs on a t-shirt.



How To:

  1. Test your LED sequins first with alligator clips.
  2. As you can see from the picture, I used the pocket of the t-shirt.  If you are working with novices, I’d recommend you not use the pocket because it got a bit tricky avoiding sewing the pocket shut.
  3. Have teens design a picture on paper to plan where they are going to place the LED.
    1. Keep in mind that one side of the LED must connect to the positive side of the battery holder and the negative to the other side.  This means two different tracks.  I found using one sequins is best for novices.
    2. TIP-It’s best to draw a picture that has a mirror image and then place the sequins in the middle.
  4. Have teens lightly pencil draw their picture on the t-shirt.  This is to keep their sewing straight.  Remember to hold a place for the sequins.
  5. Thread your needle.  Don’t double thread like you do traditional sewing thread.  It will be too thick.  In other words, don’t pull your thread through the eye of the needle to create two strands of thread like traditional threading.
  6. On the under side of the t-shirt, secure one side of the batter holder by looping through three times.
  7. Sew your track to your sequins.
  8. IMPORTANT!!! Make sure the positive side of the sequins faces the positive side of the battery holder.
  9. Begin a new line of thread for the other side of the battery holder and repeat.
  10. Insert the battery and cross your fingers that it works.




If your LED doesn’t work:

  • Make sure you have a good battery.
  • Be sure your threads don’t touch.  This is usually the problem.
  • Make sure your sequins +/- lines up with the battery.


Posted in Makerspace

3D Print Your Own Fidget Spinner

Being a programming librarian basically means that we have to always be ready for the next trend.  Last summer it was Pokemon Go and this summer it has been fidget spinners.  How can libraries capitalize on the fidget spinner craze before they go out of style?  3D print them.



Disclaimer: this program was created a facilitated by my co-worker Elise and I was a mere helper.



  • Elise began by determining the dimensions of the center ring (where the ball bearing sits). We have a Lulzbot Mini and we use Cura to print.  The center ring dimensions are: 24.5×24.5×8 (circumference-24.5 and height-8).

If you are using a different printer, you can use the dimensions of the ball bearing you purchase and go from there.  We ran into issues with this method because Cura changed the dimensions when it printed.  We don’t know why and poor Elise had to print about 8 rings until she found the correct dimensions.

  • Soak your ball bearings in rubbing alcohol to clean them.  A clean bearing spins better.


Before the class began, the teens were told that their spinners would not be printed by the end of program.  We had teens write down their address and they were told that their spinners would be mailed to them the following week.  This eliminates the highly likelihood of them coming into the library every hour asking for updates.


  • We use Tinkercad to teach the basics of 3D printing design.  All attendees who have never 3D printed had to take six basic lessons on Tinkercad.
  • Next, we had teens begin with the ring shape and had them change the dimensions to 24.5×24.5×8.
  • Teens were then instructed to design around the center ring.
  • Tips: Everything must be the same height and touching.


  • We were able to print two spinners during the program.  Teens used a hammer to secure their bearing.
  • We informed teens to apply grease to get a longer spin.
Posted in Makerspace

Conductive Music and Art

 You can make a piano, a guitar, or a complete band.  OR teens can create a comic/visual story and add sound effects.

Here’s How:

Supplies Needed:

  • Conductive paint
  • copper wire
  • Foam board
  • Paint brushes
  • Drawing utensils (pencils, markers, rulers, etc)
  • Touch Board / touch board kit (I prefer the touch board to Makey Makey b/c there are no wires)
  • Speaker (if you don’t buy the touch board kit)
  • Alligator clips
  • A computer(s)


To make a piano:


  1. Using conductive paint to paint large squares on the foam board to make keys.   The touch board allows for 12 sounds/notes.  As you see in the picture, we made big squares so we used two boards.
  2. Using copper tape or conductive paint (I prefer tape b/c it isn’t as finicky as paint), connect your squares/keys to the other side of the board. In the picture above, you can see the lines leading from the squares to the edge of the other side of the board.  You can use tape instead of paint for the lines.
  3. Follow the instructions in the packaging to add sounds to the touch board. It’s very easy.  We used zapsplat.com to get free sound effects/notes.
  4. Put the touch board directly on the board and use tape to adhere it better. I found it easier to use copper tape to attach the touch board to the foam board. The picture below shows the tape on top of the touch board.


You can make other instruments the same way just download different notes.

You can also put the piano on the floor and let patrons step on it in their socks.

If you can only afford one touch board, you can use the the same touch board for different instruments b/c the board provides 12 sounds.  Simply put all the instruments on the same board or tape several boards together.  You can draw lines with paint or tapes to the touch board.  See all my lines with the picture below.  (This is our interactive mural.  Click here to see the video.

This is our interactive mural.

To make art/comic:

  1. Ask the teens to draw something that has a lot of sound.  We used an example of beach scene or a house.
  2. The touch board holds twelve sounds.  If you have one board/teen that’s great but if you only have one board for multiple teens, divide the sounds among them.  For example, we had six teens and three touch boards so each teen could have an art img_3045piece that could have six sounds.
    1. Have the teens decide what sounds they are going to incorporate before they begin drawing.
  3. Have teens draw their picture and draw their circuit lines.  The lines should extend to the border of the paper.
  4. Use conductive paint or copper tape to cover their hand drawn circuit lines. We used conductive paint. The advantage to copper tape is no drying time and it’s less finicky.
  5. Use alligator clips the attach conductive lines to the touch board.  This way, more teens can use the same board.

If the video below, you can see that we made interactive art on our wall.  If you have a teen room and can paint on the wall, go for it.

Posted in Makerspace

Smoothie Smash

Our teens love food programs and yours probably do too.  For the smoothie smash, we didn’t just follow a recipe, teens created their own recipes thus learning how to properly make a smoothie.

Budget: $35 (Frozen fruit, fresh bananas, milk, yogurt, orange juice, coconut flakes, and flavorings.)  We borrowed blenders from staff

  • Teens sat in groups of two to four and each group received a blender.
  • They saw a very short slide show on the smoothie making process and how to use a blender.
  • To make sure they were paying attention, they played a Kahoot game.  Kahoot is an online trivia platform where you can create the questions and the teens use the smart devices to log in and play.  ALL of our teens LOVE Kahoot and it’s free.  If you haven’t used it and you do lots of trivia games, I HIGHLY recommend it.
  • They were given a recipe for practice and they were given tips as they made it.
  • They tasted their smoothie and they were asked to evaluate and adjust by adding fruit.
  • They were then allowed to go to the ingredients table to make their own recipe.  They were given recipe cards and had to record the exact measurements-1 cup of yogurt, etc.
  • They blended their recipe and tweaked it.  Once they were satisfied, they wrote a fresh recipe card and named their smoothie.
  • They poured enough for the entire group to taste test and we then voted.
  • The winning group received a water infuser cup.  All teens received a page of smoothie recipes.

They really enjoyed the program of our course they provided more food program ideas like a soup competition.

Posted in Makerspace, Unboxing

April Unboxing: Moss Robot

Moss Robot from Modular Robotics

  • $200-$349
  • The box says ages 8 and up but if you don’t have advanced teens, I’d say 10 and up
  • One box can accommodate 4 students

Vote for the Next Unboxing in the comment box:

If there’s a product that you are thinking about and would like for me to unbox, leave it in the comments below.

Posted in Big Programs, Makerspace

Don’t Just Play Games; Make Them

We live in a community where teens play A LOT of games but they don’t know much about making them so we decided to create a day long game making bonanza and we called it Challenge Accepted.

Attendance: 84 (6th-12th grades and adults)

Budget: $500 (Game Truck, lunch, dinner, snacks)  We shared the cost of the game truck with the youth department.  You can save money by only offering snacks.

11am-1pm: Create Your Own Super Mario Bros Level or Minecraft Mod

Teens STILL love Super Mario Bros and we used that to hook them.  We used two different programs-Gamestar Mechanic and Pixel Press.



  • Gamestar Mechanic is done online through a website where teens play levels, similar to the game they are going to design, to acquire characters; obstacle; villains; etc.  Teens can go through a tutorial to learn the basics if you are not comfortable teaching game design.
    • Game Mechanic costs $2/student and you can receive a free trial to test.
    • The teens really liked Game Mechanic and I highly recommend it.
  • Pixel Press-Adventure Time is an app that allows the gamer to add coins, obstacles, and levels.
    • The app is $2.99 and you can upload it to multiple iPads.
    • This game has a steeper learning curve than Gamestar and I would say it’s more appropriate for an intermediate gamer/coder.
Pixel Press Adventure Time

Minecraft Mods

  • Tynker is an app that allows gamers to make their own worlds.
    • Tynker requires a subscription.
    • You have to have your own Minecraft server which is difficult for a library.
  • Kano is a arduino that can do the same as Tynker. We used Kano because we already purchased them with grant funds.
    • You have to purchase Kano kits for $150-$350/ea
    • Kano provides step by step instructions which is great for librarians who are Minecraft novices.
Making Minecraft Mods with Kano

1pm-3pm: Laser Tag/Game Truck

Game Truck is a big green truck that come to you to lead games.  We wanted to do laser tag on the library’s lawn as a energy release from sitting behind a computer all day.  It rained that day so we did video games instead.  Teens REALLY loves Game Truck even though it’s just gaming in a big truck.  I highly recommend it if you have it in your area.  You get it for two hours and it costs about $400.

Inside the Game Truck

3pm-5:30pm: DIY Board Game and 3D Print your Pawn/Die

Cooperative games are all the rage and I wanted teens to learn how to create their own board game.

  • I printed a blank game board from Google Images and stapled it to foam board.
  • I added space for cards like Chance cards from Monopoly.
  • I included space for title; description; objective; rules; and place to design pawn or die

Game Day

  • Teens were divided into groups of three or four.
  • Each group was given a game board, scratch paper, pencils, and colored pencils.
  • I allowed between 5-10 minutes for each item
    • Teens were asked to decide on the description; objective; rules; cards; die design; and title.
  • Teens were then allowed the rest of the time to create their board game.
  • One person was designated to design their pawn or die in Tinkercad-3D printing website.
    • We were able to print one pawn during the program and we told teens to return to pick up their piece.
      • We will print a pawn or die for each member of the group.

6-8pm: Dungeons and Dragons

We do not know how to play so we asked a staff member to be a dungeon master and to teach the basics of the game.  Since libraries are full of nerds, chances are you have a D&D player among your co workers or you can ask one of your teens.

Posted in Makerspace

I Just Got A Grant for a Makerspace! Now What?

I’ve seen this thread on Facebook several times.  Libraries are super excited to have a makerspace or maker activities and they apply for grants. When they receive the grants, library workers are told to purchase maker supplies but the librarian/library worker is new to the maker movement and doesn’t know where to begin.  If you’ve asked this question on Facebook or you are developing maker activities and don’t know where to begin, I’m here to assist you.

My library was tasked with developing a makerspace last year and we had to purchase equipment so I’ve been in your shoes. Here’s a breakdown of budget constraints and what to purchase to make the biggest impact.  This post will focus on equipment and not craft type making.  This post will also focus on equipment appropriate for ages 8 and up.

Tip #1: Avoid consumables.  Try to purchase equipment that can be used for months or years and avoid the one and done.

Tip #2: Always consider the number of teens you are serving.  Avoid purchasing a robot that only 2 kids can use at once when you are serving 20.  You can create centers/stations to accommodate a large group with a small number of equipment.

Tip #3: Consider “In App Purchases.” In other words, when budgeting, consider the cost of consumable supplies.  For example, if you are buying 3D pens, you’ll have to continuously  buy plastic and it can get expensive.

Budget- Under $250

  • Ozobots-$54/ea
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 8 and up
      • Ozobots are great for novice to advanced coders.
      • You can code the Ozobot Bit using a free app.  (We could not get it to work on a chromebook but you can use a computer.)
      • You can download lesson plans on the website.
      • Doesn’t violate TIP #3. All you need is paper and markers.
    • Cons:
      • Violates TIP #2-Only one to two teens can use it at once.
  • LEGO Edison-$50/ea
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 10 and up
      • Edison is great for novice to advanced coders.
      • You can code Edison using a free app or computer. (We could not get it to work on a chromebook but you can use a computer.)
      • Edison connects through the sound jack so you don’t need wifi or bluetooth.
      • You can download lesson plans on the website.
      • Doesn’t violate TIP #3 unless you want to buy Legos.  You don’t have to use Legos.
      • If you have Legos, you can use them to build on the Edison.
    • Con:
      • Violates TIP #2-Only one to two teens can use it at once.
  • Makey Makey-$50
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 8 and up
      • Makey Makey is great for beginners and advanced teens.
      • Makey Makey can be project based and can accommodate several teens at once.
      • You can use a Chromebook!!!
      • Makey Makey can be coded using Scratch.
    • Cons:
      • The website does not provide a lot of lesson plans.  I’d suggest searching Youtube.
  • Snap Circuits-$35
    • Pros:
      • Lesson plans come in the box. No need to teach anything.
    • Cons:
      • The $35 kit only has 100 lessons.  The more lessons you want the more expensive it gets.
      • It may not keep your advanced teens busy or challenged
      • Batteries die quickly.
      • The clean up.  Teens never put it back correctly and it’s annoying!
      • Violates TIP #2-It will only accommodate one teen.
  • Drones-$50-$75/ea
    • Pros: We used Parrot Mini Drones and they cost about $50/ea.
      • Great for ages 9 and up.
      • Great for beginners and intermediate teens.  Advanced or older teens may get bored quickly and I’ll explain in the con section.
      • Teens can fly them or code them.  We used the Tynker app.
      • The drones we used can do video and pictures.
      • They are tough and survive many falls.
    • Cons:
      • Violates TIP #2-One teen/drone
      • Violates TIP #1-you will have to replace propellors and wheels.
      • The cheaper drones should not be flown outside.  The breeze might affect the flight.  We flew ours in our maker space.  Teens took turns flying them.
      • Short battery life. Batteries only last about 5 minutes before a recharge.  We had to buy 20 batteries to sustain a two hour program.
      • There’s only so much coding with drones.  Advanced teens might get bored with a drone like Parrot.  If you have advanced teens, I’d suggest purchasing a more expensive drone that can be flown outdoors.
  • Makedo-$50-$125
    • Pros:
      • Great for 10 and up
      • The tools and connectors are reusable.
      • The toolkit includes a safe box cutter!
      • All you have to add is cardboard and if you work in a library, there’s cardboard-a-plenty!  You can purchase cheap cardboard boxes at Walmart/Target.
      • You can download their free app for challenges and instructions.
    • Cons:
      • The connectors can be difficult to remove and this is why I say ages 10 and up.  You need muscle to remove them.
  • Crayola Air Sprayer-$30/ea
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 8 and up
      • You can use any markers so it doesn’t quite violate TIP #1 (consumables).
    • Cons:
      • The sprayers get clogged so have wipes and paper clips ready.
      • It’s loud.
  • Google Cardboard-$15/ea
    • Pro:
      • Great for ages 8 and up
      • Great for all levels
      • Most apps are free
    • Cons:
      • Teens will have to bring their own phone.  If you live in a poorer community, some teens may not be able to participate if they don’t have a compatible phone.
      • Drains phone batteries quickly.
  • LEDs-$35 +
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 10 +
      • Great for beginners and advanced teens
      • LEDs are versatile.  Here’s my blog post about three ways to teach LEDs.
      • It only violates TIP #1 if you let teens take their projects home and you probably do.
        • $35 will accommodate ten teens and that’s pretty cheap.
    • Cons:
      • Some projects require hand sewing and many teens don’t know how so you will have to teach it.
  • Green Screen-$25-$50
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 8 and up
      • Great for all levels
      • We use the Do Ink app for $2.99 and we like it.
    • Cons:-Nothing

Budgets Under $500

If you have a $500 budget, you can purchase anything from the $250 list.  The following list includes more expensive equipment.

  • Sphero-$80-$130/ea
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 8 and up
      • Great for beginners and advanced teens
      • Teens can drive or code the robot.
      • You can download the free app for challenges and coding instructions.
    • Cons:
      • Violates TIP #2-only one to two teens can use one robot at a time.
  • 3D Pens-$30-$100/ea
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 8 and up depending on the pen you purchase
      • Great for beginners and advanced teens
    • Cons:
      • It takes some time to get used to it.
      • They can clog
      • Violates TIP #2-One teen/pen
      • Violates TIP #3-You’ll be buying filament for the rest of your life.
  • Raspberry Pi-$40/ea
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 13 and up
      • Great for intermediate and advanced teens
    • Cons:
      • To get the full education benefits, teens should install the operating system and software.  This takes time for staff to learn to be able to teach. This also takes time to do for a program. It’s also a lot of waiting around for it to download.
      • Once everything is downloaded, it’s basically a comupter.  The educational part is the first bullet.
    • Suggestions-If you do a Raspberry Pi program, try to attract people who are familiar with arduino and not beginners.  There’s an arduino that’s good for beginners called Kano and it’s the next bullet.
  • Kano-$150/ea-For this price, you only get the arduino and keyboard and will have to supply TV screens.  $350 will get you a screen but if you only have $500, I wouldn’t suggest getting Kano.
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 8 and up
      • Great for beginners and intermediate coders.  Advanced teens might get bored.
      • Kano provides clear step by step set up instructions will little assistance from staff.
      • Teens can create their own Minecraft mods and use drag and drop to code music, art, and games.  All of this is self directed.
    • Cons:
      • If you don’t buy the screen kit for $350, you’ll have to get TV screens.
  • Chibitronics-$30-$150
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 8 and up
      • Great for beginners to advanced teens.
      • The website provides lesson plans
    • Cons:
      • Violates TIP #1-Chibis are consumable and expensive.
  • Screen Printing-$75-$100. You don’t have to buy a kit.  You can get a screen and a base and clamp it to a table.  You can buy fabric paint, a squeegee, and stencils separately.
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 8 and up
      • Great for all levels.
    • Cons:
      • Violates TIP #1-Paint makes it consumable
  • Teacher Geek-$100-$300
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 8 and up
      • Great for all levels
      • The website provides WONDERFUL lesson plans and Youtube videos
      • It covers science, engineering, and art
    • Cons:
      • Violates Tip #3-Some of the items are consumable but it’s inexpensive to replace.

Budgets Under $1000

If you have a $1000 budget, you can purchase anything from the $500 list.  The following list includes more expensive equipment.

  • Little Bits-$300 + Little Bits seem cheap but you have to purchase several kits to accommodate ten students.
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 8 and up
      • Great for all levels
      • The website has an extensive library of lesson plans
      • Encourages creativity
      • You can use all your craft supplies to supplement-cups. craft sticks, paper towel rolls, etc.
    • Cons:
      • Sometimes the little wires break and you have to replace the bit.  Tell teens to be careful.
  • Silhouette Cutting Machine-$200-$300. I’d suggest spending the extra $100 for the better machine-it does more.
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 10 and up
      • Great for all levels
      • Teens can create their own stencil for the screen printing.  They can also make: vinyl decals/stickers; 3D shapes; etc.
      • Teens can create their own decals. We use the free Adobe Draw app.
    • Cons:
      • Violates TIP #3-You’ll be purchasing vinyl for the rest of your life but it’s not that expensive.  Transfer paper is what’s expensive.
  • Moss Robotics-$200-$350-I have a Moss but I haven’t used it yet so I don’t have any further info but it looks cool and that’s why I bought it.
  • Lego Mindstorms-$350/ea
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 12 and up
      • Great for intermediate to advanced coders
      • Lego provides software on a computer or an app.
      • Teens can assemble the bot in the instructions and once they understand the motors, they can create their own bot.
    • Cons:
      • I suggest assembling the bot before your program because that can take more than one hour.
      • Violates TIP #2- I’d suggest three teens/bot

Budgets of $5000 +

If you have a $5000 budget, you can purchase anything from the $1000 list.  The following list includes more expensive equipment.

  • 3D Printer-$1300-$5000-I’m not an expert of 3D printers so I won’t recommend one.  We decided on the Lulzbot after surveying many librarians.  We actually have the Lulzbot mini because we had a small budget.
    • We’ve had it for one year and so far it’s been good.  We did have to replace the extruder one time.  It does clog sometimes but we’ve always been able to fix it.  We are novice 3D printer enthusiasts and we’ve been able to figure it out.
    • I will recommend Lulzbot products.  We use Tinkercad to teach 3D printing and we have teens follow the instruction booklet and they do it with ease.
    • The filament lasts a long time.
    • The only potential issue is that our Lulzbot isn’t enclosed but we watch it very carefully and so far teens don’t touch it while it’s going.
Posted in Makerspace

Teacher Geek

Teachergeek.com is a maker company that sells kits and individual pieces to inspire innovation.  You can find ideas for science, technology, and especially engineering.

Teacher Geek is great because it’s inexpensive and they provide free curriculum with easy to follow instructions.  On first sight the product seems to be geared toward early elementary to middle school but the product can challenge your most advanced makers.  For your advanced makers, set out various pieces along with tape; cups; rulers; cardboard; etc and give your makers a directive without instruction.

Another pro is that the possibilities are endless.


Posted in Makerspace

Egg Drop Challenge

Easter is a challenging month for teen programming because the holiday is geared toward children. We try to avoid egg dying or egg hunts and do something unconventional with eggs.

This year we did an Egg Drop Challenge.  We set out straws, cardboard, cotton balls, tape, cups, popsicle sticks, and felt.  Teens began with placing their egg in a plastic baggie to protect our carpet and they had to use at least four materials.

When they were confident, staff dropped the egg from an 8-foot ladder because our insurance doesn’t cover teens on ladders.

Teens were given two tries/two eggs and everyone succeeded.

Posted in Makerspace

Kano: Intro to Arduino

Think of Kano as Raspberry Pi Lite.

It’s a kit that you can buy with or without a screen.  The kit without the screen costs about $150 and you can plug it into a computer/TV screen via HDMI.  The kit with screens costs about $300.

After the teens set up the Kano with the easy to follow instructions, they can code games; make their own Minecraft mods, and share games globally.  It’s a computer so it also has internet access.

kano 2


  • It’s for grades 6+
  • It’s easy for kids/teens to set up right out of the box.
  • Kano requires minimal teaching from staff.  All the games provide coding tutorials.
  • The games use a simple drag and drop coding method.
  • Our teens were entertained for 1.5 hours.
  • It’s a great intro to Raspberry Pi because they are building a computer.
  • There are lots of Youtube videos.




  • It’s expensive.
  • Although it claims it’s for 6+, I would say a coding savvy 8th grader would get board very quickly.  If you have a lot of novices, Kano would keep middle and high schoolers entertained.

kano 3


Posted in Big Programs, Makerspace

Polymer Clay

Polymer Clay is used to make small figurines or jewelry and requires baking to harden.  For our polymer clay programs we advertise it as making mini foods because they are so cute but feel free to do whatever is popular in your community.   We use a convection oven to bake.  If you don’t have a convection oven, ask staff if they’d be willing to donate theirs for the day.


  • Provide pictures or videos if you have a big screen TV in your teen room.  Sometimes teens need a visual to get started.
  • Provide utensils for cutting and designing.  We put out toothpicks, plastic knives and forks.  If you purchase a kit, they provide utensils.
  • Provide hand sanitizer and napkins because if teens use red clay and then use white, the red clay on their fingers will ruin the white.  Inform teens to clean their hands between clay and the utensils.
  • If teens are making jewelry, the metal pieces can be baked.
  • Bake all the figurines together.  Bake at 275 degrees for 15 minutes.
  • Purchase the glue and gloss that’s made for polymer clay.  The glue is for the jewelry pieces and the gloss is to make it shiny.

Have Fun!

Posted in Makerspace

Advanced Coding with Lego Mindstorms

If you have teens who need a challenge, place a Lego Mindstorm in front of him. Lego Mindstorms provide instructions to build several types of bots including a robot, spider, and a viper.  Teens are tasked with coding different motors using an iPad or a computer.  Mindstorms run on bluetooth or wifi.

The Drawback:

  • They are $450 each.
  • It’s time consuming.  It takes a long time to build them and it takes a while to get the hang of coding them.  If you are having several programs, then you should be okay.  If you hare trying to do a two hour program, I suggest asking a teen to assemble your Mindstorms before class so you can focus on coding during class.

The Upside:

  • Once teens get the hang of the motors, they can make anything they want.
  • It’s endless hours of entertainment.


Posted in Big Programs

Murder Mystery

We do a murder mystery once a year because the teen love it and it’s cheap.  It does, however, take a lot of work.

Every year we change the theme just to keep it fresh.  The 2016 theme was a Pajama Party and this year’s theme was Library Horror Story. We chose this theme after a recent survey at school visits.  One of the most popular TV shows among these teens was American Horror Story.

Budget: $175 (All of this was the cost of pizza, chips, dessert, and beverages.  You don’t have to serve food.)

Attendance: 32 (Mostly high school)

Theme: We marketed the murder mystery as Library Horror Story but the actual theme was And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie.  We did not tell teens it was based on the Christie novel but our teen actors were aware.

We stuck to the overall premise of the Christie novel.  We sent out invitations to our teen regulars and included additional invites to give to friends.  In the pictures below is a character card where teens could come dressed in character and they were asked to stay in character the duration of the party. Of course this was optional.  The invite also included one clue.

The Party

It was marketed as a dinner party.  We began with dinner and the remainder of the party was traditional party games-charades; celebrity; sardines (hide and seek).  The party ended with the guessing of the killer and the motive.

The Script

If you are familiar with And Then There Were None, great.  If not, it’s difficult to describe so I suggest you watch the movie or the recent two part tv movie.

We had seven teen volunteers and five of the teens were suspects.  The other two teens were the wait staff.  Each suspect had to stay in character for the duration of dinner (3o minutes).  After 30 minutes, we played a recording-very similar to the novel.  FYI-we created a perfectly timed playlist on Youtube and the recording was part of the playlist.  We played the playlist through dinner and the wait staff informed our suspects when to sit to get ready for the recording.

During each of the party games, the suspects were being killed off one by one.  If you are familiar with the novel, you know that all the suspects die but one faked their death.

Here’s the Google Doc to the script. Here’s the Google Doc to the minute by minute outline that staff used.   Feel free to use them.  If you decide to change them, please save a copy in your own Google Drive first before you edit. Thanks.

Here’s the recording that’s played after dinner.  Excuse the All The Bright Places book cover.  You can’t add an MP3 to iMovie without an image.


Here’s a summary video



Posted in Makerspace

Coding Robots

Everyone loves robots, right? If you are looking for an introduction to coding robots that also happens to be cheap, try Lego Edison Robots.

Lego Edison bots cost about $50/ea and you can code them; they respond to sound and light; and you can use Legos to build on top of them.

lego-edisonThe advantage to Lego Edison is that it’s simple to code.  You can code them on a computer or an iPad through the headphone jack. Edison uses a VERY simple drag and drop method but unlike Scratch which some teens find daunting because of all the options, there are only about 20 codes you can use interchangeably.

Edisons are also great for a lesson in problem solving and they fulfill the math portion in STEAM.  You can design your curriculum to incorporate geometry.

Edison comes with lesson plans but I designed the maze seen in the video.  You can easily design a maze large or small.

Posted in Big Programs, Makerspace


Everyone knows what drones are but I’m sure you have lots of questions before you add them to your programming.

  1. Are they expensive? That depends on what you consider to be expensive.  We used Parrot Minidrones-specifically the Rolling Spider and they are $50 each on Amazon.
  2. Are they safe for teens? Yes. The youngest teen in our program was 10 and she picked it up very quickly.
  3. Can you do more than fly them? Yes.  We used the Tynker app to code our drones.  Teens were given code and they were able to write their own code.  The Rolling Spider can crawl up walls and across the ceiling. It can also takes pictures and videos.
  4. Can you fly them indoors? Yes.  The Rolling Spider is lightweight and if the wind gets it, it will fly away.  We also have a 10 foot ceiling at our library so you may want to test it if you have low ceilings.
  5. Do drones break easily?  No. Our teens crashed their drones all over the place and the worst thing that happened was a bent propeller.  You can purchase replacement parts.  We also kept the wheels on and that served as a buffer.
  6. How long do the batteries last?  For the Rolling Spider, the batteries only last 5-10 minutes and it takes about 20-30 minutes to recharge.  The only way to fix this is to buy LOTS of batteries.  We have five drones and twenty batteries and this worked out well.

Drones are an investment.  We spent @$350 for five drones, twenty batteries, five battery chargers, and replacement propellors and body parts.  It is expensive but you can use them for several programs so if your library has a strict per person budget system, repeating the program several times is cost effective.

Posted in Big Programs, Makerspace

Coding with Cardboard

Coding with Cardboard-Hummingbird

Participants can create whatever their hearts desire with cardboard-cars, robots, Harry Potter.  They decide how the want it to move.  Their creation can blink or swing.  It can move with a voice command or a motion sensor.  Then, they attach a servo and lights and code it using drag and drop.

Budget-$200-$1000 (Yeah, it’s not cheap)

Materials Needed:

  • Cardboard
  • Hot Glue
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Hummingbird Kits-Two to three teens can work in groups to cut costs.
  • Computer

Time Needed: Minimum-4 hours

  1. Have participants decide what they are going to make and how they want it to move. For example if they make a car, does the door swing open? Do the headlights blink?
  2. Have the participants make their creation out of cardboard.  This will take about two hours.
  3. Have the participants attach the LEDs and the servos (the gear that makes something swing).
  4. Download the offline version of Scratch or Snap.  There are video tutorials on the Hummingbird site to help you.

It seems easy but it’s challenging enough to keep your advanced makers engaged.



Posted in Big Programs, Makerspace

Putting the A in STEAM: Interactive Mural


If your teen patrons/students are anything like the ones in my library, you probably have a group of teens who are into anything tech and then you have a group of teens who sit and draw for hours.  All of your tech teens are planted behind a computer coding and 3D printing and you can’t pay your artsy teens to attend any of your tech programs.  What’s a teen library worker to do?  Combine tech and art with interactive art.

Electric Masterpiece

Time Needed: 2 hours

Materials Needed:

  1. Ask the teens to draw something that has a lot of sound.  We used an example of beach scene or a house.
  2. The touch board holds twelve sounds.  If you have one board/teen that’s great but if you only have one board for multiple teens, divide the sounds among them.  For example, we had six teens and three touch boards so each teen could have an art img_3045piece that could have six sounds.
    1. Have the teens decide what sounds they are going to incorporate before they begin drawing.
  3. Have teens draw their picture and draw their circuit lines.  The lines should extend to the border of the paper.
  4. Using conductive paint or copper tape to cover their hand drawn circuit lines. We used conductive paint. The advantage to copper tape is no drying time.
  5. If you are using the touch board: (We purchased the kit which came with paint, touch board, alligator clips, and a speaker.)
    1. Have teens find MP3’s that represent their sounds.  We used zapsplat.com for free MP3 sound effects.
    2. Insert the mini SD card the add tracks. Name each track as Track000; Track001, etc. (The touch board will provide downloading instructions.)
    3. Replace the SD card into the touch board and test by touching each number.img_3053
      1. Troubleshooting: if your touch board isn’t working:
        1. Make sure the speaker is turned up.
        2. Make sure you are using MP3’s.
        3. Turn the touch board on and off.
        4. Press the reset button.
  6. If you are using Makey Makey: (Makey Makey can only hold up to six sounds)
    1. Download Soundplant on your computer.
    2. Find sound effects. You can use zapsplat.com.  Assign the desired sound effect to the Makey Makey.
  7. Use alligator clips to connect the touch board/Makey Makey to the art piece.
  8. Touch the conductive paint/copper wire to make the art piece come alive!

Interactive Mural

Time Needed: 4-4.5 hours

Materials Needed:

  • Conductive paint
  • Drawing softwareimg_3146
  • iPads or computers
  • Cutting machine 
  • Microphone
  • Computer
  • Recording software
  • Vinyl
  • Touch board
  • Speaker
  • Flash drive plug

Please make sure you can paint on the walls before you can begin.  It’s not permanent because you can simply paint over it.

  1. Have teens draw a picture digitally.  We used iPads and the free Adobe Draw app.
  2. Use a cutting machine to turn their picture into a vinyl stencil.
    1. We used a Silhouette machine but you can use Cricut
    2. If you don’t have a cutting machine, you can have teens cut a design onto stencil material.  This requires an Exacto knife so perhaps this can be done with older teens.
      1. You can also use precut stencils and allow teens to create a mural with stencils.
  3. Press the stencil onto the wall.
  4. Paint the stencil with conductive paint.
  5. Allow 20 minutes to dry.  We used fans to speed up the drying process.
  6. Draw lines with a pencil from the stencil to the touch board.  Make sure the touch board in near an outlet.
  7. While the wall is drying, have teens record their own MP3 sounds or phrase.
    1. We used the voice recording software that came with the computer.
    2. Make sure your recorder uses MP3 files because the touch board only uses MP3’s.
      1. Our voice recorder used MPA and I had to use an online file converter to change them into MP3’s.  I used Zamzar.com.
      2. Assign the sounds to a number on the touch board. Make sure the numbers/circuits won’t cross lines on the wall.
  8. When the stencil is dry, peel it from the wall.  Pick out the insides.  We used the pick 20161217_114434utensil that came with the Silhouette.  You can probably use tweezers.
  9. Use conductive paint or copper tape to make your circuits.  We used copper tape because there’s no drying time and it was easier to connect to the touch board.
  10. Mount the touch board.  We used Command strips.
  11. When you mount the board, it will be raised from the wall and won’t touch the copper tape to complete the circuit.  I put copper tape on top of touch board. It looks messy but it will work every time.
  12. Test your circuits!
Posted in Uncategorized

Faux Screen Printing

screen-printing-3Graphic Tees are very popular because it’s a way for teens to express who they are, their fandom, or their favorite band.  DIY graphic tees are a great way to turn consumers into producers.

Curriculum:  art, graphic design, career exploration

Budget: $10-$300

Expensive/Advanced Faux Screen Printing 1


Materials: Silhouette Cutting Machine, vinyl, fabric paint, t-shirts, Adobe Illustrator Draw app

If you have a larger budget or you own a cutting machine (doesn’t have to be a Silhouette), screen printing can be a fairly easy project.

  1. We had teens design a picture with the free Adobe Illustrator Draw app.
  2. Teens emailed their design to staff.
  3. We uploaded their design to the Silhouette software and printed it on adhesive vinyl.
  4. Teens placed the vinyl on the shirt and sponged fabric paint over the stencil.
  5. When it dries (use fans to speed up the drying process), teens pealed off the vinyl stencil.

screen-printing-2To make this a career exploration program, talk to the teens about logos/branding.  Have teens create their own company and ask them to design a logo for their new company.

Faux screen printing can be a program in graphic design for all skill levels by teaching the Adobe Illustrator app.

Expensive/Advanced Faux Screen Printing 2

Repeat steps 1 & 2.  Instead of cutting on vinyl, cut on stencil material. To give teens real life experience of screen printing, you can purchase a screen printing board.  This does get a little messy but messy is fun, right?

Intermediate Faux Screen Printing

If you don’t have a cutting machine, you can purchase stencil material on Amazon.  Teens can draw their design on the stencil and use an Exacto knife to cut it out.  Tape the stencil on the shirt and sponge fabric paint.

Easy Faux Screen Printing

If your library has a die cut machine, pre cut shapes or letters to use as stencils.  You can also purchase stencil designs.

Posted in Big Programs

Murder Mystery: Death at a Slumber Party

The Cast

We have found that teens love murder mysteries so that’s why we do one every year.  To keep it fresh, we do a different type of mystery every year.

There are several advantages to a murder mystery program.  They are incredibly cheap to host.  You can purchase a kit but if you have the time to write your own scripts, you can save a lot of $$$.  Our murder mysteries run between $50-$100 and this is food and supplies.

The Script

Tiffany & the jealous bestie

Teens like to perform and chances are you have thespians among your regular teen members.  Get your teens involved in the writing process.  We either have one teen write the entire script on Google Docs or invite teens to assist.  Once we have the script completed, we get our teen cast together and give them a script and tell them to learn all their lines.  We made the script open to improve so that teens didn’t have to learn their lines word for word.  This takes the pressure off to be perfect. We have a dress rehearsal two hours before the event because teens are busy and flaky and if you have too many rehearsals, you are running the risk of no shows.



The Theme

By the title, you can tell that this year’s theme was a slumber party.  This was during the

Tiffany & the hot jock BF

time that the TV show Scream Queens was on air so we wanted to capitalize on the trend. We presented it like a real slumber party thrown by the stereotypical popular mean girl, Tiffany Van Luxe.   The cast included the hot jock boyfriend, the emo sister, the jealous best friend, the creepy neighbor, and the wannabe.  The activities were that of a traditional slumber party including hide and seek, truth or dare, make overs,  and lip sync battle.


We had our main character, Tiffany, come in costume a couple of weeks prior to the event to shoot promo pics and videos.  We then promoted the event with her pics on our social media accounts.  We also asked our other cast if we would take an image of them from their social media to use as posters to place around the library.  The post featured their face and a tagline that asked if they were the murderer.


We snail mailed invitations that resembled a real slumber party invites to all our regulars.  Mailed invites are where we always get the majority of our attendance.

We had a book display promoting the event with the preverbal “chalk” outline in the stacks.

During dress rehearsal, we took pics that could be motives.  These pics were put on Instagram through out the party.  During the party, we told teens to check our Instagram account for clues.

Tiffany Takeover.  We had “Tiffany” take over our Instagram for the week with her snotty comments and pics.

During the party, we told teens that if they take a selfie with Tiffany and post it on their social media, she would give them candy.  This is a great way to spread the word about your parties through teens.

The Party

murder-myster-14Of course teens were encouraged to come in PJs by announcing that the best PJs would win a cash prize.  We of course rigged the contest so that our mean girl host chose herself (Yes this was a bit mean but also funny).

After we figured most teens were in attendance, we welcomed them by introducing the cast and their bios.  We told them that from now until the end of the party, the cast would be in character and that one of them is going to murder Tiffany, the host.  Their job is to pay attention and to try to guess the murder and the motive.  We also told them to check our Instagram for a vital clues through out the party. (This is a great way to get teens to check/follow your social media account).

The party began with dancing.  The cast went around to all the guests in character.  I

Bro Overs

included a link to our script at the end of this post.  We then did all the activities listed under “theme” and Tiffany was murdered during the lip sync battle by a someone in costume just like Scream Queens.  Teens were then given a sheet of paper asking them to name the murderer and the motive.


One group guessed the murderer but not the motive because as you can guess, teens were caught up in the party and not paying attention to the clues.  Even though no one technically go it right, which no one ever does at our murder mysteries, they still had a great time.  Check out our script on Google Docs.

Most popular activities: hide and seek and truth or dare.

Attendance: 28 teens and a budget of $60

Food served: donuts, potato chips, and flavored water and Tiff Clique Punch.


Posted in Big Programs

All Cons Don’t Have to be Comic


whocon7Comic Cons are all the rage but who said you have to limit a con to comics?  You can taylor any con to your demographic.  If you have a large community of writers, you can host a NovelCon.  If you have a community of filmmakers, you can host a FilmCon.  If you have a community of fanboys/fangirls, you can host a FandomCon.  We have a lot of patrons who are into Doctor Who so we hosted a WhoCon.  The possibilities are endless.



Why a Con?

Cons are popular nationwide and they aren’t limited to comics.  There’s GeekyCon for Harry Potter fans and VidCon for Youtubers but these cons are usually in large metropolitan cities and can be very expensive.  Bringing the con experience to your library provides free fun for the entire family.

The Pros of Cons

The great thing about the term is that you can attach “con” after any word and patrons will instantly know what type of program you are offering.

Cons have the potential to attract new patrons to your library.  Many people still believe the library is only for checking out books and being quiet.  Holding a MinecraftCon, BakerCon, CraftCon, or a DroneCon will bring in different citizens and will ultimately get you new cardholders.

Waiting on their Gallifrey Button

When you attract new patrons and cardholders, you can promote all your special services and collections.

Con Activities

Con means convention so patrons expect to see a variety of activities including crafts, cosplay/costume contests, games, and prizes.  Cons can be as long as you want.  Some cons are the typical two hours and some cons last two days.

  • You can invite local business and organizations that fit your theme.  If you know you’ll have hundreds of patrons, you can have business rent tables and proceeds can go to prizes.
  • Balloon artists and face painters are always a big hit at any event.  They can be costly but it’s a crowd pleaser.
  • Photo booths are also very popular.  You can pay to rent a photo booth from a local company.  This can cost $300 and up but the company does all the work and patrons leave with a picture of your event with your library name and social media contact info.


An Evening with Van Gogh
  • Artist Alleys are usually found at comic cons but if you have any type of artsy or fandom based con, you can include an artist alley.  An artist alley is a cluster of tables where local artists sell their work.  Once again, you can have artists rent a table and it can go towards a prize.
  • Food.  You don’t have to have food especially if your library is surrounded by restaurants.  The drawback to no food is that patrons might leave to eat.  You can ask a local food truck to park outside your library, you can ask for sponsors from local restaurants, you can use table rental proceeds towards pizza.  We usually ask our local boy scout troop to provide hot togs and chips.  Boy scouts usually come with a license to serve food and they do every thing which is great.


Challenges of the Con

  • The greatest challenge will probably be your administration and staff.
    • You may have to do a lot of convincing to your board and administration to host a large library-wide con.  Your best argument is that it will attract new patrons and cardholders.  It can also get your library in the newspaper if you invite your local press to take pictures- free advertisement!!
    • Hosting a con takes a village and getting several staff on board can be daunting. The staff most likely to help are the ones who are fans of your theme.  Look for the geeks.
    • A con takes lots of planning and this can also be exhausting.  If you are interested in hosting a con, make sure you have lots of time and patience.



As I stated earlier, we have a large community of Doctor Who fans.  How do I know this?  During our regular school visits, we asked teens to fill out a short survey.  We listed every popular fandom including Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Supernatural, and anime/manga and we asked teens to circle their favorites.  Doctor Who was the most popular after Harry Potter.


  • Life Size Guess Who-We printed out Doctor Who characters and played the game like the board game version.
  • An Evening with Van Gogh-Recreating a Starry Night with the TARDIS-Participants had to recreate the Starry Night painting from the Van Gogh episode.
  • Gallifrey name buttons-We used a name converter website and made the conversions into a button.
  • Green Screen Photos-Participants chose between two preselected pictures to use as
    Green Screen

    their background.  Their pictures were printed for them to take home.

  • The Silence Scavenger Hunt-We hid pictures of The Silence all over the library.  Participants received a five-clue sheet and were told to take a selfie with each Silence they found.  They showed the activity leader their five pictures to receive Jelly Bellies.  You can also have teens tally their arm for every Silence they find for added affect.
  • Doctor Who Trivia with Kahoot-We created two 20 question trivia games on Kahoot.
  • 10 Different Ways to Wear a Bowtie Craft-Simple bowtie craft with felt.  Participants were given key chain holders, earring backs, and pin backs for crafting.
  • Costume Contest -A picture was taken of all participants.  All other program goers were encouraged to vote with stickers.


The most popular activities were the Gallifrey buttons, Kahoot, and An Evening with Van Gogh.

Stats:  75 participants, $120

For more information on Cons, please visit our 2016 ALA Annual Presentation


Posted in Makerspace


LEDs are a simple, cheap, and fun programs for grades 3-adult.

We use LEDs to teach teens about  how they are used in the world around them and circuitry.

Tip- Many teens do not know how to hand sew so you’ll have to teach them how to tie a knot, how to do a running stitch, and how to close a stitch.

EASY – LED Origami ($100 for 20 teens)

Materials: Origami paper, LEDs, tape, scissors, coin battery (We purchased batteries, and LEDs from Adafruit)

We found origami videos on Youtube and set out iPads.  We found that it’s easier for teens to follow origami on video than in a instructional booklet. We did a heart origami and showed teens how to insert the LED in the fold of the heart with tape.


Intermediate-LED Hoodie & Backpack ($60 for 20 teens)

Materials: Hoodie, thread, needle, EL Wire

Have teens bring in a hoodie.  Have teens begin sewing the EL wire on one side of the zipper.  They should sew the wire in small increments all the way around the hoodie to the other side of the zipper.  They should then cut a small hole on the inside of the pocket on the side with the slack.  String the slack through the pocket, connect the battery pack and that’s it.

You can use hot glue on the EL wire.  The backpack was made but hot gluing the wire.  This also looks cool on baseball caps.

Intermediate-LED Wristbands ($75 for 20 teens)

Materials: Felt or fabric, conductive thread, LED, snaps, coin battery (We purchased everything except the fabric from Adafruit)

Please see the diagram from instructables.

When teens snap the wristband shut, the LED should come on.


Posted in Uncategorized

Turning the Teen Room into a Makerspace: Week 7

Last time on Turning the Teen Room into a Makerspace: Week 5 & 6, we played with our new toys and our maintenance staff was assembling the furniture.

Now that you’re caught up:

The furniture is finally assembled and now it time to arrange the room.  Here’s how we arranged The Hive:



Since we have an overwhelming demographic of artistic teens, half of the makerspace is dedicated to art.  The paintings on the wall were created by our staff member who also teaches our weekly art classes.  We will add teen created artwork to the wall.   The letters were purchased at Walmart


We have all types of artsy supplies.  Supplies include watercolors, all types of pencils/markers, plain/graph/comic paper, and coloring sheets.  There’s an art notebook for teens to fill pages.  The shelving unit was purchased at Ikea.

There’s a dry erase wall from floor to ceiling.  If you are able, I suggest investing in a dry erase wall-teens love it.  I’ve seen comic strips and a list of their favorite bands that took up the entire wall. It’s great for passive activities such as polling, listing faves, or program suggestions.

We hung a guitar for teens to remove on their own and play.  The guitar hanger and pick holder was purchased on Amazon.

There’s pillows and rugs for teens who like to create/make on the floor.  We have clipboards available for use.  We will also have a quarterly anthology where teens can submit their short stories, poetry, and artwork.  Our Creative Writing Club will organize and assemble the anthology for teens to look through while their in the room.

For the techy side of the room, we mounted three iPads.  You are able to restrict adding and removing apps, and getting on the internet.  We want to encourage teens to explore apps and not watch videos on Youtube or check in on Facebook so we restricted our iPads. iPad mounts were purchased from Amazon.

The Silhouette pictured is old and our new more awesome cutter will arrive any day now!!  When it arrives, it will be housed on this table.  I talked about the cutter and the certification in my previous post.  See the above link.

Our 3D Printer is the Lulzbot and we purchased the cart on Amazon.  Once again, teens will be required to be certified before they may use it.  We set up an account through Tinkercad and Projectignite.autodesk.com.  You can have teens set up accounts with your email, set up lessons, and track progress.  Teens can log on anytime, at the library or at home, take five hours of lessons and then we will teach them how to send their designs to the printer. Once they are certified, they can print on their own.

This shelf contains robotics and maker crafts such as Ozobots, rubber band looms, and Lego Mindstorms.

We have two tables down the center of the room for making.  We covered the tables with chalkboard paint.  Tables were purchased at Ikea.

We have a book for each piece of equipment we own so that teens can learn on their own during open lab.  We also have crafting books in the art corner.  The books are reference books and they will stay in the room.



We are trying to stay away from paper flyers because they take up valuable table space.  To alleviate this, we have dry erase boards on the walls and a large screen in the front of the room.  All digital flyers are created on Canva. Canva is great because you can set your own dimensions to fit any screen.  The screen will feature upcoming events, completed projects, and a leaderboard of teens who complete challenges.  We have a sign outside the door displaying what’s going on in the room for the week.



Yay, storage!  We kept our TARDIS because it’s a storage shelf that looks like a TARDIS. In it, we keep supplies that need to be replenished and techy equipment that only comes out on special occasions such as the Google Cardboard and the Makey Makeys.

The other cabinet stores our Chromebooks and iPads.


As you can see, we don’t have a lot of decoration on the walls.  We have two painted guitars. The teens massacred the strings so we just removed the strings and turned them into wall decor.  And the only other thing we have is a clock.  We plan to fill the walls with teen created artwork.


We open Tuesday, September 6th and we’re excited for all the new amazing projects our teens will create.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at dabron@zblibrary.org or leave a comment below.


Posted in Makerspace

Turning the Teen Room Into a Makerspace: Weeks 5 & 6

Previously on Turning the Teen Room Into a Makerspace Month 1, we removed all the old furniture, ordered new furniture, and planned September.

Now that you’re caught up…

New Furniture

It has been a slow week by way of furniture.  Our maintenance department is responsible for the assembly but they have been moving rather slowly so we only have two new tables in our room.  We purchased most of our tables from Ikea and the great thing about Ikea is that they make extendable tables.  We have four extendable tables that can accommodate four to six people.  Often times we plan a program for ten and fifteen show up.  That’s the beauty of these table, you don’t have to have haul in more tables, just extend it.

Playing With New Toys

Makerspaces always incorporate technology and if you are like us and don’t know how to use anything, you have to teach yourself before you can teach others.

We took a couple of hours every day to sit down and teach ourselves how to use the Ozobots, Makey Makey, Silhouette cutting machine, Google Cardboard, and wearable LEDs.

Ozobot-This is a small bot that you code with color. The bots are $50 each and all you need is paper and chisel tipped markers (red, black, blue, green).  You can code the bot to spin, speed up, turn left, etc.  It’s great for all ages and all levels.

Makey Makey-Use everyday items and turn them into game controllers.  The kits are $50 each. It sounds basic and beginner level stuff but you can make life size games by turning people into the controller.  Once you get the hang of it, you and your teens can have lots of fun.  Check out the videos on the Makey Makey site.  This is our favorite.


Silhouette Cutting Machine

This machine can range in price depending on the machine you want.  The Cameo 1 and the Portrait (pictured below) cost $220 and $179 respectively.  The Cameo 1 looks fancier but they do the same thing so purchase the Portrait if you’re on a tight budget.


These machines cut paper, vinyl, fabric, and stencil material.  You can make any decal your heart desires.  For example, one of my teens wanted a vinyl decal of the Mockingjay symbol to put on her cell phone.  Of course this is copyright infringement but I copied the image from Google Images, uploaded it to the Portrait, and cut it out.  I don’t have a picture but it looks like she purchased it in a store.  You can use the machine to make stencils for logo/t-shirt graphics, you can cut fabric to sew on clothes/pillows, etc.  In the picture below, my co worker likes jackolopes.  She drew it in the Silhouette software and cut it out using the machine.  As you can see, teens can design their own pictures. Designing in the software can be difficult (It took my coworker Elise about an hour) but you can have teens design in Adobe (we the used Adobe Illustrator app on the iPad) and they can email it to you and you can upload it to the Silhouette software.  I designed a TARDIS this way.


New advancements to Silhouette:

  • You no longer have to move the cutting machine to a computer to print.  You can download the new software to create a cloud. Teens can save to the cloud and can print from one connected computer.
  • You can purchase the Cameo 3, coming in September, that will be Bluetooth!  No wires needed!!
  • If you subscribe to Adobe Suite or Corel, you can design there and send your designs through the cloud.

Google Cardboard

Google Cardboard costs $15 each.  They are VR (Virtual Reality) goggles made out of cardboard.  You download free apps or purchase apps and insert the smart device into the goggles.  This is by far cheaper than all other VR goggles and does a great job for the price.

You’ll have to purchase iPods, have your teens use their own phone, or trust teens with your phone.  That is the drawback.  Google Cardboard says it can hold any device 4-7″ and the video below was used with an iPhone 6S.

LED Wearables

We obtained our ideas from Adafruit.  Beware, Adafruit is a tough website to navigate.

September will focus on LEDs.  See our programming section further down to view our curriculum for the month.

We taught ourselves Chibitronics, coin battery LEDs, and lastly Gemma (programmable LED through Arduino). If all those words scared you, don’t worry; it sacred us too.

Superhero Logo

Processed with MOLDIV
Easy LED Wearable

LED Circuits

This craft was made with the above battery holder and snaps to complete the circuit.


Gemma requires sewing and programming.  You have to download the software from Adafruit.  We couldn’t download to our work computers because of the firewall so I had to bring my personal Macbook.  All you have to do is copy/paste the code from Adafruit.

In the video, the LED is blinking fast and I coded it to blink slower.  You can add several LED sequins and code it to blink however you like. Adafruit’s Youtube channel is full of wonderful ideas.

September Programs

Nectar Collective September

Mondays & Wednesdays-LED workshops that include Chibitronics, LED superhero logos, LED origami and cityscape, LED Hoodie using EL Wire, and Gemma hats.

Tuesdays-Appy Hour.  Teens will lean how to make videos using Magisto and Stop Motion. Teens will create animation using Animator

Thursdays-Creative Writing Meetup.  This is a teen led creative writing group.

Thursdays-Let’s Draw Something.  Teens will learn different drawing/painting techniques or they can free draw.

Saturdays-Open Lab.

Monthly Challenges-There will be a new challenge every month.  All the materials will be set out and teens will be given minimal instructions.

Makerbees-This is basically a frequent maker card-Makerbees level 1.  There will be five activities that teens can complete.  Levels increase in difficulty as teens complete them.

3D Printing-Teens will have to be certified before they may use the 3D Printer.  We set up a teacher account on Tinkercad.  Teens must complete 5 hours of lessons and take a class with staff before they may print on their own.

Silhouette Cutting Machine-Teens will have to be certified before they may use the cutting machine.  To become certified, teens must attend two workshops.

That’s all for the past two weeks.  Next week we will hopefully have our furniture assembled and we can get our room ready.  We will also learn how to screen print.  The Hive is supposed to open on September 6th but it’s still a construction zone and I don’t think that will happen.


Posted in Uncategorized

Turning the Teen Room Into a Makerspace: Month 1

In May 2015, we turned our computer lab into a teen room and we were excited!  All the usual suspects were there: gaming, crafting, dry erase wall, lounge furniture, pub tables and chairs, and computers.  We were averaging about 500 teens a month.


Why are we changing in just over a year?  We found that our teens weren’t using the room as it was intended.  Teens were using it as a hang out and hanging out is fine but when it incites fighting and bullying, we had to find a solution.

Our solution, mostly our director’s solution, was to provide a space that encouraged teens to engage in constructive activities.  Simply placing Little Bits on a table was not enough to  get their attention but hosting month-long workshops with Little Bits may get their attention.

hive 4


So our journey began in Mid July and the makerspace is slated to open September 6th.

Month 1:  Finding Furniture on a Budget.

We were given $3000 for furniture and since one table costs $3000 from Demco, we turned to Ikea and Worthington Direct.  Ikea’s wood tables are pretty  sturdy so that’s what we purchased from Ikea and we kept our Demco chairs from the old teen room (Always get library grade chairs).

We decided on tables, chairs, mounted iPads, and shelving to hold crafting and maker tools as our room layout.  We will have raised tables for people who like to make while standing. We will have shorter tables for small groups and picnic style tables with benches.

What Equipment Should We Get?

Once again we have a modest budget of $5000 so we chose to focus on coding, 3D printing, and circuitry.  Here’s our list of equipment. (Please note-we already owned a 3D printer)

* Little Bits     * Snap Circuits     * Ozobots      * Sphero     * LED     * Makey Makey

* Google Cardboard      * Lulzbot     * Screen Printing     * Raspberry Pi     * Makedo

*  Lego Mindstorms     *Arckit



We will have themed months and September is Electricity. We decided to do activities everyday to cut down on the “I am doing something” but they’re really just scribbling on a piece of paper and being loud.


Our room is called The Hive (our high school/town mascot is a bee). Our programming is called the Nectar Collective.  We are planning a brochure to send to schools, we will make a monthly activities calendar to give to patrons who use the room, and we’ll get some business cards for community/school visits.


This has been a long and exhausting month.  The teen room remained open and the summer reading club was in full swing during the entire planning process so that added to the pressure but my co worker and I tried to come to work with the realization that we are going to start the school year with a new room.  We will be able to provide educational yet exciting programs to our teens.

Next week: Repainting the room and assembling the furniture.


Posted in Uncategorized

Bon ApeTeens: Salsa & Smoothies

Bon ApeTeens is a series that teaches teens how to make no-cook snacks.  This month, teens learned how to make salsa and smoothies.

Budget- $30-$75

  • We borrowed blenders from staff.
  • Give teens a variety of ingredients to include in their salsa and smoothies.
  • Have teens take their desired ingredients to their station and give them safety kitchen scissors to chop/cut their fruits/vegetables.
  • Allow teens to operate the blenders.
  • Teens should be responsible for cleaning the blender between uses, their stations, and their utensils.

Other Options

  • Have teens make their own recipes as they make their salsa and smoothies.
  • You can use the extras to have a tasting of other recipes.
  • Turn it into a competition and have staff judge the finished foods.
Posted in Big Programs

National Poetry Month

Passively Cheap Poetry Programs

Haikus and Hershey Pie

Traditionally Haiku’s are about nature but we didn’t want to limit their creativity so teens were able to write about whatever they wanted.  The Haikus were placed all over the library. Then we served pie. $6


Posted in Big Programs

Anatomy of the Author Visit

The Anatomy of the Author Visit on a Small Budget

Because we are located in the far northeast corner of Illinois, about 1 hour north of Chicago, our teens don’t get many opportunities to meet authors. We, at the Zion-Benton Public Library, decided to bring local YA authors to our town. If you are looking to do the same, here’s how we  did it:

The Planning: Nine to Six Months Prior. What Month Should I Plan For?

  • If you live in a town that has long winters like Illinois, it’s best to avoid late-November to March.  This year, it snowed in late March.  We do our author visit in April.
  • However, April is also the month for most book festivals and if you live in a small town and want big authors, avoid the month of April and November. TexasBostonNYSouth CarolinaCalifornia, & Virginia have big teen festivals.  If you live in these states, check the dates of these festivals and avoid that month only because authors might not be available.
  • If you rely heavily on school promotion, you might want to avoid the summer or have it in early June and promote it at the end of the school year.



How do I get Authors?

  • Make a list of all the YA authors that live in your state.  Here’s YALSA’s list. Other ideas: Google it, check authors who visit your local bookstores, check the author page in teen books as you read them, many times authors put their hometown as the setting in their book.
  • Once you have a list, visit their website for their contact info.  If you email them and they aren’t responding, tweet them.  I do it all the time and they are very nice and they answer within the same day.
    • Have all your information prepared-date, time, event name, theme, projected audience.
    • They will probably DM (Direct Message) or email you to negotiate fees.  If their fee is too high, politely decline and they will most likely lower it or ask you what you can pay.
  • The earlier you book an author, the better.  It is not uncommon to book them nine months in advance.
  • Check their events page on their website. If they will be in the area for a different visit, they might be willing to visit you.  This is especially great if it’s a bigger name.

How to Get Free Stuff

  • We have a large book raffle or auction at every author event.  We giveaway between 50-150 books, bags, bookmarks, etc.  Here’s how:
    • I try to go to the ALA or Midwinter (American Library Association) Conference.  This is done bi annually and it features an exhibit hall where publishers give away free ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies). Between me and my co-workers, we obtain about 200 books.
    • You can contact the marketing rep of publishing houses.  I Google the publishing house and find their contact info and rep.  I send a SHORT email explaining who I am and I ask if they can donate books, bookmarks, bags to my event.  I always say the number of teens that will be at the event and I always stress that we are giving all books away to deserving teens.
    • Our library is a participant in the Baker and Taylor ARC program.  Every two months or so, BT send us about 20 ARCs for library staff and teens to read and review.  After we have read and reviewed the books, we save them to give away at our events. Honestly, I don’t know how we became participants. I would suggest asking your BT rep.



The Planning: Three to One Month Prior How do I get Teens in the Door?

  • We sent letters to homeroom and English teachers and asked them if they would circ the book from the featured author among their classroom. We also let them keep the book for their classroom library. We of course included the event flyer.  Several of them accepted and we purchased books and mailed them.
    • Instead of circulating the books, the elementary teachers read the book in class. This was even better because it reached more students.
  • Two weeks prior to the event, we sent the same teachers VIP tickets to pass out to the students who they think will come to the event.  All students of course are invited.
    • VIP included an ice cream sundae bar, a SWAG bag, front row lounge seating, and copies of the author’s books to the first 15 teens in the door.
      • You can make your VIP experience however you like.
  • One month prior, we sent VIP tickets and special invites to the teens who come to programs regularly.  The special invites have an incentive-teens receive a raffle ticket to every friend they bring. This is usually good for 10 teens who probably would not have attended the event.
  • We have a monthly book discussion group.  We had our group read the book by the visiting author.  This is to get them excited about meeting the author.
  • In house marketing is always important.  We do large displays of the theme and the books by the visiting author. We put event info in our new and popular books.
  • If you are worried about attendance, a good idea is to contact your local high school to see if any teens need volunteer hours.  Teens ALWAYS need hours to graduate.  We have the volunteers come 1-2 hours before the event to help set up.  They receive duties such as helping at the door, monitoring the food table, taking pictures, etc.  I then have the volunteers be an audience member during the author visit.  This way, you are filling the room.


The Authors

  • One month prior, I check in with our visiting authors.  I email them the itinerary.
  • Two weeks prior, I check in by providing my cell number just in case they get lost or have questions.

 On the Day of the Event

  • Photos.  We usually have a photo booth and a frame for their photos.  Somewhere on the frame we put our Facebook address for teens to see other photos and to like us.
  • Authors are the main priority.  Have a quick bio prepared, have water, and a thank you bag.  Our thank you bag consists of our library’s promotional items.
    • Always stand by the door so that you can greet them.
    • Show them where they can put their purse.
    • Explain what’s happening now and in the next hour or so.
    • We let the authors mingle with the teens before the event.  They’ll take pictures and sign books.  There’s always time at the end for signing and pics but sometimes teens get excited and they want to do it now.  That’s okay because it cuts down on the time it takes to get things signed at the end.

Other Program Activities We turn our author programs into an event.  It is always after hours and it is always 2.5 to 3 hours long. It’s basically a mini-festival.  We have found that we get more teens when it’s after hours than on a Saturday.  This is especially true if you live in a town where there’s nothing to do. We have a mall and a movie theater but they are 20 miles away whereas the library is only 5 miles away. If you can do an activity that’s based on pop culture, you’re more likely to get a higher attendance. For example, do an activity when a YA book is at the theater- Maze Runner, Paper Towns, Me Earl and the Dying Girl. Some other activities we’ve done during our visits:


  • A scavenger hunt-Maze Run, photo scavenger hunt, murder mystery.
  • Book speed dating
  • Craft related to the theme or genre

The Fan Favorite Book Raffle/Auction As I stated above, we do a large book raffle or auction after our author events.  Here’s how it works: If it’s a raffle:

  • We lay all the books out on the table.
  • We put a basket on the table
  • Each teen receives the double sided raffle tickets.
    • This is where more raffle tickets become an incentive.
      • If they bring a friend, they will get x number of tickets.  You can taylor it to your liking
    • We usually only allow them to win up to two times.  It will of course depend on the size of your group.  One win might be more fair with a large group.
  • Before the raffle, I remind teens several times to visit the table to see what book they want. Otherwise, during the raffle, they will take forever to make a decision.

If it’s an auction-This is more difficult for staff but it’s more fun for the teens.

  • In the invites, we tell teens how they can receive more points.
    • Following us on FB, Instagram, etc (If they don’t have social media, they can have their parents follow us)
    • Bringing friends.
    • Posting pics of themselves at the event to their FB, Instagram, etc
    • Best craft, or Photo Booth photo
    • Winning the scavenger hunt
    • Asking the author a question
  • Before the auction, we tally everyone’s points and post them on a dry erase boardaah 159.  The tough part is having the teens prove their social media posts.  As a staffer, you are busy and then teens are interrupting you and showing you their posts and you have to stop and add points by their name.  It just gets crazy. If you can dedicate a staffer or a teen volunteer to monitor the points, it’s helpful.   It’s also tough during the auction to subtract points as they win.  Once again, an extra staffer is helpful.
  • It’s then run like an auction.

Author visits are stressful but it is worth it when you see the little faces excited to meet the person who wrote the book they read. Our author events usually cost between $650-$200.

Posted in Reader's Advisory, Uncategorized


I do a monthly booklist on YALSA’s The Hub.  Below you’ll find my posts.

Posted in Big Programs, Makerspace

Designernoons: I’m Super

Teens love superheroes and there’s a new Marvel/DC movie released monthly so we had the teens make their own logo and bio.

Beginner: Gluing/Sewing a Logo

I had a volunteer precut felt shapes of lightning bolts, diamond, circle, triangle, rectangle, square, quote bubble, star, and heart.  I left scraps of felt for the teens to create their own shapes.

I put out fabric glue, hot glue, and gems for bedazzling.

I made the sheet in Canva.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Intermediate:  Adding an LED

Purchase LEDs, conductive thread, and battery holders from  Adafruit.  Cut a small hole in your felt to insert the head of the LED and hide the battery pack behind the logo.

Advanced: Superhero Cuff

Teens can fill out the sheet and instead of making a logo, they can make a cuff that turns on and off with a snap.

Materials: Felt or fabric, conductive thread, LED, snaps, coin battery (We purchased everything except the fabric from Adafruit)

Please see the diagram from instructables.

When teens snap the wristband shut, the LED should come on.



Turn this STEM activity into a reading/writing activity by having them write a short story based on their superhero.  Here is a list of other activities/programs you can do with this project:

  • 90 Minute Graphic Novel Program: Provide blank comic book template (search Google Images) and give teens 90 minutes to create a complete comic/graphic novel based on the logo/superhero they created.
  • Super Anthology: Give teens a word or page limit for their superhero story. Have them draw their logo or superhero on the opposite page.  Collect all stories and staple them together to make a book.
  • Super Zines:  Have your teens turn their logo/superhero into a zine.  A zine is a self published magazine about a person’s interests.  Teens can turn their zine into a story, quotes, pictures, etc.
  • Short Story Contest
Posted in Big Programs, Uncategorized

Saturday Librarian: Crafts for Geeks

Each craft had it’s own table and teens were free to move from craft to craft. There was a drying table that was covered with paper. Teens wrote their name on the paper and put their crafts by their name to dry.  We put pictures and/or step by step instructions (if needed) on every table.  This way, teens needed little to no assistance from staff.

Disclaimer: the Supernatural Wings took about 45 minutes.  The Time Turner is hard with a lot of steps.

The wands and the time turner were by far the most popular.

Harry Potter Wand-Instructions we used

Hermione’s Time Turner (Hard)-Instructions These are not the instructions I used but I lost mine.


Death Eater Masks (Harry Potter)-Plastic mask from OTC, Sharpies

Doctor Who galaxy t-shirt-Pinterest Pins

Supernatural Angel Wings-Instructions
Hello Kitty Headband-headbands, felt

Duct Tape Tardis-blue duct tape
Dr. Who’s Sonic Screwdriver-ink pen, clay, marble

geeks 3

Walking Dead-Gelatin, water, makeup, red food coloring

Harry Potter Owlery-Polymer clay, convection oven.

Hunger Games Capital Makeovers

crafts for geeks

Posted in Big Programs, Makerspace

Teen Tech Week…Is Next Week?

tech and tacos 1

Teen Tech Week is next week! What? But you aren’t ready? No worries, we’re here for quick, easy, and (semi) cheap drop in programs that you can do.


This is basically a tech petting zoo and a taco break.  To do a petting zoo, set out all the technology you have, preferably tech that need little to no assistance or instruction.  I recommend putting a flyer on each table saying what it is and providing step by step instructions.

Kahoot–  Kahoot is an online, interactive tech and tacos 3trivia game.  Go to Kahoot (preferably on a big screen), have everyone get out their phones, iPods, iPads, laptops, and go to this site and wait.  You select a quiz already made or one you made (you can make a quiz by following the instructions on the screen), give everyone the game pin and you’re off!-BTW, this will probably be the hit of the program.

Buzzfeed-We try to get our teens to be producers in addition to consumers-don’t just take umpteen Buzzfeed quizzes, make one.  Teaching teens to make a Buzzfeed quiz is a program by itself and I realized it would take too long so we didn’t do it.  But if you’d like to try it, it will be a 2 hour program.

tech and tacos 2Vine-At this time last year, many teens were consumers of Vine but not producers. Many of them had not heard of Vine. We simply showed interested teens how to make a Vine and how to make videos.  We also briefly talked about why Vine is so unique.

Apps-A popular app we used to make those photo booth strips was Cream and Sugar.

Your tech zoo can be tailor made based on the tech you have and the interests of your teens.

Smaller Programs

tech and tacos 6Apple Party– Feature apps on iPads for teens to explore and serve apple pie and apple juice.

Google Maps- Set out a riddle to a historical location to have teen locate it on Google Maps.

Adobe Illustrator– If you have iPads or Macs, let teens draw on Adobe Illustrator (the app is free). Then print them out.

Cell Phone Photography Contest-Have teens take out their devices and take a picture.  tech and tacos 9Have them follow you on FB, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, or whatever social media your library has.  Give them a hashtag and have them post to your social media.  Give them about 15 minutes and reward the winner.

Facebook Trivia-This is great because teens can do this from home.  Give teens a day and specific time to log into your social media page. (It doesn’t have to be FB). Post trivia questions every 10 minutes or so and you can reward one winner or several winners.  They of course have to come to the library to pick up their prize.

SnapChat Scavenger Hunt-Make sure teens follow your account (It doesn’t have to be SnapChat). Snap pictures around your library every 10 minutes or so and have teen guess the location, the book, etc.

For more information, check out the YALSA blog’s post written by my coworker, Elise Martinez.

What is your library doing for Teen Tech Week?

Posted in Big Programs, Makerspace, Uncategorized

Your Moment of STEM: Animation Creation

animation 3For many of our programs at the ZB Public Library, we try to show teens that their interests can be careers.

Since many youths and teens are interested in animated films, we used simple app to show teens how to create their own animations and short films just like the films they see on TV and at the movies.

What You Need

animation1The app is called Animation Creator and it costs $1.99.  If you have multiple iPads, tablets, or computers, you can upload the app on several devices.

We used iPads and supplied each teen with a stylus.

And that’s it!

How The App Works

animation 4The app allows you to draw your image frame by frame.  It shows you the location of your previous sketch so you can easily track your animation.  It also allows you to preview and edit.  Once you are satisfied, you can add audio.  You can also select the speed of your animation.  Once you are finished, you can upload it immediately to Youtube.

How Much Time Does it Take?

animation 2Because it can be quite tedious, I recommend allowing a 2 hour program for creation, uploading, and showcasing everyone’s films.

Total Cost-$1.99-$10 (Cost of the app and Styluses)


Below, you will find the projects created by the students in the pictures. There are 9 films in all; click the “next” button to advance the animations.

Posted in Big Programs, Makerspace

Passive Non-Agressive Programming: Snap Circuits

Snap Circuits

IMG_0138Snap Circuits teaches electronics by snapping together circuits.

Snap Circuits come in a kit with an instruction manual that shows you how to create 100 + projects such as doorbell, siren, fan, an AM radio, etc. The kits range in price from $25-$150.  The more projects included, the more it costs.

The great thing about Snap Circuits is that you can create a formal program around it. The first time we did a Snap Circuit program, we had a mechanical engineer come in and teach teens about electricity and how to create a circuit.

Because Snap Circuits come in a kit with easy to follow diagrams, you can set the box out on the table and let the teens explore.  They need NO instruction from you.  Because we are educators we like to engage and teens are always excited to show off their accomplishments.

We set a couple of kits out on game day and a couple of teens put down the Xbox controller and played with the Snap Circuits.

We’ve also had teens come back to tell us they bought one for themselves.

At our library, we’ve found Snap Circuits to be worthwhile investment.  We use them often in our teen room and at our various tech petting zoos.  It’s a great way to introduce teens to engineering that isn’t too difficult for the beginner but is also engaging for the advanced.

Posted in Makerspace

Doctor Who Crafts: River Song’s Journal

Doctor Who is always a crowd pleaser for all ages.

River Song's JournalWe do a Doctor Who party once a year and there’s always a craft. One of our most popular crafts was River Song’s Journal.

Please note, I precut squares and strips of two different sizes. I don’t remember the dimensions. The size of the foam is 8.5 x 11. The vertical strips are slightly under 8.5″ and the horizontal strips are slightly under 5.5″. The strip on the binding is 5.5″ x @1″.


Try to do the craft before the program. There are always glue problems, the time it takes to complete it, or other bumps in the road. This eliminates last minute issues during the program.

As you are pre making the craft, take pictures of each step.

Put all the steps together with instructions.

I put the instructions in the middle of the table (in a display or taped to the table) and teens are able to follow it with little or no assistance from me. This is GREAT because I don’t have to lead any crafts. It’s especially GREAT when there are several crafts around the room.


River Song’s Journal

Posted in Big Programs, Makerspace

Saturday Librarian: Earth Day

Lo Tech Making: Upcycle Your Jeans

upcycle your jeansSome people think that making has to be with computers and fancy printers but this is not the case.  Making can also be crafting AKA lo tech.

On one Earth Day teens brought in their old blue jeans to turn them into purses or messenger bags.

We have a popular crafting club among our adult patrons at my library so I asked a couple of the ladies if they would bring their sewing machines and teach teens how to sew.  I taught teens how to hand sew.  I provided iron on patches, fabric paint, and gems to decorate their bags.

Sewing Machines

Sewing machines are a popular trend in maker programs. But a sewing machine isn’t a fancy $2000 machine, you say.  A sewing machine doesn’t have apps and wifi, you say.  Teens will think a sewing machine is for grandmas, you say.  Be prepared to be surprised.

I’m in my 30’s and I had to take sewing in middle school, so I’m familiar with a sewing machine.  Teens today, however, have never touched or maybe even seen a sewing machine so they will be nervous when they see that needle jumping around.  But after you teach them how to thread it and use it, their little faces after making something from scraps is priceless.

Why is it Important?

You will be surprised at how many teens don’t know how to thread a needle.  Sewing is a skill teens need to learn for adulthood.  Using a sewing machine isn’t a necessity but the ability to hand sew is a useful skill.

If you don’t have sewing machines, you can make lots of things by hand sewing.  It will just take longer. You can make pillows, purses, and there are tons of things you can make from t-shirts but that’s a different program.

Connected Learning

If you are modeling your teen programming after YALSA’s connected learning initiative, a sewing program is considered connected learning.  Sewing can be a gateway to fashion design.  Teens have their own style and they take a lot of time cultivating that style.  What they don’t realize is that their meticulous eye for clothes is basically fashion design and that they can take that interest and make it into a career.  The wonderful thing about fashion design is that you don’t have to go to a four year university so this can be a career for your not so studious teens.

If you have a community college near your library, you can invite a fashion design student or the professor to teach a class in the library.  If you know that there will be high school teens attending your program, partnering with the community college or design school can be beneficial to the school because it’s an opportunity for them to recruit students.


Sewing machines are expensive.  They can be $50-$500.  If you are willing to invest in two machines, you can do all types of sewing programs for an indefinite amount of time.  You can also ask for donations from staff or patrons.

One Christmas, we used a Christmas tree and made it into a wishing tree.  Instead of ornaments, we put items we needed on paper ornaments and patrons could take the ornament and donate the item printed.  This is a great way to ask your patrons for items you can’t afford and it doesn’t have to be during Christmas.

Posted in Big Programs

Pumpkin Spice Party

pumpkin spice 11Somewhere around the middle of September, everything at the grocery store has a pumpkin spice flavor, thanks Starbucks.  So we decided to turn this into a themed party!

Attendance: 25 

Budget: $60

Decorations: We held this around Halloween and we were in our teen room so however we decorated the room, that was our decor.

Promotion: Besides our normal newsletter and flyer promotion, we did a book display of orange/red covered books in a nice fall basket.

Food: Pumpkin Spice flavored hot & iced coffee; pumpkin spice donuts; pumpkin spice Oreos; pumpkin spice popcorn; pumpkin spice cupcakes.

Activities: We set out the nail polish and let them do Halloween themed nail designs.  We made pumpkin spice lip gloss.  Search Pinterest for DIY lip gloss. It’s really easy to make-bees wax, essential oils, pumpkin spice food flavoring, and we did crayon for tint. You can purchase little glass containers at Hobby Lobby or Michaels. 

Posted in Uncategorized

Maker Camp For Girls

IMG_1329As many of you have experienced, your Minecraft, robotics, Lego, science, or other maker program is mainly attended by boys.  As our nation becomes more digital, we know that it is vital for young ladies to consider these careers so we provided a maker camp for middle to high school aged girls. Rowdy Girls Maker Camp was a four-week camp that ran from 1-3pm.  The themes included video game creation, LEDs, simple machines, and soldering. We have never done anything like this before and we were a bit worried if any girls would come. We do several crafting programs which are overwhelmingly attended by girls. Crafting is making, you say? Why yes it is, but our crafting programs usually focus on design.  So that got us thinking, if we market Rowdy Girls as design and engineering (STEAM) perhaps we’ll get some attendance. We did! The attendance was low but it was good considering this was our first venture.

Week 1: Video Game Creation

We used the Floors app from Pixel Press. As of now, you can only create on an iPad but you can play games on phones.  WithIMG_0637 Floors, you use a grid sheet to design/draw your game and then you scan your design into the app.  After it is scanned, you can change your hero and your background. Floors focuses on designing and not coding.  Just like real game designers, teens must play their game, find the problems, and redesign.  Potential design problems could be that the game is too easy or too difficult.  Teens test each other’s games and provide constructive criticism and it’s back to the drawing board.


  • Pixel Press provides printable lesson plans.
  • Pixel Press has short instructional videos on Vimeo.
    • If you have Apple TV, you can show the videos in the front of the class.
  • It’s free.
    • All you need is the app, the printable grid, a pencil, a ruler, and an eraser.


  • It takes a long time to design, test and redesign.
    • Our program was 2 hours.  After the overview, the lesson plan, and watching videos we had about 1.5 hours left andIMG_0638 we ran out of time to redesign.
      • I suggest having the teens make a simple video game for the first two fioors and increase the difficulty for the third floor.  It took my teens about 45 minutes to design because they wanted to put every obstacle available on each floor.
  • The game won’t work if the lines aren’t dark and straight.
    • Although I told them this and told them to use a ruler, they didn’t listen and after they uploaded their game, it didn’t translate in the app.
      • Encourage teens to only do a couple of obstacles and to use a ruler.  You can draw in the app without paper and you can edit your paper design in the app but it’s clunky.
  • Scanning
    • Scanning designs in the app can be difficult. It’s like a QR code but tougher.  We found that having one person balance the dot in the middle of the screen and having another person position the paper under the iPad was the most effective method.

Overall I highly recommend this app.  The girls had fun and they were excited to see something they designed on paper come to life as a real game that everyone could play.

Click here to see the video

Week 2: LED Duct Tape Belts

LEDs are everywhere and teens use them everyday but most of them don’t know what they are.  LEDs are cheap and exciting way to teach teens about positive and negative battery charges.

Once again to attract girls, we used design by way of duct tape belts. We begin this camp with a quick lesson on LEDs and how they are used.  We gave the girls a battery and LEDs to let them explore.  We purchased the batteries and LEDs from adafruit.com.

After exploring, we had teens design a duct tape belt. I purposely purchased plain duct tape so that they wouldn’t rely on patterned tape.


  1. Pick duct tape colors and LED colors.
  2. Measure your waist to make sure your belt is long enough and make sure it’s thin enough to fit through the belt loops.
  3. Make the belt.
  4. Put on the belt to decide where you want to put the LEDs.  Have a friend make a dot with a Sharpie to indicate the placement of the LEDs.
  5. Use a push pin to start the hole then use a screwdriver to make the hole bigger.
  6. Place the LEDs in desired spots and secure the batteries with duct tape.

Click here to see a video on how to make a LED duct tape belt.

Week 3: Castles and Catapults 

IMG_1281This week was a lesson of simple machines.  We began with a quick lesson on the invention of catapults and lesson on simple machines how we use them everyday.  We had the girls make and design castle out of a shoe box and paper towel rolls.  Assign each person a different color. Then they all made the same catapult.  You can Google a catapult instruction or use the book, Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction.  Each teen also received an equal number of marshmallows.  Marshmallows should be color coded. (We got the idea of catapults and marshmallows from the Arlington Heights Public Library).

Teens then find a place on the floor, equal distances apart and they launch marshmallows.  The goal is to get marshmallows in other’s castles. Tip: Let the marshmallows get stale a week before the program. Fresh marshmallows can ruin carpet.

Let the teens launch their marshmallows and when all are launched, they count to see how many marshmallows they landed.

After the first launch, have a discussion about their observances.  Have teens evaluate their catapults-did the marshmallow fly straight and/or far, was the arc too high or too low?  Provide more popsicle sticks and rubber bands and allow teens to redesign and practice launch their marshmallows for 10 minutes. (For the redesign, teens may use as many sticks and rubber bands as the need.)

Have a second launch and recount marshmallows.  Repeat the discussion within the time allowed.

Click here to see the video

Week 4: Soldering

IMG_1341Soldering can be scary to teens and librarians.  We had never seen a soldering iron and we were scared to use it and to let teens touch it.  We had one of our teens who took jewelry making in high school teach us how.  I’ll explain the beginning and Tomani will show you the soldering part.


  • Soldering Iron-I purchased ours from adafruit.com
  • Flux-I purchased it from Ace Hardware
  • Solder-Purchased from Hobby Lobby.
  • Sandpaper
  • Tweezers
  • Wire cutters
  • Ceramic bowl of water


  1. Rub sandpaper on the metals you plan to solder. This rids the metal of the oils from your fingers.
  2. Cut a piece of solder with the wire cutters
  3. Using tweezers to hold the piece of metal (ring) you plan to solder and add flux.
  4. Use tweezers to put the solder on the ring and add more flux.
  5. Use the tweezers to add the second piece of metal you plan to fuse.  We used a jump ring in the video.
  6. Add more flux
  7. Solder the metals.
  8. Place the newly soldered jewelry in the bowl of water to cool. They took turns soldering a jump ring to a ring to get them used to the soldering iron. We then laid out materials to make jewelry and let the teens create.

How to solder


As I stated before, we had low attendance and the most attended was soldering.  Many of the attendees came to 2 or more meetings.

Girls between grades 5-12 attended Rowdy Girls.

Posted in Makerspace, Passive Programs

Bling Week

Teens like to personalize their stuff so why not turn it into a design workshop.

For Bling Week, teens designed skull caps, ball caps, and cell phone cases.  They used gems, decals, and letters.  Bling week lasted for three days and attracted 62 middle school and high school students.


If you have gems and letters invading your craft closet, by all means use them to cut costs.  I purchased hats but you can always ask teens to bring their own if you need to cut costs.

Skull Caps-$5.99/6

Ball Caps – $25/12


Spikes-$8.44-VERY POPULAR especially for boys.  It’s a small bag so you might need several.

Mirror Mosaic Tiles $14-Also very popular


Puffy Paint

Hot Glue & E6000 Glue

Skull & Ball Caps

Passive or Art Program

I put out examples for inspiration and on a different table, I put out all the supplies.  I printed out a coloring page of the hats and asked teens to peruse the supply table and design their hat.  I had three different stations including the pom pom making table, the felt flower making table, and the bling table (glue table).

I was by myself and this was a drop in passive program that lasted for five hours so I needed to provide instructions quickly and often.  So, I put the instructions on the inside of a paper plate.  I handed the teens a plate, the coloring sheet, and a pencil and told them that instructions were on the plate and to use it to carry their supplies from the supply table, their pom poms, and their felt flowers.

Career Readiness Program

Design is how this passive craft activity becomes a career readiness program.  If you are hosting this as a career readiness program, you can discuss design/fashion careers including types of careers; education needed; and salary potential.

  • Branding-Teens can work in groups and create a company.  They can then design a company logo and brand themselves by designing a hat using the supplies provided.
    • If you have a vinyl cutting machine (Silhouette or Cricut) teens can actually design a logo on a computer, print it out on fabric, and glue it to their hat.
    • Or, you can use your cutter to make a vinyl stencil then use fabric paint to complete the hat.

STEAM Program

To amp it up even more…


  • BEGINNER-Teens can sew EL Wire into the baseball caps.  You can find cheaper EL Wire but the shorter the wire the better because a ball cap doesn’t use a lot of wire and you will have excess.  There will be soldering required if you want to cut the wire so if you don’t want that hassle, try to find the shortest EL Wire.
  • INTERMEDIATE-Teens can use LED sequins, a sewable battery pack, and a coin cell battery to easily sew LEDs into a skull cap.  Here’s a post where I used sequins on a shirt but it works the same on a hat. For an even easier activity, I used an LED to sew into the pom pom and you can see that post here.  Or watch the Adafruit Youtube video that I watched.
  • ADVANCED-Teens can use a Gemma (LED arduino) to sew into the skull cap and then use the software to code it.
El Wire clotes
EL Wire on hats and clothes


  • BEGINNER-Teens can design their first initial or a small word, 3D print it, and sew it to the ball cap.  You’ll have to design small loops on both sides of the print so that you can sew it to the hat.
  • INTERMEDIATE-If you have the budget, check to see if your 3D printer offers an extruder that will print flexible filament.  If so, you can print longer words that can bend around your ball cap.
3d printed hat
You can see the 3D printed tab she used to sew it to her hat

Cell Phone Cases

We did two activities; teens could bedazzle their cases or make a case with hot glue.

The supplies I used for the bedazzling table were the same supplies I used for the hats.

Dfpq%QT3T%q2Y+ttSbElMAI learned how to make a case out of hot glue from this Youtube video.  TIP: tape does not work on parchment paper; use a glue stick. Once again, I was by myself and this was a drop in passive program so I had instructions on the table.  I always to a step by step instruction sheet using pictures.  To make this sheet, when I practice the craft, I take pictures as I go then I put all my pics with minimal text on one sheet. THIS IS HAS BEEN LIFE CHANGING!  It frees you up to help, socialize, and take pictures of the teens and it teaches teens how to follow instructions.  You’ll be surprised how teens do not know how to do this life skill.

The glitter case was really cool but I couldn’t see myself doing this as a drop in because it requires glitter with 25 teens but if you can do it, I say go for it.