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

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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.

IMG_3620

 

  • 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.
IMG_3619
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.
IMG_3624
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.

IMG_3628
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

Pros:

  • 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.

kano

 

Cons:

  • 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.

Tips:

  • 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