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 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

Drones

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

20161217_114400

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!