A Makerbox Revolution



The conference is fantastic.  Truly.  So exciting to meet others in public libraries who are taking the “makerspaces-are-for-kids-too” plunge. The first program I attended Thursday was entitled “Makerbox: No Space Required.”  Five libraries in Illinois received IMLS funding to create easily transportable boxes featuring both high and low tech resources to be used with kids and teens in libraries.  Each library received $800 and created a separately themed box – 3D, Electronics, Music, Craft and STEM.  The participating libraries were gracious enough to provide us with a list of the equipment and materials included in each box.  Unfortunately there is not a link on the PLA Conference page to their lists, so I’ll work on getting that directly from the presenters ASAP.

None of the equipment discussed was brand new to me except for the WaterColorBot.  This is definitely a product worth checking out.  Ridgeway Burns, the presenter of the 3D Box, described the WatercolorBot as a 2D way of introducing children to the concept of the 3D printer.  Using Microsoft Paint software, a child (or Me!) will create a design on the computer, send it to the WaterColorBot and watch this machine create the art with paint and brushes.  Also,

(The) WaterColorBot was a creation of Sylvia Todd, star of Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Maker Show. She came up with the idea for the WaterColorBot because she wanted to create an art robot and enter it in the RoboGames competition. She approached us at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories about collaborating on the project, and we loved it.

Watch Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Maker Show.  Immediately.  Bookmark it.  Well done.

Back to the Makerbox: No Space Required program.  It was fantastic to see the ways in which these libraries tackled a few of the issues that I have heard from naysayers.  Makerboxes don’t require a lot of money ($800 per box) or any dedicated space.  Just storage enough for the box.  And they are not all high-tech.  They also believe, as I do, that the makerspace movement is not necessarily a high-tech movement.  Their descriptive phrase was “participatory learning experience.”  I like it.

They have already been sharing the boxes among themselves, allowing the resources  that each library purchased to be used by their partners.  The next step in their process will be expanding the number of boxes and participating libraries and allowing them to be shared among libraries throughout the state using interlibrary loan.  Nice.  They share their toys well.

About Tracee Yawger

Head of Children's Services, Montgomery County-Norristown Public Library
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