STEM Activities Introduce Teens to Cool Tools at the Library

Students work with making kits and 3-D printers after school.

by Kera Wanielista, Skagit Valley Herald, Mount Vernon, Wash. / March 15, 2016 0

(TNS) — BURLINGTON, Wash. — Sedro-Woolley High School student Larissa Macomber was using some odd materials to create music last week at the Burlington Public Library.

With what is called a "MaKey MaKey" kit, Macomber used clips attached to wires and connected to a banana and gummy bears to make different noises — some melodic, others less so.

"Now they know those things conduct electricity," said Jenny Fredriksen, the library's Teen Librarian. "That's what I really try to do with our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) activities: Give them something to start with and then let their imagination take over."

The library has been offering teen-focused after-school programs since the beginning of the school year, Fredriksen said.

"I really wanted to make a space for teens in our community," she said.

Thursdays at the library are all about STEM, especially now that the Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County have partnered with the library to promote more STEM programs.

"Our services really complement each other," Library Director Sarah Ward said of the partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County. "And really, the more there is for kids, the better."

The library had been putting on teen-focused STEM programs two Thursdays a month since the beginning of the school year. But since January, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County have partnered with the library to provide STEM-focused activities on the other two Thursdays of the month, Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County's Executive Director Ron McHenry said.

"Through the partnership the goal was we would provide them extra support," McHenry said.

Thanks to a three-year $150,000 grant from Tesoro Anacortes Refinery, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County have been able to step up the STEM offerings at all of its locations, McHenry said.

But since there is no club located in Burlington, the clubs wanted to partner with the library to make sure kids in Burlington also benefited from the Tesoro grant.

"That money was for Skagit County," McHenry said. "We wanted to make sure that we used that money with integrity."

In the future, the clubs will partner with the library to provide STEM-activities on Tuesdays as well as every other Thursday, McHenry said.

"Especially because the Tesoro piece is so focused on that teen population," he said.

Last week, in honor of "Teen Tech Week," staff put into action the library's newest STEM-related tool: a 3-D printer.

"The technology is so cool, and it's so up and coming," Ward said. "It's not just (for) industry, you can make beautiful art projects."

The library was able to purchase the 3-D printer in January thanks to a donation from the Burlington Morning Rotary Club, Ward said.

Once the printer warmed up last week, Fredriksen and Ward programmed it to create a plastic nut and bolt, ones that work just as well as those that could be bought at a hardware store.

Thirteen-year-old Carlos Davila kept coming back to watch it work.

"I don't always think they know they're learning," Ward said. "They're having so much fun."

The library intends to make the printer available for everybody, Ward said. It will begin offering classes in how to use the printer.

"One of the things we really embrace is lifelong learning," she said. "Libraries really are the living room of the community."

One lesson the library will offer will be to teach people how to program the printer to make prosthetic limbs that can be donated to children in need.

"It's one example of the amazing way this technology can change lives," Ward said.

©2016 the Skagit Valley Herald (Mount Vernon, Wash.), distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.