Going Robotics

Robot Arm from LEGO® MINDSTORMS®

Robot Arm from LEGO® MINDSTORMS®

For the past two weeks, I’ve been thinking long and hard about how I would develop and implement the teen Summer Reading Program (SRP). My goals are to provide programs to local teen residents, engage the local community, and encourage reading during summer break. This means that programs and incentives need to appeal to teen audiences. Brainstorming and discussions with my branch manager led to the idea of Teen Wii Night as well as Origami and Robotics Workshops. I wanted programs that were participatory and felt these fit the bill. In addition to planning and carrying out these programs, I will also need to reach out to local businesses to request donations that will be given as reading prizes. Then I will need to consider marketing and things like instruction sheets and booklists.

gyro-boy

Gyro Boy from LEGO® MINDSTORMS®

The Wii and origami events will be fairly straightforward to carry out – we have equipment we can borrow for the Wii night and there is a library assistant at another branch who is an origami master and can teach the workshop. The Robotics program was always going to be the difficult one to implement. I did a lot of research on the internet; I wanted to make sure that such programs were feasible and had a good chance of success. Looking at libraries that had implemented programs on robot building, it appeared that most used LEGO® MINDSTORMS® as the platform. I reached out to a teen librarian at the San Francisco Public Library – he generously shared his thoughts about the LEGO® MINDSTORMS® robotics program that SFPL hosted last year and answered my questions in great detail. He explained how they structured the program and what he would do differently when the library hosts the program again this spring.

puppy

Puppy from LEGO® MINDSTORMS®

After discussing with my branch manager, we agreed that we would not likely receive funding for a LEGO® MINDSTORMS® robotics program in time for SRP. I am still going forward with plans for such a program, but for fall or winter. I strongly believe in a program like this for teens – it will be fun for them but even more importantly, it promotes 21st century skills (teamwork, computer programming, engineering, robotics technology) that will carry them forward to college and career. My next step is to apply for grants so that we may purchase several LEGO® MINDSTORMS® education sets that can be shared between teens during a workshop. For SRP, however, we will be going with a simpler robotics kit for each teen, one that is inexpensive and less time-consuming. It’s probably better for the sake of my own sanity to start off with something basic before I tackle something that is much more ambitious!