Merced County Times Newspaper
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Local libraries to develop mobile STEAM activities for teens

Exciting public library programming involving STEAM learning is in the works for local teens throughout the community.

Merced County Public Library Cataloguing Librarian Daniel O’Brien told the Times, “I process all the new books and get them ready for distribution throughout the library system, and I also oversee teen programming.  I wear both of those hats here.

“The County of Merced just approved our acceptance of a grant for $10,000.  It’s a Copycat Grant set up by the State library system which copies other grants given in the past, and we’re going to do Pop-Up Maker Spaces, a teen-oriented program.  We’re going to build it from the ground up.

“Teens will be able to participate in the programs because they will be announced, and the teens who attend will have staff members there to assist.

“It’s a program you can take out into the community, instead of having the activities be at the library, meaning everyone has to come to the library to use it.  “The idea is to develop programs which are more accessible to our community.

“A big part of our value system at the library is inclusion and innovation.  Here at the Main branch, we already have 3D printing equipment.  It’s aging, and we need updated equipment.  Also, the equipment we have is not able to be transported and we cannot take it to other branches.

“So this grant will be used for a mobile maker space.  We will be investing in portable 3D printers, and a new Virtual Reality system which will not need a computer, and only needs a wireless Wi-Fi connection.

“We’re going to create STEAM learning kits, and there will be different experiments teens can do.  For example, there is a robotic program where teens are taught simple coding and programming, and we have a robot that does different functions.

“In this activity, the teens will construct a marker robot which is hand-sized as one of six activities.  They will be able to make it go forward, go about two inches, turn to the right, and go in a circle.  The robot can move around a paper.  The goal of the robotics program will be to teach simple robotics — the teens can construct it and use marker attachments to swivel around on a piece of paper.

The additional activities include:
  • Art Bot:  This activity calls for a motor, a battery, a simple plastic cup, and some markers.  Teens will be able to create a simple robot that can create random art designs depending on their robot’s weight and leg positions.
  • Holiday Cabin:  This activity will see teens making a small house and holiday tree model that lights up.  It calls for copper tape and LED lights, and teens will learn how to create a circuit using these materials.
  • LED Greeting Card:  This is another circuitry activity.  Teens will be able to craft their own unique greeting cards while tracing circuits to light up LED’s where they want to in the card.
  • Paper Flashlight:  This activity calls for using graphite pencils, leads, a 9-volt battery, LED’s, and construction paper to create a DIY flashlight. This is a great activity that will demonstrate how electrical conductors can create a circuit.
  • LED Throwies:  This is a very simple activity utilizing magnets, batteries, and LED’s.  Teens will create a “throwie” that lights up and is fun to toss around.  This is an opportunity to teach the mechanics of batteries; it is a great outdoor activity.
  • Sunprinting:  This activity calls for sunprint paper and different, unique objects (like leaves, toys, feathers).  Once teens arrange the items as they like on the sunprint paper, exposing it to sunlight will create an image on the paper.

“We’re in the phase where we’re ordering equipment, and we will have everything purchased and have our staff trained to use it so we can have programs starting during Summer Reading 2022, which runs from the first Saturday in June to the first week of August in all the Merced County branches.

“During summer Reading, we’re going to pilot the program and bring it to different library branches throughout Merced County.”

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