Robots Teach the Basics

The Booth & Dimock Memorial Library in Coventry, Connecticut purchased its very own 3D printer this past winter. That forced us to take the leap from encouraging the maker-mentality to full on maker space. It is still a work in process (and always will be) but we learned many great things during the past few months. Here is my favorite.

Sometimes it takes a complex project to make you learn the simplest of tasks.’ 


Our maker space brought other departments looking for collaborative programming before our 3D printer was even out of the box. We jumped right in and tried to pick a project that would encompass six ninety minute workshops and teach a variety of skills. We decided to make these robots to expose a group of eighth graders to 3D printing, soldering, wiring and coding.

The parts were downloaded from Thingiverse with a few modifications based on the electronic components we were able to purchase. Those modified pieces were also found online along with a plethora of information and including further instructions from other robot projects.

robot partsThe 3D printing portion went really well! Most of the teens knew much more than I did about the process, the program and even our printer. It was intimidating because I wasn’t sure at that point how I would fill up the remaining sessions if they did everything so quickly. The same thing happened with the learn-to-solder portion.

At the next meeting each teen was given a kit with their electronic components, hardware and the 3D printed pieces. It was time for assembly. That was the part I was most confident with—it had taken me maybe 15 minutes to assemble the robot (before wiring). That wasn’t the case with this group.

They had no idea how to use a simple screwdriver.

I had taken this step for granted. Agonized over the coding, made detailed wiring diagrams and taught them to solder before they ever came near the electronics. Yet, this was the step that really gave them trouble. They worked through it though and helped each other along the way despite it taking two 90 minute sessions to assemble to structure of their robot. We had to forgo our “Pimp the Robot” and racing day to make up for lost time, but in the end it was worth it.

The group learned a valuable skill. Not the one we set out to teach them, by a valuable skill none the less. And after all, maker spaces in libraries exist to provide other the tools with the tools to keep making.

We are planning a similar project for the fall—hopefully we can restructure the process so we don’t lose our last meeting. This summer we are going to keep working on basic skills like using a screwdriver. Maybe with some easy and cheap projects we can have at the ready for anyone looking as though they are interested in the maker space and have some free time.

Interested in more maker ideas? Check out the Making in the Library Toolkit.

Published by

Kristi Sadowski

Kristi Sadowski is Co-Director and Head of Teen Services at the Booth & Dimock Memorial Library in Coventry, CT.