Robotics at Oneonta Public Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

What a Summer! Oneonta Public Library experienced everything from robotics to bees, from bubbles to modified stuffed animals, and all things in between during Build a Better World 2017. Oneonta Public Library is a relatively small library with a staff of 5 full-time employees and 2 part-time employees. This means that all of our employees wear many hats throughout the year but especially during the summer.

We do not have a teen services librarian, per se, but the staff here at Oneonta Public Library is filled with people willing to jump in and help with whatever comes up. Since this year’s theme was Build a Better World, we could think of no better way to decorate the teen area than with Minecraft. Here is what it looked like:

I am not a teen, but this was amazing. Cassandra, our programs coordinator, spent hours planning and assembling each block of this scene.

For a variety of different reasons, it sometimes seems like teen services and programs are an afterthought. We feel that if we provide books for teens, we are doing our jobs. According to the YALSA Futures report (2014), “The library is no longer simply a quiet place to connect to physical content. It is instead a place, physical and virtual, to learn how to connect and use resources of all types from physical books to apps to experts in a local, regional, or national community.” We wanted to make sure that we brought our teens to the forefront of Build a Better World 2017 by writing a grant to bring a robotics-type program to the teens, so they could experience the library as a place where teens can learn about things they are interested in. After weeks and weeks of scouring the internet for experts, looking at different technologies to develop a plan, and many hours in the office typing away at the keyboard, we submitted and won a YALSA/Dollar General Summer Learning Resources Grant.

This allowed us to spend $1,000 on a single teen program. To say the least, there were fireworks and cake to celebrate (not really but it felt that way). We decided to purchase Cubelets, 2 Makey Makeys, and a WonderWorks Dash Bot.









Makey Makey











The premise of the grant was to introduce our teen patrons to the world of robotics. We had never really tried a program like this, so we spent a lot of time researching each technology and the different aspects of that technology. For example, Cubelets are individual robots that have a specific function. The way you assemble them determines what the “robot” will do.

We reached out to Ashley Allen, a local science teacher, who does some work at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama. He has experience building and controlling Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs). It is great to have technology like Cubelets and robots available, but it is critically important to show teens that robotics has a practical application.

For the program, Ashley Allen did an hour-long presentation on different types of ROVs and how they are used in an occupational setting. He also brought along a homemade ROV for the teens to see. There are competitions around the nation where teens build and operate ROVs to accomplish certain tasks, and each team is scored on how well their ROV accomplishes that task. Mr. Allen expressed interest in starting a team right here in Oneonta, Alabama at some time in the future.

Next, we moved onto the different technologies we were able to purchase with the grant. Each participant got to experiment with Cubelets, the Makey Makey, and Dash. It was an opportunity that our teens had never had, and it showed in their enthusiasm to participate in the program.

We were pleased with the program, but we would definitely make alterations in the program if we had the opportunity to do it over again. We would like to see a program that focuses on one technology at a time, so that our teens really get the full experience of the world of robotics.

My name is Ricky Statham, and I am the library director at Oneonta Public Library. I started working in the library world straight out of college after earning a Bachelor’s Degree in English. When I was working as catalog assistant, Library Director Gail Sheldon approached me about taking over teen programming at Oneonta Public Library. I quickly stepped into the role and instituted specialized weekly programming for the teens. Now that I am Library Director, I do not get to be involved in as much of the planning of teen programs, but I still enjoy helping with a grant or program when the opportunity arises. I love to see teens utilizing the library.

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