Teen Tech Week Maker Cart

The White Oak Library Disctrict wanted to buy our own Maker Cart, but our funding was cut due to the Illinois state budget crisis. We were lucky enough to receive the Teen Tech Week Grant from YALSA and Best Buy; we would not have been able to afford the Maker Cart without the YALSA grant. We used the money to build Maker Carts for our Crest Hill, Lockport and Romeoville Branches.

Our Maker Cart contains an Ozobot, a Makey Makey Standard Kit, a Da Vinci Catapult Hydraulics DIY Wood Kit, Lie Detector Kit and Fold n’ Fly Paper Airplane Kit. We also purchased a Neutab tablet that we are loading with science apps that the teens can learn from.

We wanted to focus this grant on serving homeschooled teens, and teens from low-income areas – teens that might not have access to STEM-based resources. Our Crest Hill and Lockport branches have growing home school populations we have been trying to reach. We give them access to technology they would not be able to afford and help them become more prepared for college. Our Romeoville branch is surrounded by five schools where over 60% of the students qualify for free or reduced lunches. We run a lunch program during the summer to make sure our children and teens are getting meals.

Our goal was to get teens to recognize the library as a place of learning and fun, without out-of-pocket costs. The item that I am personally most excited about is the Ozobot, which teaches coding through drawing. The teens will create their own tracks for the Ozobot to follow; it will be a challenge to see how far they can make the Ozobot go.

We demoed the Maker Cart at our first annual STEMFEST on March 4th at our Romeoville Branch – a whole day centered around STEM. We had a variety of science presenters come and talk about science.

We will be having a Teen Tech Week Edition of Teen Advisory Group where will be showing the carts off and asking for their input on what apps we should add to the tablet and what type of future kits they would like to work on as a group.  We also plan on doing a few science kits with the teens who attend TAG. We hope these carts will make science more than just something they learn at school, but also something they enjoy.

Cindy Shutts is the teen librarian at the Romeoville Branch at White Oak Library District. She loves spending time with her cocker spaniel Harry Winston and is currently reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

Teens, Autonomy and TTW

Think back to when you were a teenager- no matter how long ago that was.  You probably remember fights with your parents over curfews and independence.  You wanted autonomy.  This still holds true today. One thing we routinely hear from our Teen Advisory Board is that they want to be involved, they want leadership opportunities and responsibilities.  They want to be involved in planning and implementing programs for younger children and they want to help with summer reading events for small children.  This inspired us in planning for Teen Tech Week.

Our library has wanted to hold a workshop on smartphone photography for adults and seniors.  However, the planning  of this workshop had stalled until the opportunity for Teen Tech Week came about.  What better way to give teens leadership and responsibility than by inviting them to help us plan and implement this workshop.  Teens often have technology experience and skills far beyond those of adults, so it is only natural to incorporate them into the design of this workshop.  Teens are invited to help us brainstorm a workshop to help adults learn to take quality photos with their smartphones and how to share the photos electronically.  We hope to discuss basic photography skills such as focus, zoom and basic composition as well as popular apps for editing and sharing photos.  In conjunction with this activity, teens are invited to participate in a photo contest.

Continuing the theme of utilizing teens’ skills and experience as well as their desire for leadership and independence, we are going to invite them for a discussion on what it means to be a responsible digital citizen.  Library staff will lead and guide a discussion on protecting your personal data online, and controlling your digital footprint.  We also hope to incorporate “fake news” and current events into this discussion.  Teens will then have the opportunity to create library displays, an educational bulletin board or other informational materials to share this knowledge with the community.  Again, this allows teens to creatively share their knowledge with a wider audience.  Along with this program, we will ask teens and tweens to create anti-cyberbullying posters for the library.  This will allow teens to inform younger children about how to protect themselves online, and how to stand up to cyberbullying.

Lastly, it was our goal in planning Teen Tech Week that we encourage young women in technology and other STEM studies.  We have partnered with a local college’s Women’s Engineering Club.  The club will provide hands on activities such as Makey Makey and Lego Robotics in addition to the library’s Ozobots, 3Doodlers and circuit stickers. Giving teens hands on experiences with fun technology is important.  But we also wanted to provide role models, particularly to girls.

Our plans for Teen Tech Week look to meet our teens’ needs by providing them with opportunities to share their knowledge, build their leadership skills, and foster a library environment for teens that promotes respect.   This year’s Teen Tech Week slogan, “Be the Source of Change” implores libraries to be sources of positive change, starting with our teens.  What better way to do that by giving them autonomy.

Melanie Miller is the Director of the Alfred Box of Books Library located in Alfred, NY, a recipient of YALSA’s Teen Tech Week 2017 Grant.

TTW Grant Winner: VR @ the Library

For this year’s Teen Tech Week, the Willmar Public Library will be implementing a virtual reality (VR) program for teens.  Through YALSA’s Teen Tech Week Grant, the library was able to purchase an HTC Vive, green screens, and several Steam apps for teens to test out.

VR @ the Library will be a two-part program.  On the first day, members of the library’s Teen Advisory Board (TAB) will teach their peers about VR and show them how to use several Steam VR apps.  The teens will then get to choose which VR app they would like to try and each of them will get to take a turn in using the equipment.  For the second, four-hour program, twelve registered teens will get twenty minutes each to test out the app(s) of their choice.

Through this program, the library hopes to give teens the opportunity to experience, learn and create with the Steam VR apps Job Simulator, Tilt Brush, Sound Stage, The VR Museum of Fine Art, and Google Earth VR.  TAB members selected these apps for their universal appeal and  potential to provide quality educational experiences: Job Simulator allows teens to try out four different jobs that were available before the fictional robot apocalypse, giving them a taste of what life could be like in their future careers, albeit with a humorous twist; Tilt Brush allows teens to create their own virtual world with the touch of a brush, allowing them to express themselves creatively; Sound Stage lets teens become their own DJ, making and manipulating music to create their own sound; The VR Museum of Fine Art allows teens to browse through a museum of real life art and learn about the history of each piece; and Google Earth VR lets teens travel to and explore places around the world that they may not otherwise have the chance to visit.

To prepare for the program, TAB members will install and test out the VR equipment and software to get a better idea of what the VR apps can do, what age range each app is suitable for, and estimate how much time it will take for a person to complete an activity in each of the apps.  The teens will use this experience to help set up the equipment on the day of the program and to help their peers use the apps if they are not sure what to do.

The library hopes that this program will provide a fun and safe environment for teens to explore VR technology together, while still having a quality educational experience.  The library also hopes that this VR experience will make teens feel more comfortable with using new technology and inspire them to try out other new technologies as well.

The impact and success of this program will be measured through the number of participants as well as by the teens’ evaluations after both programs and at the monthly TAB meeting. 

By the end of the program, the library expects that teens will:

  • have developed a basic understanding of VR
  • be comfortable with using VR equipment and at least one VR app
  • be able to teach their peers to use VR equipment and at least one VR app
  • feel that they have learned skills that can be applied to other areas of technology and life
  • express an interest in learning to use a new technology
  • feel comfortable approaching and learning a new technology

Evaluations will be assessed by the TAB, teen services librarian and head librarian.  The library would like to use the evaluations to plan subsequent VR programming at the library that reflects the interests and needs of the teens who attended this program.

The teens have been talking about implementing VR programming since early last year and are so excited to get started during Teen Tech Week.  Thank you again to YALSA for making this programming possible.

Emily Sovell is the Teen/Young Adult Services Librarian at Willmar Public Library.  The Willmar Public Library is the largest of a 32-library consortium, which is part of the Pioneerland Library System.  Willmar is located 90 miles west of Minneapolis/St. Paul, in West Central Minnesota.