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.