Greetings from the Louisville (Ohio) Public Library!  We were thrilled to receive a Teen Tech Week Grant from YALSA and Best Buy for 2016.  This grant will move us towards our goal of introducing local teens to the engineering and computing required to build robots.

One of the goals for the library is outreach, primarily to teens.  One way we’ve pursued that is through a partnership with the Louisville City Schools.  We’re the perfect partner to help them launch their push for STEM curricula.  As a part of this collaboration with the schools, for the Teen Tech Week Grant 2016 we focused on robots.  We bought more littleBits to add to our collection (because you can NEVER have enough littleBits!), a Robots Shield Kit for use with our Arduinos, Cubelets (which we can combine with the Cubelets our Children’s Department already owns), Sphero 2.0 (a mate for the one in the Children’s Department), LEGO Mindstorms EV3, and four solar robot kits.  The point was to make our current tech spread further, last longer, serve more patrons and do more and cooler stuff.

Our thinking was that because kids dig robots (and who doesn’t?), they would serve as a gateway technology.  It’s true—we’re out to get them hooked on STEM.  We could start them with simple kits and remote controls, and work up to more complex mechanical and electrical engineering and programming.  One of the long-term goals we’re working on with the schools is a competitive robotics team 5-6 years down the road, so we started with the middle schoolers.  If we can foster an interest in robotics, the school can work up the infrastructure to support a team, starting with after-school activities at the library and developing a school-sponsored club to meet at LPL, then developing sponsors to support a competitive team.  Besides the tools and equipment—including a CnC machine and laser engraver, plus impressive computing power— in Louisville Public Library’s makerspace, called the Library Lab, our city boasts plenty of local businesses with the engineering knowledge and equipment to really help our teens form a competitive team.

To kick off Teen Tech Week events, last week, one of the Adult & Teen Services staffers, Michael, took some of our makerspace tech (a 3D printer) and Teen Tech Week robots (littleBits and Sphero 2.0) to the middle school and high school.  Over the course of each day, Michael met 300 teachers and school kids, all of whom were dazzled by our tech!  We got a flood of congratulations and inquiries after his visits, and now similar visits to both elementary schools are planned, in conjunction with LPL’s Children’s Department.  The whole town (pop 10,000) is buzzing about the library—our makerspace, the Library Lab, our tech, and our programs.

The Teen Tech Week robot invasion of Louisville, Ohio has begun!  But rather than the robots taking over town, we hope that the teens take over the robots!

Deborah Long is the brand-new manager of the Adult & Teen Services department at the Louisville (Ohio) Public Library.  She inherited the Teen Tech Week Grant for 2016 from her predecessor, but cares for it as if it were her own.


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