In the summer of 2018 Rotarians in the Rotary Club of Teton Valley partnered with our local library, The Valley of the Tetons Library, to construct a space for hosting a permanent location for their MakerSpace project. Previously the library had had a traveling program only available one afternoon a week at the Victor library and another afternoon at the Driggs library and administered by a community volunteer who believed in the STEM approach to education. A vacant space adjoining the Driggs Library became available so Rotarians donated time and material to paint and build shelves for a permanent location. This allowed the library to make the program available in one location, to hire a permanent staff member, and to offer the program on a daily basis.
The maker movement is about teaching and learning that is focused on student centered inquiry. Our library has chosen to partner with the schools and community. In the one month the full program has been operational, attendance has jumped four-fold, adults are mixing with young people regularly on projects, and the schools are able to augment their science programs by partnering with the library. As an example, a science teacher and an animal rescue group joined forces to design a beak for a golden eagle whose beak had been shot off, keeping the eagle captive. The newly created beak, designed in the science class and printed from the MakerSpace 3D printer, allowed the eagle to return to the wild.
This program serves a secondary purpose of giving young people a constructive place to hang out after school. Over 50% of our local community qualifies for food stamps, both parents usually work, many over in neighboring Jackson, leaving children unattended after school. Childcare is an issue. This program gives these young people a place to mix with other young people and adults in a constructive environment following school hours until their parents return home. And the program gives our adults a place to comfortably interact with our young people. It's a win-win.
Due to the sudden popularity of the MakerSpace project, the library finds itself needing to add materials to their collection just to remain viable. These materials include additional makerspace robots ($1,360), 3D Pens ($2,220) and additional materials and supplies ($920) just to keep the current program going.
Robots. The robots they currently have for use in the makerspace, which can be used to navigate obstacles or practice coding challenges, are also available for patrons to check out. Recently, these robots have been checked out so frequently that they are no longer usable in the makerspace, though they are requested every day. This would constitute a dedicated set that would not leave the makerspace.
3D Pens. The library purchased a set of 12 beginner level 3D pens just before the makerspace opening, and they have been hugely sought after, and a great tool for learning about materials science, engineering and art. Additionally, several teachers and after-school program leaders have requested extended check-outs of this set for their sites. This is directly in line with the library's mission, however, they will need to purchase additional sets of pens and a larger supply of filament. It is also becoming clear that participants are quickly becoming ready to explore a more complex tool, with greater control and a larger selection of plastics. For this the library would also like to add an intermediate level 3D pen set to the makerspace.
Supplies. The makerspace has adopted a donation-based or "Pick-Your-Price" policy for use of materials and supplies. The biggest reason behind this is not to discourage use among those who feel they're not equipped to pay. It also means that we can suggest alternative forms of payment, such as donations of materials or items and community service in the library. Many of the materials do come as donations, and as such, they are relatively sustainable. That being said, there are materials that the library must create a budget for in order to replace on a regular basis. The success of this project has caught the library off guard, thus their request to keep this project sustainable and growing for the benefit of the youth and community.
Rotarians have the opportunity to be further involved in the project by volunteering their skills to share with the youth. Whether it be through sewing (the makerspace has an embroidery and sewing machine), engineering, computer science or other areas. They did the hard work this summer constructing the space; now they have the opportunity to share in the wonder as they work side by side with the youth.