Technology grant will help you meet your inner 'maker'

Next time you stop by your local library, check out books and then attend a free class on how to design and print out your own plastic toy.

Yes, you read that right.

The Beaufort County Library is the recipient of a $25,000 federal Library Services and Technology Act grant funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and administered by the State Library of South Carolina. Libraries across the nation are adding makerspaces to their facilities: places to create through mentorship, conversation, innovation, collaboration and tinkering. As a result, new innovative technology such as 3-D printers, a laser scanner, Arduino boards, Raspberry Pi computers, Bristle Bots and Little Bits robotics will be available for the public of Beaufort County to access freely.

Housed at the St. Helena Island library in the CreationStation, these new high tech toys will be used in informal play sessions and formal classes for all ages, focusing on STEAM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math). There are also plans to form a CreationStation Teen Tech Club where local teenagers can get the first look at the equipment and teach younger children the importance of robotics and computer programming. A Technology Club for adults will be launched in January and club discussions will touch on some of the CreationStation equipment.

Beaufort County schools also will be exposed to the CreationStation gadgets during their class sessions. Trained library staff will teach middle and high school students basic computer programming through a type of volunteer artist-in-residence program. Each school can expect a weeklong project or sample, one-shot project completed through daily class periods. The CreationStation plans to travel most of its equipment around, so every part of Beaufort County can have access to this new technology.

As part of the Summer Reading Kickoff in June 2014, the CreationStation equipment will be included in Beaufort County Library's first "Mini Make Fair." This will be a daylong event in which the public can attend demonstrations, information sessions and informal play sessions on making, hacking, tinkering and creating new products, ideas and services within the Beaufort County community. Robotics, digital media arts, crafting, sustainable living and becoming your own entrepreneur are just a sample of topics that will be covered during the Mini Make Fair.

Starting in January, the CreationStation will bring a fresh new look on the Beaufort County Library system. These new tech toys will entice the "maker" in all of us. Workshops to look out for include Basic Electronics, Computer Programming with Python, Plastic Toy Design with 3-D Printing, Plastic Jewelry Design with 3-D printing and Snap Circuitry. There will also be plenty of "Maker: Unplugged" programs that are more low tech, such as crafting and drawing, to promote the "maker" movement.

The Beaufort County Library system's CreationStation is designed to embrace community members who enjoy tinkering, hacking, making, collaborating and creating. If you feel you are a "maker" and would like to share your talents with the Beaufort County community, please feel free to fill out a volunteer application at your local library branch. The CreationStation is seeking volunteer instructors and instructor assistants who have a semi-flexible schedule and can commit to a few hours a week.

Melanie Florencio is the computer lab specialist at St. Helena Island library.

Original article at the Island Packet