GREENVILLE — The Greenville Public Library (GPL), in Greenville, Ohio, is a very interesting place to work, according to Reuben Kennett, IT Administrator and YA (Young Adult) specialist.
“You think of libraries as dusty book repositories, but they are becoming community centers,” he said. “We see the library as a place for continuing education, but it is broader than just reading.”
Which is why programs, such as Robotics for Teens is so important. As part of their training, library staff members attend general library conferences. At a recent conference, Kennett saw a robot display. It was the first time he witnessed a local library with a robotics program. An excited Kennett began pricing the robots for GPL. The Lego kits cost $300 to $400 each.
“One robot is enough for one or two kids, and I needed four or five,” Kennett explained.
The library was without enough funding for the robots, but GPL Director John Vehre encouraged Kennett to see if the Friends of the GPL (FOL) might subsidize the project.
“It is a different and fun way of introducing kids to technology,” Vehre said. “Many kids at different ages like to play with Legos and Legos that are souped up when they become robots. The way things are going today, everything is geared toward technology. Introducing that to kids can only be a good thing.”
Kennett’s pitch to the FOL was geared towards the value of career development, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and robotics. While Kennett only asked for a subsidy, FOL financed the entire project of $2,000. GPL purchased a variety of Lego kits, including the Simple Machines kit, two EV3 Mindstorm Home sets and two EV3 Education sets.
The first Robotics for Teens was a pilot program. A group of 12 attended the program, two hours every Monday in October, for five total sessions. The three-part curriculum was as follows: following instructions, building and programming.
According to Kennett, the kids built all sorts of gears and motors. They assembled simple transmissions, different-sized gears and a scissor lift. Building a pneumatics kit, using pressurized air to run piston and pumps, was also part of their education. In addition to following directions, some students went off the grid and applied their own techniques.
According to Kennett, a lot of trial and error took place.
“It was massively successful,” Kennett said. “We set up an obstacle course in the room and gave them pre-set programming to run that path. Every robot made it to the end.”
“I personally believe that almost any sort of play we do is tickling the brain. It’s an easy argument to make, playing with robots is the first step to kids learning mechanical engineering,” he added.
Library assistant Amanda Olsen will soon become the YA Specialist and will plan the next Robotics for Teens class. The potential exists to have several summer sessions.
“The next session will be open to the public,” she said. “I can see the class filling up quickly.”
For more information about this and other programs, visit greenville-publiclibrary.org.