Name & Name of Library: Caroline Aversano, West Windsor Branch, Mercer County (NJ) Library System
Project Name: Exploring Arduino
Project Description: A beginner’s course in open source Arduino programming using the SparkFun Inventor’s Kit. This program intends to introduce new information (or expand upon existing knowledge) through analysis and evaluation, exploration of theories, development of an action plan, and drawing conclusions. This program serves as the launch of a portable STEAM Lab for teens at my branch, which will become the basis for repeated Arduino programs as well as additional technology-based programs during the summer (aligning with the 2014 Collaborative Summer Library Program theme) and throughout the ensuing school years.
1.) Why did you choose this particular project?
For teens in our community, robotics, programming, and engineering are very popular activities as well as career objectives. There are multiple robotics clubs (private and school sponsored) and the high schools offer several programming language courses. Because a significant portion of teens in the West Windsor-Plainsboro School District take two to three AP courses as early as their Sophomore year, many teens do not have the time to devote to a formal Robotics club, and are unable to add programming electives to their course schedule. Offering Arduino programs at my branch would fill a need for those teens interested in robotics, electrical prototyping, and programming on a casual or hobbyist’s level.
2.) Why do you think it will be a success with your patrons?
Essentially, for the reasons as indicated above – the demand for technology programs community-wide exceeds capacity, and, for a number of teens, what is provided is more formal or structured with a greater time commitment than what we will be offering at the library.
3.) How will this money help make your program an even bigger success?
Without this grant, the program would not be possible. My branch has neither a computer lab nor equipment dedicated specifically for teens’ use, and purchasing equipment for science and technology programs is beyond the scope of our budget. The grant, plus a little extra from the Friends of the West Windsor Library, has allowed us to acquire the equipment necessary for programs on the Arduino programming language. It is the keystone for age-appropriate STEAM programming, reaching beyond Teen Tech Week into the summer and year-round.
4.) What elements, in your opinion, make a successful Teen Tech Week program?
Popularity of the topic is essential – are your teens talking to friends, parents, teachers, about the program. Teens take their cues from friends; talking to friends about a program they’re considering attending or have already attended is the ice breaker. If the friends approve, then it’s ok to share and explore that interest. When a teen talks to an adult about a program, that’s huge; they’re taking a step toward independence and expressing their interest in a positive way.
5.) Overall, how important is Teen Tech Week to your patrons and your library?
Any program – Teen Tech Week, Teen Read Week, National Library Week, etc. – that encourages lifelong learning and creative exploration of knowledge is important, even essential, to the growth of an individual as well as a community.