Teen Tech Week Grant Winner: Kim Farnsworth, Madelyn Helling Library

Name & Name of Library: Kim Farnsworth, Madelyn Helling Library


Project Name: MakeyMakey Kits


Project Description: As part of a week-long event focusing on various technology classes for teens, we are introducing MakeyMakey invention kits (makeymakey.com). The first time we show them, we will give a brief introduction of the systems and provide a variety of materials from which to complete the circuit required to make the machines work. We will encourage the teens to explore what works and does not and work from there. The rest of the week will be full of a variety of classes including squishy circuits, Lego robotics, eWaste art, and coding, all that fit well into the DIY theme.


1.) Why did you choose this particular project?


We chose this project for multiple reasons. It is approachable to all levels of proficiency and encourages teens to explore technology. It fits well into the DIY @ your library theme for Teen Tech Week. It is reusable so it can be integrated into future teen tech programming classes outside of Teen Tech Week. It is also easily portable which means that it can be used in outreach and brought to the other branches in the library system. Finally, it is fun. This last part is important to me because I want teens to have fun while learning. It is my hope that it will encourage the less technologically proficient teens to take more interest in science in technology.


2.) Why do you think it will be a success with your patrons?


We currently have an already successful bimonthly Teen Tech class, so we know that there is interest in the community for this type of class. During Teen Tech Week, we hope to increase the number of teens interested in the new technology. We also serve a large population of homeschoolers and expect it to be popular with them. I have a fabulous and active Teen Advisory Group that I ran the program by before applying for the grant. They were super excited about the MakeyMakey Kits, so I knew it was a good choice. Because they’re enthused about it, I know they’ll spread the word to their friends and other people at school.  


3.) How will this money help make your program an even bigger success?


The money allowed us to purchase the machines in a large enough quantity to fit the needs of the event and beyond. MakeyMakey machines are interesting and fun so we think that we will get a lot of people in who are curious about the new technology. Last year, we did not yet offer technology courses, so we had a very modest Teen Tech Week. The grant money allowed us to offer a full week of programming.


4.) What elements, in your opinion, make a successful Teen Tech Week program?


I think any successful program begins with great staff members who make the library a place where teens want to be and who promote the programming. The programs that work the best allow teens to have fun and explore technology in an environment where they feel safe to do so. I like technology programs that encourage teens to interact with others to solve problems together. It helps to pull in knowledgeable teachers, but also be open to learning from those who attend the events.


5.) What successes are you having with digital tools in your library? Challenges?


We have a lot of success with digital tools in our library. We added a Collaborative Technology Center less than a year ago where we added dozens of computers and started offering technology courses. We saw more foot traffic and higher circulation numbers after it opened. We also acquired a 3-D printer with a grant and classes to use the technology are always full. Teen tech classes have been well attended since we started them a few months ago. The challenges we face were mostly from the technology itself, problems like wrong drivers or software that won’t run as we thought it would or should. Our classes are mostly taught by volunteers, so that is a different type of challenge, but it does allow us to offer more programming and to bring in some very knowledgeable people.


6.) Overall, how important is Teen Tech Week to your patrons and your library?


The Madelyn Helling Library is in a rural county where a lot of people do not even have high speed internet, so access to technology in the library is very important. It is also important to our homeschooling population who relies a lot on the library. Providing technology in the library is essential to many and giving teens access to technology in a space outside of their schools is great for the population as a whole. Celebrating Teen Tech Week raises awareness about the library’s dedication to learning outside of school.

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