Last winter I visited Preble County District Library to visit with Teresa Denton the then Interim Director.* Teresa was the first Children’s Services Managers I met after joining SWON Libraries and it was she who explained what many children’s librarians are looking for in a Summer Reading Workshop.** On this visit Teresa showed me their EggBot in action. On the original EggBot site an eggbot is described as a “Simple, fun, & open source CNC*** art robot.” An EggBot is a machine that holds any round or spherical object and allows you to draw on the item through a software interface. It’s a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) thing where art & design intersect with engineering.
So far they were planning to use the Egg Bot for Easter egg decorating (using wooden eggs) and pumpkin decorating (using small wooden pumpkins). In the meantime staff was having a lot of fun playing with it, learning what it can do and what it can’t, learning the software and so forth.
It’s easy to kill a project like this with questions like, “What’s the point? We can have an egg decorating program without this. Why bother?” but those questions miss the main point of reasonable risk taking and that is the trade-off of possible gains for very little real risk. Here are some possible gains I saw (you could probably add to this list).
Possible gains of purchasing new technology without having a ‘proven track record’:
Staff have hands-on exposure
Staff are allowed to experiment and make meaning
Staff discover that learning new technology can be fun
Staff learn by trial and error
Staff creates something new (programming, something useful for the building, etc.)
Staff interact with the public in a more open-ended fashion as co-learners
This same list could be developed for our customers (in this case adults and teens/tweens):
Teens have hands-on exposure
Teens are allowed to experiment and make meaning
Teens discover that learning new technology can be fun
Teens learn by trial and error
Teens create something new (programming, something useful for the building, etc.)
Teens interact with the public in a more open-ended fashion as co-learners
So, what do you think? Is it worth $195.00 from the library budget? Well, if you have something else that’s as approachable in the STEAM arena, maybe not. But if you haven’t figured out how to jump in the pool and the 3D printing just seems like too much, this is a great, low-risk way to get started.
*Preble County District Library recently hired Andrew Mollica as their new Director. Congratulations Andrew!
**Hearing from as many different library staff/library systems possible about what they’re planning to do and/or what they’ve done that was successful. Sharing practical tips between 50 people is not that easy but wow, it is productive.
***CNC stands for computer numerical control. The eggbot is part of the do-it-yourself robotics scene. “All of the electronics and software are designed to be hackable and repurposable, so you could easily computer control an Etch-a-Sketch or create something totally new.” (egg-bot.com)
Video credit: advanced printing video on YouTube with a homemade kit.