Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

The New Makerspace: Unboxing and the Learning Curve

For those of you following my current journey, the new Makerspace stuff at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County has arrived!

New to my journey: I’m at a new library and I re-evaluated my previous MakerSpace, doing some comparison of tech components and putting together a Lego based MakerSpace that incorporates Little Bits in this first round. In addition, we’re getting some iPads to learn how to make pictures, GIFs and stop motion movies.

Most of the stuff arrived and it was glorious:

Because space is still a premium, I once again opted for mobile. This means I can take my MakerSpace components wherever I need them to be.

At Betty Warmack Branch Library in Grand Prairie, my teens loved – and I mean LOVED – making mini movies so I thought we would start there. Because of this year’s superhero themed SRC, I scoured the Internet for the best deal on Lego Superheroes. I got a pack of 24 for around $24.00 off of Ebay. It was the best deal out there.

Today I spent some time with fellow staff and some passing by teens to try our hands on using Little Bits. Little Bits are entirely new to me so I thought we would give it a try.

The instructions on how to make the various components work were pretty straight forward and easy to use.

We did manage to make our Lego Hulk spin using Little Bits – which I think will totally up our movie making game!

Although we did not use the LittleBits, we did our first project and I outlined how we did it here.

In order to help me get some great idea for the Little Bits, I started a Pinterest board which you can follow here if you would like. And don’t forget to check out the Robot Test Kitchen for more information on Little Bits.

Evaluating Potential Technology for a Makerspace: Cubelets, Little Bits, MaKey MaKey, Raspberry Pi, Sphero

As part of my research for updating my Makerspace for The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, I went straight to a source that I knew had done a large amount of the work for me already: The Robot Test Kitchen. At RTK, a group of librarians have evaluated a wide variety of technology tools that are typically incorporated into library Makerspaces as part of an iLead project. I highly recommend looking through the side and reading each individual post. However, for my purposes I wanted to create a quick comparison chart to help guide conversation and my own decision making. I used in the information from RTK and put it into a quick reference spreadsheet.

See the entire comparison chart with click through links here

I then got a hold of Heather Booth and asked her to rank the technology choices based on the following criteria: small budget, unlimited budget, small groups, big groups, teen ease of use and fun, and librarian skill. For example, I asked her what technology she would recommend for me, a librarian who didn’t have a high comfort level with coding, programming, etc. She then sent the question out to her colleagues at RTK and here are their thoughts.

Heather Booth:

1. Small budget
MaKey MaKey – it’s fun, expandable, reusable, and encourages creativity

2. Unlimited budget
Giant set of LittleBits – unlimited combinations, great support, encourages creativity

3. Small groups
Sphero – because you need a handheld device for each, smaller is better. Pair up & work together.

4. Big groups
This is hard… the nature of it all is that small groups just seem to work better. Maybe if I had to pick, it would be MaKey MaKey because I can imagine a whole room full of kids each paired up and working on creating cool stuff.

5. Teen interest/fun
I think the Sphero wins hands down here, with a big set of Cubelets a close second, but as I’ve said before the allure of Sphero would last longer than Cubelets with teens.

6. Librarians with low tech skills
MaKey Makey or Sphero.
7. Librarians with decent tech skills or willing to experiment more
Arduino/Raspberry Pi. Then I’d ask them to write about what they did for a guest post on RTK so I could learn from them 😉


Michelle Kitty:

I agree on the Little Bits being okay for bigger groups. The same with Makey Makey you can get working in groups on bigger projects.
I’d also put little bits for low tech skills. The way things fit together makes them pretty easy.


Sharon Hrycewicz:

I would think little bits, if you have enough of them, would be good for big groups.  The projects are endless.

Have you or are you using any of these technologies? Share your thoughts in the comments. Using a different type of tech not discussed here? Let us know what it is and what you think of it in the comments. I’m interesting in hearing what other people think.


Here’s some additional information about Raspberry Pis

Here’s some additional information about Little Bits in SLJ