Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

TPiB: Programming with Straws

When I was Tweeting about Strawbees on Twitter, Laura Renshaw sent me the above tweet about her library’s Everything is Strawsome program, an obvious play on the popular Lego’s song Everything is Awesome. This is hands down the most genius program name ever! I was so excited about the program name that I tweeted to Laura that I wanted to do a program with straws as well, featuring Strawbees. She then replied that this Straw Ninjas craft was the craft activity that she had found that inspired the program.

Straw Ninjas

I did some looking around and found some other straw themed ideas that I am considering doing as part of a straw themed program. Strawbees plus some other straw related activities would indeed make for a Strawsome program! Man, I love that name Laura.

Some of our Strawbees creations on display at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County in Ohio

Drinking Straw Cuff Bracelet

Mark Montano has a YouTube tutorial on making a beaded cuff bracelet using drinking straws.

Balloon Rockets

Straw Chinese Yo-Yos

I have mixed feeling about this one. I have done them before using small wooden dowel rods and I worry that the straws won’t be strong enough for repeated use. I guess it would depend a lot on the quality of the straws that you use. The Harvard Chinese Yo-Yo Club has some information about the history of the Chinese Yo-Yo.

Straw Wars

This is really just a fancy version of spit balls. To make it really Star Wars related, you could print off some pictures of Storm Troopers as targets.

Pixie Sticks

Using paper straws, you can make your own Pixie Sticks.

Hey, here’s an earworm for you . . . And you’re welcome!

This is currently what I’m thinking about doing for my straw themed program. If you have some other fun ideas, please share in the comments. I’m thinking this would make a great Earth Day program. Couple it with my Zip Tie Crafts and I could go with a whole upcyclying/environmental series.

TPiB: Strawbees, a great tool for Makerspaces

My first weeks as the YA Services Coordinator at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County in Ohio, the children’s librarian came to me with an ad for these things called STRAWBEES and asked what I thought of them. And what I thought of them was that they looked pretty cool. So she ordered the two AccuCut dies, which you then use to cut out a variety of connectors. The connectors are used to connect straws together in any variety of ways to build things. They are Maker tools, and they are pretty cool.

Over the weekend my family was visiting – this whole people having jobs in two different states is really the worst – and we made exploring Strawbees a family affair. Here are our thoughts on Strawbees, from the point of view of a variety of ages.

What are Strawbees?

According to the website, Strawbees are “The drinking straw educational toy for makers of all ages”. You use an Accucut die to cut plastic connections to build things out of straws. As a mom to a recently small child they remind me of Tinkertoys.

You start out with the AccuCut dies (although I believe you can also buy pre-cut packs of connectors, but if you have an AccuCut machine this is the way to go):

Here The Tween is using the plastic bought from the Strawbees/AccuCut store to make the connector pieces using the AccuCut machine. She cut for about 2 hours and got a pretty reasonable amount of connector pieces.

Next she used some straws and the connectors to see what she could build. She ended up making this thing which she called a “crown”.

Next The Mr. – who to be fair was an art major in college – started building.

He ended up making a wide variety of shapes and pieces which you can see modeled here by Thing 2.

Some final thoughts:

Everyone had a really great time with these. The amounts of things you can do are endless. We built some projects alone and some in groups, which were both fun.

For the 2 AccuCut dies (around $110.00 each), 2 packs of each color of plastic, and a multitude of straw, PLMVKC spent about $350.00.

We bought clear straws and I would hands down recommend buying fun neon colored straws.

PLMVKC is also in the process of collecting donations of empty milk jugs and other plastic recyclables to make more connectors, which would make this is a great Earth Day Makerspace.

We also talked about putting about a display of science and architecture books with an instruction sheet taped to a plastic bag of say 25 connectors for patrons to take home and do on their own.

I was sharing the Strawbees fun on Twitter and Laura Renshaw shared that these would be perfect for a program they had called “Everything is Strawsome”, a play on the song from the Lego movie. I loved this program idea so much I’m working on putting one together of my own featuring Strawbees. I’ll include a TPiB about it soon but it will involve things like other straw themed crafts and making your own Pixie sticks.

Some basic Googling revealed that there are a lot of fun things you can do with the Strawbees for all ages, and you can use things like a Raspberry Pi and other electronics to automate your build and take your making up a notch. Check out this YouTube video from the Strawbees channel:

 The Verdict:

Versatile, creative, and a pretty decent price range, I highly recommend Strawbees. I’m looking forward to all the fun things we are going to do with them at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County. And really, they work with all ages.

Strawbees in the Wild:

http://mchsmakers.blogspot.com/2014/09/strawbees-and-campus-tours_10.html

https://www.facebook.com/SchuylerPublicLibrary/posts/10153015394661221

http://www.wired.com/2014/01/straw-based-construction-kit-doesnt-suck/

http://makerfaire.com/makers/strawbees-dream-big-build-bigger/

Here’s a cool Instagram video of a Strawbees robot: http://instagram.com/p/vg7QmpMJyv/

Robots made with Strawbees: http://toyland.gizmodo.com/you-can-finally-build-a-robot-army-using-cheap-plastic-1669993341

Also, you can search Twitter with the hashtag #Strawbees to see pictures of Strawbees in action

And finally, yesterday flying home to Texas to see my girls (see note above about working in separate states), I saw this piece of art on display at the Dallas Love Field Airport. You could totally have kids make this with Strawbees:

Or imagine THIS type of scultpure made of Strawbees and filled with Accucut books for the tops of your shelves.