Creation Club

Creation Club is an after-school club for middle schoolers who are interested in digital creation. At the FFL we have a room called the Creation Lab. In this room there are three desktop computers (2 PC and 1 iMac). On them we have audio, video, image, photo editing, and 3D modeling software. You can also find cameras, iPads, microphones, a green screen wall, and various other odds and ends relating to digital content creation.

Creation Club meets twice a month after school. There are usually short instructional workshops on how to do or use something in the Creation Lab at the beginning of the meeting and then the teens are given the rest of the meeting time to experiment with this new knowledge. Since spring of 2012, Creation Club has created stop motion videos, photoshopped themselves into their favorite movies/computer games, created 3D models, recorded podcasts, created original videos, and wrote and recorded an original song.

Starting in February of 2014, we changed it up a bit away from the purely digital and delved into how digital designs can be transformed into physical objects. The first week of February began with learning how to use the vinyl cutter in the FFL Fab Lab to turn line art into a decal. We used an image editing program they were already familiar with from the photo editing workshops last year  to create original artwork. Following that were two weeks of exploring 3D design using 2D drawings and the FFL Fab Lab’s laser cutter, and then a whole series on video game design (by popular demand).

Gamestar MechanicTo learn about video game design, we used Gamestar Mechanic. They actually provide an excellent set of teacher resources with lesson plans, so you can just jump right in with the kids having no previous knowledge of game design. For four weeks, the Creation Club played games to learn about game design and then had a chance to build their own games and have their peers playtest them and give appropriate suggestions.

Creation Club is now on break for the summer, but I look forward to starting back up again in the fall with some new and interesting projects.

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Minecraft in the Library

Minecraft at the FFLLast summer began my (and my library’s) odyssey into Minecraft. As my desk is in the teen space and my primary responsibility is to serve teens, I had been overhearing a lot of chatter about Minecraft. So, I determined that this was something the library should look into since it was not only entertaining, but educational (so much STEM I could talk your head off). The biggest problem I saw was that you needed to purchase an account in order to play it with others. But hey, you can play the free demo on their webpage and we have a bunch of laptops so… let’s play it in the library! Every Friday of our summer reading program in 2013, I pulled out the library’s laptop computers and all of our iPads for drop-in play. If there ever was a crash course in Minecraft and network infrastructures, this was it. Things I learned:

  • Gold is called butter or budder. It is important to understand the proper terminology.
  • Monsters only come out at night.
  • Teens love to show you what they made and how.
  • TNT is “da bomb.”
  • You can download the full version of Minecraft on your computer and play it offline without having a Mojang account – BUT you can’t play multiplayer without one. 
  • There is actually a maximum number of devices that can be simultaneously connected to the library’s network.
  • Nobody likes it when they can’t access the internet.

At the end of the summer our library had discovered that we had opened a veritable Pandora’s box. Teens and children had developed a taste for Minecraft and they wanted more and they wanted it now and they wanted it (most amazingly) at the library. The rest of our patrons wanted what they always want: the internet on their preferred computers or devices at the library. In order to provide access to Minecraft and to prevent overtaxing of our network, we came up with some solutions. Firstly, we invested in an organizational license for MinecraftEdu and several Mojang accounts for library use. Secondly, we increased the number of individual licenses our network was able to manage. And lastly, we installed the MinecraftEdu launcher on the computers in the library’s teen space enabling access to Minecraft without taking up any extra licenses.

sxC6sSo what’s MinecraftEdu?

MinecraftEdu is a modified edition of Minecraft that is primarily designed for schools and educational institutions to use as a teaching tool. I’m not even going to go into all the things educators are using Minecraft to teach, you can read about that at the MinecraftEdu website. We chose to implement MinecraftEdu so that we could provide access to Minecraft without inadvertently providing access to content that is in violation of our own patron code of conduct. With MinecraftEdu, our patrons can play multiplayer in our library-hosted server with other players in the library. Our server can only be accessed from within our library, which means that we can be sure no outside player can troll our server. That also means that we are able to moderate our server easily; the players must be within the walls of our library to enter, so if there is a case of griefing the culprit can be easily identified and asked to modify their behavior to abide by our patron code of conduct.

Long story short… it’s Minecraft and it’s in the library.

What’s about network licenses?

Our library has one adult computer lab, one teen computer lab, two computer areas in the children’s room, and additional desktop computers in various places throughout the library. These computers each need a license to connect to the internet through our server. Additionally, every cell phone, tablet, laptop, etc. that is brought into the library and accesses the internet through our free wifi network uses a license. Before last summer we had never (to my knowledge) had a case where there were more computers and devices accessing the internet through the library network than we had licenses for. I admit that I am not entirely sure what it means, but I do understand that there is a max number of things that can connect to the internet through our network and we went over. When we had 16 laptops and 4 ipads using the library’s wifi in addition to the existing computers during the summer at peak times (more people with more mobile devices), we had so many connectivity errors in the Minecraft program and out in the library which caused so many complaints and frustrations, that every Friday afternoon just before these programs we would go through and clear out the cache of connected devices just so we could attempt to get the laptops online.

Should you contemplate incorporating Minecraft into your library offerings, I recommend that you have a discussion with your IT person(s) about what this might mean and anticipate the problems so that you can solve them easily. We have since increased the number of active licenses our network can carry (which was especially important since we wanted to use the laptops for programs more often).

Playing TogetherI really love that we have been able to provide Minecraft to the teens and children in our library. Not just because I love overhearing them talk about chickens in the bathtub and zombie pigmen attacks, but because of the STEAM literacies they are building through play and they ways in which they use their fandom to other areas of their lives. In the course of 5 months, teens in our library have built 7 civilizations that I am aware of each with a government system, a currency, a real estate ownership method, and a justice system. They have formed alliances, participated in government coups, fought together, and made peace. They have made truly creative structures which are controlled through a specially designed series of redstone circuits and switches. I am awed by what they have and are creating and I can’t wait to see what they decide to do next.

Cover Art Deja Vu

I recently cataloged some new YA fiction and included in the bunch was the title The Ruining by Anna Collomore. The cover of this book has a large mansion in the background and a young woman’s half-submerged profile in the foreground. Yesterday, I glimpsed a new Non-fiction title in my coworker’s office titled Shouting Won’t Help: Why I– and 40 Million Other Americans — Can’t Hear You by Katherine Bouton. It has a cloudy sky in the background and a young woman’s half-submerged profile in the foreground. I thought to myself how similar it looked to the YA book I had just added to the collection. Today as I was walking past the new books in the teen area I saw The Ruining again and was really struck by the similarity between the covers. So I went searching for the other and lo and behold, they are the same.

Side by Side Comparison

I have read blog articles about this kind of phenomenon but have never personally stumbled upon two (mostly) identical covers like this. Let alone two books published in the same month. I am very glad that these two books will be displayed in different parts of the library, so that people won’t be turned off or confused by the similarity of the covers.

Training on the 3D Printer

Watching the 3D printer work.

Today at the FFL, the Fab Lab Task Force (aka the Fabtastic 4) learned how to print on the Makerbot Thing-O-Matic. We started with something really small and easy, just learning the basic process of turning it on and sending a design to the printer. We all poked around on Thingiverse, a kind of public repository for 3D models intended for use with the Makerbot 3D printers. Somebody found this design and we all decided it would be fun to print the One Ring.

The process, as I understand it, is as follows:

  1. Connect the Makerbot to the Computer.
  2. Open the ReplicatorG program.
  3. Turn on the Makerbot.
  4. Calibrate it.
  5. Heat the extruder head and build platform.
  6. Open the model and press print.
This is the ring we printed today as practice.

Ta-da! The model prints in shiny plastic and you have a new Thing. You can watch and listen to it print the ring here. When it is printing, the music being made changes depending on the shape of the thing being printed; circles, lines, diagonals, squares, etc. Halfway through the ring print, I realized that all four of us were just staring at the Makerbot. Watching the Makerbot work is like watching snow fall or gazing at a roaring fire. It just pulls you in so you can’t help but stare at it dumbly. We were all guilty of that today (as is evidenced by the photo you see above).

Our next [pre] Fab Lab Open House will be on Saturday, February 18th from 12-2pm and will involve all kinds of making things. And I do mean ALL kinds. Sure, the 3D printer will be there, but so will the juicer, the PS3 Supercomputer, duct tape, and more.

FFL FabLab

While doing my internship, I was honored to shadow Lauren Smedley, the FFL’s Transliteracy Development Director, on the reference desk. If you remember, she taught me about transliteracy at the time and told me a little about a project she is working on called the FFL Fab Lab. This year, I’m honored to be working alongside the other members of the FFL Fab Lab Task Force to introduce the Fab Lab to the library staff and the community at large. On Monday, I’m going to be trained on how to use the software that talks to our 3D printer (a MakerBot) so that we can begin to train the rest of the librarians and begin offering a new service to patrons: check out a librarian for an hour and print a Thingiverse thing! (of course that’s just my name for it, not the official name).

FFL Fab Lab MakerBot printing a cat toy.

Today Pete, Director of Teen Services and fellow FFL Fab Lab Task Force member, was testing out the software on one of our COWs (Computers On Wheels, a nice set of laptops in a rolling cabinet) to see if they would communicate with the MakerBot properly. Thusly, Pete decided to print a cat toy. On the left you can see the MakerBot in action. Many patrons who were in the library at the time and walked past Pete’s desk stopped to chat about the 3D printer and looked very excited when they learned they’d have a chance to try it next month at our next pre-Fab Lab open house on February 18th. The actual physical space that will become the FFL Fab Lab is being renovated and will not be ready for use until probably next year. In the meantime, we’re setting up the community room as a makeshift Fab Lab where patrons can come in and Make. More details to come later….

Cat toy printed by the FFL Fab Lab MakerBot.

The MakerBot prints the 3D objects in one print, so the ball within a ball cat toy is printed with the inner ball affixed to the outer ball by a thin layer of plastic. When it was done printing, I was able to pop the inner ball free using a screwdriver because it was the only thing narrow and hard enough to reach inside and exert enough pressure.

Since I have cats, I was given the honor of bringing the cat toy home with me and letting my kitties test out the printed toy. Darcy was a little wary at first, but she usually prefers toys that are attached to strings. Lizzy on the other hand, had a field day with her new toy (hence the blurry photos).

  

Halloween! (And Internship Day 17)

Every year, the Fayetteville Free Library throws a halloween fundraiser called CarniFFaLl. There are games, crafts, a haunted house, and a costume contest. Last year, Katie asked me to volunteer to help her at the photo booth/costume contest and I did. This year, I helped her plan, set-up, and take down the photo booth. For the costume contest, we take photos of all of the children who enter, print them out, and display them on a board for the judges to evaluate (that way they don’t have to be present to win). Parents who like the photos, are able to purchase nice large glossy prints of their children’s photos.

So, Katie and I made the coolest backdrop possible. We put it together on Friday night after the library closed. On Saturday, the day of CarniFFaLl, Katie set up the computer and printer and her boyfriend manned the printing station while we posed the kids for their photos and Katie shot them (I arrived at 9:30, CarniFFaLl started at 11). I tried to make sure that the list of names and the photos taken were matched as accurately as possible. However, due to printer problems, we were unable to have all of the contest photos printed by 3pm when the event ended, so the costume judging was held on Monday instead. In fact, most of the printing wasn’t finished until almost 5:00. But while Katie was putting the photos to rights, I took down the backdrop and cleaned up as much as possible.

Here are photos of the backdrop and the photo booth crew in costume!

On Monday, the FFL held the preschool Halloween party, which I got to help with as well. We started with a song led by Heather. Then, I read the story time book while Karen and Pete did the props. Next up was a felt board story with ghosts and counting that was a lot of fun. One more song and then it was time for crafts! I was in charge  of the goody bag decorating station. The kids could come over and decorate a paper bag with crayons, stickers, stamps, and foamies. Lots of creative kids in the group. The final activity was leading the kids around the library to nine different offices and desks to trick-or-treat. I had 5 kids in my little group: superman, super girl, two pirates, and a black cat. They were so cute.

(YS internship hours completed: 44.5 of 75)