Four kids with iPads and glowing robotic balls stood in front of a simple maze made of blue painters tape on June 29 at the Half Moon Bay Library. The idea was to use drag-and-drop commands on the iPad to tell the robotic Sphero ball how to roll through the maze.
After several tries, 8-year-old Blake Zerbe got his ball to navigate within the blue lines.
“I’m doing it!” he shouted with excitement, then jumped up to help another student code his ball.
This weekly Sphero class is just one of the programs taking place in the library’s maker space. The unique room was one of the most eagerly anticipated components of the library when it opened its doors last year.
“This is the first dedicated maker space in the San Mateo County library system,” said Daniela Leyva, community program specialist at the library. “We are piloting a lot of programs here.”
The maker space consists of two large rooms on the library’s second floor where patrons have access to an array of specialized machines and equipment that are usually out of reach to most households. The library hosts programs here almost every weekday to bring technology to the community.
On Mondays, the library’s three 3-D printers are put into action. There is a 10 a.m. class on “Tinkercad” for kids 6 and older that teaches an easy-to-use app to create models on the 3-D printers. The two-hour class at noon introduces Fusion 360 3-D CAD/CAM software and is more appropriate for teens and adults.
Tuesday is sewing day, when patrons can use the library’s 10 Baby Lock sewing machines, serger, embroidery machine and quilting machine with a long arm. The maker space is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for social sewing for those who already know how to use the machines. From 3 to 5 p.m. there is an instructor available who can help people use the machines and can answer simple sewing questions. Then from 6:30 to 8 p.m. the space is open for social sewing in Spanish.
“We partner with Piecemakers by the Sea. They come in every week,” said Leyva.
“But anyone can come. People come in just to hem their pants.”
Wednesday is coding day. The 10 a.m. Sphero coding class is followed by another class for kids 12 and older from 2 to 3 p.m. on coding an Arduino microcontroller using a language similar to C++.
Fridays, staff will be breaking out the Glowforge Laser Cutter. The Glowforge uses a beam of light the width of a human hair to cut, engrave and shape intricate designs on many surfaces, including wood, leather, acrylic, cardboard and fabric. Patrons can bring their own design under 4 inches square for library staff to cut or just come to watch the machine in action.
Besides scheduled classes, the library also has open maker space times when anyone can come learn more about the machines and use them for personal projects.
The library relies on the help of paid interns to offer technology classes and keep the maker space open. The library has seven local paid interns this summer, either high school students or recent grads. Adult volunteers also offer their time and talents.
“Our programs have caught the eye of working professionals,” said Leyva. “We are very open to having people share their talents.”