Resources for today’s Booklist webinar

Decorative logo: Amping up your STEM Program (Webinar April 28, 2016)

Hello! Today at 2pm Eastern / 1pm Central, I’ll be talking about some simple strategies for focusing and accelerating your STEM program in your library.

Resources for today’s webinar:

Special thanks to Melissa P. Johnston of the University of West Georgia for brainstorming ideas for the handout!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Quotable: Nerves and Uncertainty: Artists’ Rocket Fuel

Lin-Manuel Miranda in the Wall Street Journal:

Asked how he overcame self-doubt, he said being nervous and uncertain were essential parts of daily life for an artist.

“That’s rocket fuel, and rocket fuel is very dangerous,” Mr. Miranda said. “It can blow up your ship if you don’t channel it right. If you channel it right, that energy is going to get you through.’’


Posted in Quotables | Leave a comment

Cleaning Out My RSS Feed: NYTimes on Rutgers Makerspace

New York Times reporter John Schwartz reports on a “cobbled-together” makerspace on Rutgers’ Piscataway campus:

The blending of technology and craft in tools like 3-D printers and laser cutters has made it possible for ordinary people to make extraordinary things. And many ordinary people, living as they do, more and more in their heads and online, are yearning to do something with their hands.

So the “maker space” movement — D.I.Y. communities to get people creating, be it for fun, for art or for entrepreneurship — is booming. Maker Faires are held around the world. Commercial operations like TechShop have popped up across the country. And tinkering is being promoted on college campuses from M.I.T. to Santa Clara University, as well as in high schools and elementary schools.

There’s even a massive open online course, offered by the MOOC provider Coursera and taught by three scientists from the Exploratorium in San Francisco, called “Tinkering Fundamentals: A Constructionist Approach to STEM Learning.”

Yes, tinkering is now a pedagogy.

Taking things apart and putting them together — skills children used to absorb in Dad’s or Mom’s workshop — has an important role to play in learning, according to Karen Cator, the chief executive of Digital Promise, a nonprofit organization created by Congress that focuses on the use of technology to improve education. “You’re exploring creativity, you’re exploring design thinking, you’re developing a sense of persistence,” she said. Building something new requires planning, trying and, yes, failing, and then trying again.

“These are incredibly important mind-sets for today’s world,” she said …

On any given day, as many as 20 students could be working on the array of equipment that the center offers training on and time to use, said Stephen M. Carter, who directs [Rutgers’] Center for Innovation Education and co-founded the New Jersey Makerspace Association in 2012. Students might be working on a class project, doing “something entrepreneurial” or making Halloween costumes, he said. “We support all of it.”

There are 3-D printers, which can be programmed to create wildly inventive shapes out of plastic or resin … There is a laser cutter to etch materials like fabric, marble or wood and cut through plastic. Next door is an electronics shop, with racks upon racks of parts. Close by are drill presses, a router and a key cutter, which Mr. Carter refers to as “our gateway drug,” a piece of equipment neophytes can use to produce something they really need. A common space with couches and a television gives students a place to talk, show off their projects or just hang out.

Mr. Carter cobbled it all together “by hook and crook and grants and saving.”

Students love it. Alexandra Garey, who graduated from Rutgers in May, credits tinkering with changing the course of her studies, and life: “I went from somebody who was majoring in Italian and European studies to someone who was designing and prototyping products and realizing any product that came into my head.”

Providing a key cutter on a college campus? Genius.

Posted in 3D Printing, Makerspaces/Hackerspaces | Leave a comment

Happy 100th Anniversary, Beverly Cleary!

Graphic version of quote from Beverly Cleary: "I think children today have a tough time, because they don’t have the freedom to run around as I did — and they have so many scheduled activities.”

From an interview in the Washington Post


Posted in Delight | Leave a comment

Print 3D Fossils

Fascinated to see the collection of 3D-modeled fossils being made free for all to download and 3D print at

Kind of interesting because copies of precious objects are not new … plaster models of artworks were the rage in Victorian times.


Posted in 3D Printing, Makerspaces/Hackerspaces | Leave a comment

RepRap and the Myth of Self-Replicating 3D Printers

Fascinating read over at about the RepRap movement, a plan to use one RepRap 3D printer to create the parts for the next one.

The beginning of the DIY 3D printing movement was a heady time. There was a vision of a post-scarcity world in which everything could and would be made at home, for free. Printers printing other printers would ensure the exponential growth that would put a 3D printer in every home. As it says on the front page: “RepRap is humanity’s first general-purpose self-replicating manufacturing machine.” Well, kinda.

But one foundational RepRap idea(l) is wrong, and unfortunately it’s in the name: replication. The original plan was that RepRap printers would print other printers and soon everyone on Earth would have one. In reality, an infinitesimal percentage of RepRap owners print other printers, and the cost of a mass-produced, commercial RepRap spinoff is much less than it would cost me to print you one and source the parts.

Posted in 3D Printing | Comments Off

STEM in Libraries webinar coming 4/28!

Decorative logo: Amping up your STEM Program (Webinar April 28, 2016)

There is a national push to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and STEAM (STEM plus art and aesthetics) in schools, libraries, and cultural centers. Yet few librarians have STEM backgrounds! In this free, hour-long webinar sponsored by Cherry Lake, Kristin Fontichiaro, clinical assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Information, will help you look at ways to make STEM a more organic presence in your space, programs, and storytime. Moderated by Booklist books for youth associate editor Julia Smith. 

Register here

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Should we be pursing old-tech or new-tech DIY?

Grant Feller writes in The Telegraph’s “Thinking Man” column about his take on the shift from “dad skill” and DIY in Britain to hiring someone to do it. By definition, any column under the mantle “Thinking Man” will be male-focused, but there are resonances here that have value for those of us thinking about how to frame our maker programs. The maker movement — especially as portrayed in popular media – often overlooks “traditional” hands-on acts in favor of experimentation with new technology.

But the more I work with libraries in small cities or rural communities to plot next steps forward based on community needs, the more I hear that the community has needs that don’t necessarily mean they need an influx of new technologies. Take a gander at some of Feller’s thoughts, excerpted below, and see what resonances you hear that speak to what your community might need.

A recent survey revealed that only a fifth of men can sort out a leaky tap, fewer than half can wire a plug and three fifths would call in a plumber to unblock the toilet …

Some of us … lack any kind of “dad-skill”. There is only one number on my speed-dial and that’s Robert’s – the hero in my hour of need and self-appointed guardian. I am pretty sure that he cares for me as deeply, if only because I am helping to pay off his mortgage with alarming rapidity. Robert is my Polish man-who-can, shamelessly exploiting the fact that I am so obviously a man-who-can’t. Who can’t – please don’t laugh – even change a light bulb. Just before our New Year’s party, the lights started flickering in the kitchen and I immediately called Robert.

“Can you come round,” I pleaded. “There’s something wrong with the circuits you installed, there’s some kind of power surge and it’s causing the lights to flicker. I know it’s Christmas but I’ll give you a bit extra.” … So Robert rushed round … and solved the “power surge crisis” by changing a bulb … And I paid him £50 to do so …

“Aren’t you even a teency bit embarrassed that you’d rather put on a pinny than hammer in a nail?” suggested my long-suffering wife (who, incidentally, repaired the lock mechanism on my daughter’s door handle after I failed to find the correct screwdriver to even dismantle it) …

Alison Winfield-Chislett set up The Goodlife Centre five years ago, and it joins the swelling ranks of DIY clubs that have sprung up throughout the country. She realised that her personal interest – studying the history of British hobbies and DIY – chimed perfectly with the emergence of a new generation of men who were embarrassed that they had inherited no practical skills from their fathers.

Alison’s first DIY learning course was entitled “tools for the terrified” and she now teaches both sexes everything from basic skills to complex woodwork. She believes that it’s principally the changing aspirations of the working and middle classes that have led to a sharp decline in DIY skills. And also a sharp decline in DIY stores. In the past two years, for instance, Homebase closed a quarter of its DIY stores and B&Q [both UK home improvement stores] a sixth because a “less-skilled generation” just can’t be bothered.

“It used to be that there were many more people in manual labour,” Alison says. “People were more confident about doing things by and for themselves. Then a generation of labourers at the beginning of the century began to encourage their children to use education as a means of finding an office job or a skill that wasn’t necessarily manual. In the rush to find employment, we stopped learning practical skills. And that has led people, especially men, to become frightened that they don’t know things that their parents and grandparents learnt at a young age.”

The generation coming of age now are not, according to Alison, going to be much better. They have been traumatised by a barrage of health and safety regulations, and by the difficulty and expense of getting hold of a home to call their own. “Young people are scared of what will happen if they try DIY,” she says. “Especially if they’ve grown up in a new-build house and then, with their first foot on the housing ladder, find they’re in need of some make do and mend. It’s not that they are lazy, they’re ignorant. And if they don’t own the property, they don’t care so much either. They don’t possess the housemaking pride of previous generations.

“And so when men come to us they’re ashamed – ashamed that they can’t do what their fathers could, ashamed that their wives think less of them and ashamed that they are paying a fortune to tradesmen for even the simplest tasks. It is as if when they come to us they are fighting with their demons and our first role is to help them overcome that learning block” …

We are a society whose ability to know has grown at the same rate as our ability to do has shrunk. There’s a reason, say academics, that the word recreation is synonymous with having a hobby – it derives from the ability to recreate. Past-times were about making, not doing. Wielding a saw not a golf club. Now that “maker” philosophy seems to have been usurped by mostly-male television chefs who’d rather dirty their hands with Parmesan than wood shavings. They’ve helped to redefine masculinity as something, well, a bit more feminine, with just a soupçon of testosterone.

Mark Miodownik, professor of material science at University College London and author of Stuff Matters, believes there is an indelible link between using our minds and our hands to solve problems, and how they combine can affect our mood dramatically. Tasks such as DIY, and other skills that we used to take for granted, have a profound effect on our cognitive abilities. Building a shelf, for instance, connects us to a part of our mind that simply isn’t sparked into life by sitting at a desk with a computer. “When the body and mind are in harmony, that’s a beautiful thing,” he says. The way we have learnt to use materials and “fix” things is, he believes, the most important factor in the development of civilisation. “Materials are an expression of who we are.”

 What do you think? Is it possible that libraries and other community organizations could serve their communities better by looking back at classic DIY than forward at new-tech fabrication?

Posted in Makerspaces/Hackerspaces | Comments Off

White House Announces New and Renewed Maker Initiatives

Decorative image of mechanized giraffe sculpture from White House Maker Faire

(Reblogged from MakerBridge)

Exciting maker news was released by the White House on Wednesday prior to President Obama’s keynote conversation at SXSW. Here are some highlights:

Expansion of TechHire to 50 Communities. A year ago today, the President launched TechHire as 21 communities working with over 300 employers announced actions to empower Americans with the skills they need. These communities are piloting programs to train workers—often in just a few months—through nontraditional approaches like “coding bootcamps.” Today, we are announcing that we have reached the goal set by the President to double the number of TechHire communities from 21 to more than 40 with the addition of 15 new communities working with 200 employers joining the effort.  [Note: To view the list of TechHire communities, view the White House fact sheet. As a Michigander, I am proud to see Flint, Michigan, on the list.]

Strengthening and Extending On-the-Job Training for International STEM Graduates of U.S. UniversitiesTo strengthen educational experiences of international students studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in the United States, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published its final rule, expanding and extending use of the existing Optional Practical Training (OPT) program for STEM graduates, and requiring stronger ties between STEM OPT students and universities after graduation to enhance the students’ educational experience.

Progress on the President’s Nation of Makers Initiative. In 2014, President Obama launched the National Makers Initiative to give more people access to new technologies to design and build just about anything. Today, the U.S. Department of Education is launching the Career Technical Education (CTE) Makeover Challenge to encourage the creation of more makerspaces in American high schools. [Ed: I am proud to be selected as a judge for this event -- and don't delay, as the initial applications are due April 1!]

The White House is also announcing the dates for the 2016 National Week of Making as June 17 – 23.

Advancing Career and Technical EducationIn addition, Acting Secretary of Education John King will call on Congress to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career & Technical Education Act, emphasizing the Administration’s ongoing commitment to ensure that we are incentivizing high-quality programs, encouraging innovation, and aligning CTE programs with postsecondary and career opportunities …

In June 2014, President Obama hosted the first-ever Maker Faire and launched the Nation of Makers initiative, an all-hands-on-deck call to give many more students, entrepreneurs, and Americans of all backgrounds access to a new class of technologies—such as 3D printers, laser cutters, and desktop machine tools—that are enabling more Americans to design, build, and manufacture just about anything.

In collaboration with the Department of Education, and complementary to the CTE Makeover Challenge, Digital Promise and Maker Ed are launching the Maker Promise, a pledge for K-12 school leaders to support their students by dedicating a space for making, designating a champion for making, and displaying the results of making. Participating schools will have access to a suite of resources that enable them to empower students to be makers of things, not just consumers of things.

As Obama enters the final ten months of his presidency, these efforts, combined, should give the maker movement enough momentum to continue into the next presidential administration. It is interesting to consider what the next administration, on either side of the aisle, will pursue.

Kristin Fontichiaro


Image credit: “White House Maker Faire (201406180006HQ” by NASA HQ PHOTO on Flickr. CC-NC-ND-2.0.

Posted in 3D Printing, Makerspaces/Hackerspaces | Comments Off

“Sustaining a Makerspace” in Teacher Librarian, Feb. 2016

I was pleased to write about makerspace sustainability for the February 2016 issue of Teacher Librarian. You can find a copy here, thanks to the publisher.

Posted in 3D Printing, Makerspaces/Hackerspaces | Comments Off