Peters Township Library’s Maker Space is setting up to be a place where a kid can design a logo for grandma to embroider, or print the logo as a 3D figurine.
“We want this to be a place for creation, imagination and collaboration. Kids really need different avenues to develop a hobby and talents,” said Peters Township Library director Pier Lee.
Lee, along with librarians and student volunteers, demonstrated at the Peters Middle School Robotics Scrimmage Dec. 13 one of the two 3D printers to be part of the Maker Space set to open at the beginning of January. Lee said the Maker Space aims to foster creativity and innovation among students and not a “copy and paste” mindset.
“There’s software here for students to develop and design their own structures, their own products. We hope that it will help bring big kinds of ideas and not using it just to print out their favorite logos and brands,” she said.
Part of that inspiration starts in school, according to volunteer Julie Ogburn, coach of the Titanium Titans, the middle school robotics team.
“When I started the Creative Learning Collaborative in 2012, we were trying to get more kids involved in science, technology and mathematics programs; because there was funding taken away, and also this feeling that sports teams have parent groups and fundraising support, so we wanted to answer the call for why there can’t be the same there for kids looking to do science stuff,” Ogburn said.
Ten teams from across the tri-state area set up their robots and calibrated them through the first two hours of the Saturday competition, quickly showing why this would be a scrimmage and not a full-fledged competition.
“They made it off the ramp! Twenty points!” a judge screamed as three other teams’ robots whirred in place.
One of the new year’s first major competitions for the Titans will be the First Tech Challenge regional qualifiers Jan. 24 at Shady Side Academy. Prospective Titan team members can in the meantime bone up on designing their own robots’ physical body, working gears and even program some simple movement commands with the Finch Robot.
“The Finch Robot can teach basic programming even to elementary school students because it has a grid-like, plug-and-play module where you can take pre-programmed inputs and line them up in a grid on the screen. You’re learning about basic programming while seeing it in action,” said Peters Township high school senior Roy Wang, who volunteers at the library.
Wang helped select the two MakerBot 3D printers for the library after consulting with the companies and other libraries that purchased similar technology. The two printers and a YaYa 3D printing design pen will sit alongside the Finch Robot and “traditional” technology like an embroidery machine, sewing machine and a scanner-cutting machine. Lee said classes will be offered on each technology, and embroidery classes have already been under way. As for Wang, he hopes the technology can help fellow students find a career path.
“I’m thinking about biomedical engineering … especially with medical disciplines like orthotics and orthopedics, you’re seeing the printing of joints or custom-made inserts that don’t have to go through a big design process somewhere else. It can be done right on site.”
What has yet to be worked out is a schedule system for 3D printing projects, as simple objects like ornaments or bolts can be printed within minutes, but complex designs could take hours. Lee said they’re investigating a pickup schedule and also a way to defray costs of the $50 rolls of raw plastic used to mold the objects.