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A military-affiliated family from Rippon Middle School, Prince William County, plans to use the 3-D printer for his schools "Invention Convention."

Photo by Marianne Weaver

Makerspace infuses fun into learning as well as school assignments

8 Dec 2016 | Marianne Weaver/Staff Writer Marine Corps Base Quantico

On the first and third Wednesdays of each month, from 3 to 6 p.m., military kids ranging in age from five to 13 crowd into the Makerspace area, tucked in a far corner of the Quantico Base Library, to create and explore technology with more than 20 high-tech toys and engineering devices.

“Makerspace is a program targeted at elementary through high school students that encourages STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) learning,” said Katelyn McManus, library technician at the Quantico Base Library. “We have several educational tools and toys that encourage kids to learn through play and explore topics at their own pace in a hands-on way.”

There are robots – Dash and Dot – that teach coding to kids as young as five. An endless supply of Legos spur creativity. Kaylee Wilsher, library technician at the Quantico Base Library, said some kids who aren’t as drawn to the robots or Legos prefer GoldiBlox, a story/activity book that teaches engineering concepts. She said kids also love OSMO coding, a program that runs alongside an iPad app to teach coding basics.

“OSMO is really great for hands-on learners,” she said. “It takes the elements of blockly that you would typically see in an online program and turns them into physical blocks they can manipulate and move so that the idea of ‘coding’ the character to do things makes more sense. The OSMO also has spelling, math, tangrams and drawing apps.”

In the summer, she said about 40 to 70 kids attended each session. In the fall, however, some of those kids are drawn away by other after-school activities.

This month, Sherman, an eighth grade student at Rippon Middle School (Prince William County) was brought to the Quantico library in search of support for a school assignment. His mother stated he has to create a project for the school’s “Invention Convention” program by Jan. 26. If that wasn’t challenging enough, he must put the presentation together for less than $20.

Sherman said his project is a redesign of the typical maker cart. The carts, which are commonly used in schools to make the hands-on Makerspace projects mobile, are often cumbersome, can’t handle stairs and don’t turn easily, he said.

Sherman said his goal is to redesign the cart, using three wheels. The challenge, his mother added, is to produce a model prototype for under $20.

She said they saw an advertisement for Makerspace and decided to stop by to learn more about the 3-D printer and find out the cost, which turned out to be free.

“We would never have come in under $20 anywhere else,” she said.

Makerspace is free for patrons of the Quantico Base Library and USMC Research Library, with accounts in good standing. To be able to utilize the Makerspace programs, participants must show a valid DoD identification card. Because of the popularity of the 3-D printer, the program is demonstration only, except by appointment.

Wilsher said the program, which started one year ago, was started from a Department of Defense grant initiative to put Makerspaces in all the Marine Corps libraries across the world.

Related story: Makerspace offers new tier of fun to base library

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