Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Science Toolboxes: An Update

We have been expanding our science kits in the
children's room in an effort to introduce non-traditional circulating items for over a year now. We have littleBits, Raspberry Pi 2, Sphero, Cubelets, KEVA planks and Makey Makeys. Our newest editions were the robots, Dash and BeeBot, which gained popularity after we had them out to test during the Hour of Code. I happen to be showing one of the kids the littleBits kit, since all the robotics kits were out, when I noticed some bits are just not holding up during circulation.

Our littleBits kit included Lego adapters, mounting boards, and the small starter kit which doesn't seem to be available anymore with 10 bits included. If you are new to littleBits, they are small magnetic pieces, each with their own function, that can be put together to make an electronic invention. Bits include lights, sensors, motors and speakers. You can integrate them into recyclables, Lego projects, sewing name it! For a while, we used them in house for makerspace activities but we decided to try to circulate them for personal patron use. If you are looking to go this route, here's some advice:

First thing to watch is the battery wire. You might want to electrical tape it because they are constantly breaking. I have already replaced this at least 3 times. I have no idea why there's exposed wires on there to begin with.

2nd thing to watch is the plastic screw driver which is necessary to change the color of lights on the LED or the pulse speed input so it's something that's necessary but apparently fragile as the head usually breaks off.

3rd thing that breaks continually is the vibrating motor output which also has an exposed wire between the motor itself and the bit. Perhaps electric tape would help in this instance too? Or just take my advice and get another output that's just as fun but less exposed like the Buzzer. I have been keeping my eye on the pressure sensor input as well since it says DO NOT BEND and yet it always comes back with a bit of a crease (but still works::knock on wood::). I might swap that out for the motion sensor input since it seems more durable. I would advise to take out anything with exposed wires or fragile components and save those for in house projects.

My other failed attempt at a science kit this year is the 3Doodler 2.0, the first plastic extruding 3D pen, which has too many nozzle and jamming issues. One caused by even a seasoned user like myself while prepping it for circulation. The nozzle broke straight off while I was trying to fix a jam. The previous user left filament in the pen which I can image happening often during circulation as well. Even though my boyfriend swears I have hulk hands, I WAS being careful and following the instructions to the letter. Here are some examples of the fine details to fixing jams with this pen:

  Unscrew the nozzle only when the pen is hot (Spoiler: the nozzle isn't that secure in the removal tool once out so don't do it over your lap). It also makes references to "pulling out" the filament GENTLY or it could ruin the gears inside. Then using another special tool (which could get lost easily) to push filament through the pen, stopping when you feel resistance..this is all very detailed, delicate work that could occur at home with the patron or every time this comes back jammed to the librarian.

Even normal pen usage is quite detail oriented, you have to be sure that the temperature matches the filament being used and (spoiler: once out of the package PLA and ABS look the same!) So if you were going through with the kit, I'd only keep one or the other in there so they don't get mixed up.

So moral of this story is science kits are a wonderful thing to add to your library collection but there is always time to reflect on the number and delicacy of the pieces being circulated.


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