ATLANTIC CITY _ The Atlantic City Public Library’s Makerspace dedication Monday included cookies made with a cookie cutter created on a 3-D printer at the library by digital services librarian Ben Saracco.
‘This is a safe place to learn, create and explore,” library director Maureen Frank said as local students prepared to demonstrate their new talents.
Makerspace is a national movement to give people an opportunity to share ideas and resources and make their ideas into reality. The Makerspace in the library Teen Lounge includes a 3-D printer, a sewing machine, digital audio recording equipment, photography and video equipment, and robotics and engineering kits. The program’s motto is “Make AC: Dream It, Design It Do It.”
The space was funded primarily with a $7,500 grant from the New Jersey State Library and LibraryLinkNJ, one of 15 grants awarded to libraries statewide.
N.J. State Librarian Mary Chute said a Makerspace is a way to involve young people in discovery.
“To all the kids in the room, I hope you get inspired,” she said.
Teen services librarian Megan England wrote the grant application and will oversee the site. Staff and selected students set up and tested the equipment, and on Monday wore “Make AC” buttons in a gear design made on the Makerspace button-making machine demonstrated by Mahfuza Haque, 14,
“For weeks students have been coming up and asking ‘What is that?’, and ‘Can I try it?’, and “How does it work?’ ” England said. “ Finally, I am excited to say explore, be creative, have fun.”
She said people will say that someone is born with a talent, but that is not always enough.
“Talent is also about having the opportunity,” she said. “How do you know you have a talent if you never the to try the equipment?”
Students wasted no time getting hands-on with the equipment. Asha Chowdhoury, 17, vice president of the library Teen Advisory Group said she lobbied for the sewing machine and helped put science kits together for the dedication.
“They really are interesting,” she said.
Asma Hai, 15, showed Umoja Blanks,16, how the sewing machine works.
“It’s really interesting how you make things,” Blanks said.
Alex Buckbee, 7, made music with bananas connected by wires to a computer using a Makey Makey kit. His younger brother, Jake, 3, quickly figured out how to used the Snap Circuits circuit board to send a plastic disk twirling into the air.
Their dad, Ron Buckbee, is the media specialist at Richmond Avenue School in Atlantic City and said he sees every day how interested students are in hands-on learning.
“Lots of kids come in and want to learn how to code,” he said as he videoed the event on his smart phone to take back to school. “I’d love to get a 3-D printer.”
Atlantic City Department of Health and Human Services director Ron Cash recalled how the library was his haven while he was going to graduate school and how valuable it is for young people in the city.
“During lunch, after hours, I’d come here to do my research,” he said. “It’s so accessible. And that’s where real wisdom comes, when the children participate.”
Library board of trustees president William Cheatham encouraged the students to learn, then use their talents in Atlantic City.
“You guys are our future,” he said. “Stay here and make our town grow.”
Participants snapped up the Make AC buttons and cookies in the shape of the state of New Jersey, and the big gear that is the Makerspace symbol. The only complaint? That the site is targeted to teens ages 13 to 18. Students must register and have a library card in good standing.
“They need a grownups’ hour,” said Rhonda Fitzgeraldas she watched the students work. “I’m going to have to volunteer here.”