Panhandle Perspectives - April 25, 2018

Bridgeport makerspace puts creation in the hands of anyone

By Dave Ostdiek, Communications Associate, Panhandle Research and Extension Center

Panhandle Perspectives logoMake a photo ID button. Create a video or record a song. Lasercut a design into a wood plaque. Make a robot. Laminate a poster. Create a design and press it into a t-shirt. Use a computer to do embroidery. Create the world’s handiest gadget out of computer code and circuitry.

All sorts of creative or learning projects are within reach of rural small-town Nebraskans at the traveling Library Innovation Studio, also known as makerspace, at the Bridgeport Public Library beginning May 7.

Makerspaces provide a place with shared tools and technology where people can learn, investigate and create, either alone or collaboratively. The traveling makerspace consists of six stations and nine mobile kits, which people can use to create things such as electronics, textiles, computers, digital media, music, robotics, and other products of digital fabrication. The makerspace will be in Bridgeport for 20 weeks before traveling to Scottsbluff in late September, where it will spend the next 20 weeks.

Makerspace items
Some of the items made by tools that will be available to groups and individuals at the traveling Library Innovation Studio (makerspace) at Bridgeport beginning May 7. These were made by the laser cutter, 3D printer, button maker, vinyl cutter, CNC router, embroidery machine, and laminator.

As the Bridgeport Library makerspace gets set to open, many groups, including 4-H, school classes, county fair-related organizations, and others, are making plans to take advantage of the opportunity.

But the space won’t be just for groups. Librarian Tammy Covalt said individuals also are welcome, after they get certified to use the equipment via online videos or in person at the library. They can call the library to reserve a timeslot to receive training or use the equipment. In addition, several events are being planned to let the public see what is available in the makerspace.

Bridgeport Public Library is one of 18 libraries that will be initial local participants in Nebraska’s Library Innovation Studios: Transforming Rural Communities,” a project announced last October by Gov. Pete Ricketts. The project is a partnership with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), Nebraska Innovation Studio, Nebraska Extension, Regional Library Systems, and local public libraries. Twelve additional libraries will be selected in 2018 to host makerspaces in 2019-20.

The project uses Library Innovation Studios makerspaces hosted by public libraries to support community engagement and participatory learning experiences by providing access to technology and innovative learning tools not readily accessible locally. This is expected to stimulate creativity, innovation, and the exchange of ideas to facilitate entrepreneurship, skills development, and local economic development.

The Nebraska Innovation Studio—the UNL makerspace—is the creative and collaborative hub of UNL’s Nebraska Innovation Campus, where makers and builders team up to conceptualize, prototype, and iterate projects that solve problems and influence change. The primary focus is on creativity, interdisciplinary collaboration, entrepreneurship, and education.

“UNL and Nebraska Innovation Studio are extremely excited to be partnering with the Nebraska Library Commission and libraries across the State of Nebraska to help bring hands-on learning experiences to Nebraskans of all ages,” said UNL Nebraska Innovation Studio Founder Shane Farritor at the project unveiling.

The Bridgeport makerspace is one of several opportunities for western Nebraskans to use technology to create and learn. As mentioned, Scottsbluff also will have its chance to host the rotating innovation studio. And a permanent Innovation Makerspace Co-Laboratory was established recently in Sidney.

The stations in the traveling makerspace include a 3D printer station with computer; a laser cutter station that allows laser cutting, etching and engraving into various materials such as leather, rubber, wood, glass, acrylic and metal; a 24-inch vinyl cutter with computer to make designs on vinyl media; a router station and computer to cut a variety of materials; an embroidery machine; and a heat press station to apply a design to a t-shirt, apron, bag, or other fabric.

The mobile kits include a Lego Mindstorms EV3 kit (to build and program robots); laminator kit; Arduino Starter Kit (open-source electronics platform that uses hardware and software to make interactive projects); SparkFun Inventor’s Kit (allows users to construct circuits to read sensors, display information on an LCD, drive motors, and more); Makey Makey (turns everyday objects into touchpads and combines them with the internet); a camera and video creator kit; a music recording kit; soldering kit; and a button maker kit.

Bridgeport Library Tammy Covalt said special makerspace events are being planned, including a ladies’ night, a Bridgeport Teammates function, and activities with the library summer reading program.

Morrill County 4-H Assistant Chelsea Altena said 4-H clubs are making plans to use the makerspace. Some will be making projects for the Morrill County Fair, or signs to post over their livestock.

Morrill County Farm and Ranch will be making new signs for the fairgrounds south of Bridgeport. The high school International Club will make matching T-shirts and luggage tags for a trip to Germany, Switzerland, Denmark and France. The Morrill County offices plan to use the makerspace to make nametags, t-shirts, and promotional items for county staff. In August, Amy Widener, the business teacher and librarian, will be using the makerspace for an entrepreneurship workshop for her students to make items for them to sell.

During the first full week, the portable kits will be set up at the Bridgeport Elementary School library so the students can see what is available at the makerspace.

Altena said the 4-H Council is planning activities, including making signs. Homemakers clubs are making plans to use the laser cutter to cut fabrics. A Garden County 4-H Club is planning to use the laser cutter and do embroidery.

The Makerspace will be represented at the Morrill County Fair July 21-28. Covalt said having an open class for items made at the makerspace has been discussed. Altena said equipment from the makerspace will be on display at the fair, so visitors can see demonstrations of how they are used.

An open house is planned during Camp Clarke Days (June 1-4) to show the equipment and examples of what each piece of equipment can do. The Bridgeport Library and Morrill County 4-H will use their Facebook pages and the Bridgeport News Blade weekly newspaper to highlight a piece of equipment each week.

Individuals who want to create something in the makerspace are encouraged to check at the library about scheduling their use and bringing or obtaining consumable materials to use.

For some of the machines, users can bring their own consumables, Covalt said, but for certain equipment, such as the router and laser cutter, materials need to be approved by library staff. People who want to make a quilt or pillow will be able to bring their own material, she said.

Some consumables will be available to purchase, such as t-shirts boards, tile and cork posters. Some material is being donated to the project, such as fabric and lumber, so people who want to experiment before they invest in nicer materials will be able to play.

Altena added that all the materials made available at the library (such as buttons) will be “very affordable.”

Library hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Saturdays from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. But Covalt said the library expects to open for some additional times during the summer to accommodate people wanting to use the makerspace, and will work with groups who want to book evening times.

“We’re excited,” Covalt said. “We think it will be a good opportunity for young people in our community to get a taste of technology they wouldn’t have in a rural community.”

The ultimate goal, Altena said, is to generate enough interest locally to establish a permanent makerspace.