Library, Local Teens Get a Brand New 3D Printer and More During Teen Tech Week

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Teens create objects in SkechUP Make at the Central Library. Photo by Andrew Moore.

Teens create objects in SkechUP Make at the Central Library. Photo by Andrew Moore.

The advent of three dimensional (3D) printing opens up a whole new realm of creative possibilities for consumers. Using 3D modeling software, users are only limited by their imagination – well, that and their pocketbook, the technology is still quite expense.

Thanks to the San Antonio Public Library Foundation and a grant from Best Buy, San Antonio teens will be able to use and experiment with a 3D printer for free at the San Antonio Central Library.

The library staff set up their shiny, new MakerBot Replicator2 on Friday and two agents from Best Buy’s Geek Squad taught 3D modeling and printing to a group of 11 teens. The young students learned to use SketchUp Make – a free 3D modeling program – to learn to create simple structures like blocks and spheres before creating a more complicated model of a house and beyond. Then they got to see the printer in action.

Teens watch the 3D printer in action at the Central Library. Photo by Andrew Moore.

Teens watch the 3D printer in action at the Central Library. Photo by Andrew Moore.

“For a majority of them, it’s only something they have seen through social media or (on the news),” Geek Squad Covert Agent Jose Salazar said. “We are trying to help bring a lot of this twenty-first century technology to them and help prepare them for the future.”

The MakerBot Replicator2 printer was paid for by a $2,000 grant from Best Buy and additional funding from the San Antonio Public Library Foundation. The printer retails for $2,199.99 and each spool of plastic used to print costs $48.00. But it’s now a free resource for teens at the San Antonio Central Library on 600 Soledad St.

“I’ve looked this up before to try it out, but I never actually thought I would get to use one,” 18-year-old Braian Wilter said. “The library surprised me by telling me the other day that we would get to and there would be people here to show us how to use it … It just seems like something I wouldn’t be able to try anywhere else.”

Not all of the Kids were able to stay at the end and print something, mostly because printing even a small object can take 20 to 30 minutes. But some, like 15-year-old Cruz Jimenez, got a souvenir at the end of the day.

“I didn’t expect to be able to finish and print it, but it’s being printed now. So that’s pretty cool, and quite amazing to see it all happen from computer to this 3D printer,” Jimenez said.

The 3D printing event was just one of many tech events held at San Antonio Library branches during Teen Tech Week – a nationwide initiative of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA). The Teen Tech Week initiative, which ran from March 9 to March 15, promotes teen digital literacy and media literacy in order to create more informed, productive citizens.

San Antonio originally joined the program in 2010. This year, San Antonio was one of seven cities chosen by YALSA to receive free teen tech workshops provided by Best Buy and Geek Squad staff. In addition to the Friday workshop with the Geek Squad, San Antonio libraries held a total of 36 other tech events during the week which taught coding, robotics, creative media, podcasting, blog creation and more. The libraries hosted movie and video game events as well.

Teen Services coordinator Caroline Mossing sets up the brand new 3D printer at the Central Library. Photo by Andrew Moore.

Teen Services Librarian Caroline Mossing sets up the brand new 3D printer at the Central Library. Photo by Andrew Moore.

Teen Services Librarian Caroline Mossing administered several of the events, including a coding event with Scratch – a free educational coding resource from the MIT Media Lab – at the Great Northwest Branch Library. The teens create their own cartoons by placing a character, called a sprite, on a background and making the character move and talk with simple blocks of code.

Teens learn the basics of computer programming through an MIT educational program, "Scratch," at Great Northwest Branch Library. Photo by Andrew Moore.

Teens learn the basics of computer programming through an MIT educational program, "Scratch," at Great Northwest Branch Library. Photo by Andrew Moore.

“We can’t just do book clubs, you know? There is a lot of exciting technology changes happening right now so we definitely want to stay on top of trends and make sure that we are giving our patrons the best service possible,” said Mossing. “With Scratch especially, programming isn’t something that is taught in every school so if a teen can come to the library and dip their toes in and see if it is something they might like to learn more about, then they can get a head start on these new skills.”

Meanwhile, at the Igo Branch Library, local teens Josh and Cameron Turner of the Screaming Chickens robotics team gave a robotics demonstration to other kids in the community using Lego Mindstorms robots.

“I hope they get inspired to join a robotics team. I’d love to see them out there,” Josh Turner said.  “For us, we had to buy our own kit and figure it ourselves. If we have someone showing us, we probably would have gotten into it faster.”

Participation in Teen Tech Week is just one part of the San Antonio Public Library Teen Services' mission – to create a venue where teens can hang out, work on homework, socialize, and learn new technologies outside of school. Ever since 2011 – and the opening of the San Antonio Libraries’ Mission and Parman branches – space dedicated for teen areas have been designed into all new libraries. A few older libraries are converting and expanding their space to accommodate teens and teen librarians are assigned.

Screaming Chickens robotics team gave a robotics demonstration to other kids in the community using Lego Mindstorms robots.

The Screaming Chickens robotics team give a demonstration to other kids in the community using Lego Mindstorms robots at the Igo Branch Library. Photo by Andrew Moore

According to Teen Services Coordinator Jennifer Velasquez, it’s about creating libraries that are communities of learning for teens instead of just warehouses for books. By providing additional multimedia learning resources libraries can help teens develop their interests and hobbies without the confines of the public school system.

“There is this notion of what it’s like to be in school, where if you are a teenager you are in a set of controlled experiences. Those experiences are controlled by bells ringing, to where you are allowed to go, to adults telling you what to do,” Velasquez said. “We want to make sure when they get here they are decision makers and may participate at whatever level they want to.”

While the Teen Tech Week has come to a close, there are still plenty of ways kids can get involved in their local libraries. For a list of events, check out the San Antonio Library events calendar at www.mysapl.org.

*Featured/top image: Teens create objects in SketchUP Make at the Central Library.  Photo by Andrew Moore.

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