Movement and motivation

True Confessions

It’s been 3 weeks since ILEAD U ended.  My inbox is filled with emails from my amazing teammates.  “Let’s keep this going” is the general refrain.  We are doing things!

Except.  I’m not.

(Or maybe, it doesn’t feel like I am)

One of the things that was so attractive about this project was that I wouldn’t have to do much work preparing these technology kits.  They would come fully fuctional.  I would put them out, the kids would play, and all would be well.  My STEM goals would be reached.  All for a low low price of ____.

Oh, how I wish that was true.  I WISH THIS WAS TRUE! (Yes, I am using all caps to SHOUT!)

The truth is that there is no easy fix to get this stuff (technology, programming, STEM) into our libraries.  It takes effort, motivation, and continued education and movement.  That is where I am struggling.  I came into this program ambivalent.  I left ILEAD U with great care and admiration for my fellow ILEADers, particularly my teammates.  I cannot say that I grew in my love for this technology.

So now I am here.  No programs to evaluate.  ILEAD is over.  Now is when I have to put my money where my mouth is and keep moving forward.

Here is my question:  we still have money left over from the ILEAD U grant. What should we buy?  What do you want to see evaluated?

My truth is I still need you.  I need all of you to keep me moving forward.  It was so easy to be pulled into the momentum of ILEAD U.  It is summer camp for librarians.  But most people do not have the opportunity to have such an amazing experience.  Some of you are the only people in your department.  Some of you have crappy management.  Some of you have no money. It is hard to keep momentum in these situations.

If you are one of those people, please know, I am with you.  When the lights fade, the excitement diminishes, and the loneliness comes back, I am there.  I know it can start to feel too big again.  And that is why we (RTK) are here.  We need to be a pep rally for each other as much as we need to be a resource for each other.

Let’s do this thing.  42 steps.  One step at a time.

Review: Snap Circuits

Programs, Reviews, Snap Circuits

Robot Basics:

  • What is it?
Snap Circuits makes learning electronics easy and fun. Just follow the colorful pictures in our manual and build exciting projects such as AM radios; burglar alarms; doorbells and much more. You can even play electronic games with your friends. All parts are mounted on plastic modules and snap together with ease. Enjoy hours of educational fun while learning about electronics. No tools required. Includes Projects 1-305 manuals. (includes all of the SC100 projects and 200 new ones.) (from the manufacturer)
  • What’s in the box?

This package comes with 2 manuals with over 300 projects to build.  It also comes with 60 components.

  • How much is it?

The cost of this package is around $45.00.  You can get additional packages for more or less.

  • How did we acquire it?

My library purchased three kits for use in programs.

Ideas for Use

I used these kits in my Robot Test Lab programs.  Many kids were already familiar with the snap circuit kits.  They had them at home, or knew of friends who had them.  I paired two kids together per kit to attempt to put together a project listed in the manual.

Time Involved

This program takes no time to prepare.  I played with the kits a bit before I put them out.  I enjoyed figuring out how to build an AM radio.   Building a project from the manual can take anywhere from 10 minutes to a half hour.

One-time or Recurring Program

This could be an on going program, however I found that most of the kids already knew how to use the Snap Circuit kits.  They were more interested in creating new projects and not following the directions.

Extension Activities

You could use these kits in a variety of ways.  The students could be challenged to build the same project in the shortest amount of time.  The students could create an entire new project using the three boards as opposed to just the one in the kit.  Many of the kids I worked with were enthusiastic to see what they could come up with.  They were quickly bored by the directions from the book.  Once they understand the concept of circuitry, they can do many things.

Skills You Need

The ability to read directions and then, the ability to do your own thing.

Other Tools You Need

4 AA batteries

Good Stuff

I love this kit.  As someone who gets nervous around STEM theories and programs, this is something I found interesting and manageable.  I spent a bit of time building my own Snap Circuit AM Radio and when it finally came together and worked, I felt proud.


I wish the kids would think outside of the box a little more often.  Many of them wanted to create their own circuit but did not understand the basics of circuitry before starting their own projects.  Of course, this could be my own problem.  I want kids to understand what they are doing before they start branching out.  I forget that the point of all of this is to experiment.

Ending Thoughts/Observations

I used these kits with middle school kids.  I think they could best be used with elementary age.  The middle school kids were bored more easily.  Many of them had used the kits before at home.  If you can get started with a younger group, you may have more luck with keeping their attention for a longer period of time.

Overall Rating:

I think these kits are a great deal.  They are wonderful for those of us who still feel a little squeamish around robotics and STEM programming.

Review: Sphero

Programs, Reviews, Sphero

Robot Basics: Sphero 2.0

What is it? (from the website)

Control Sphero from your smartphone or tablet, change colors, complete challenges, earn tricks, and more. Sphero is waterproof, pet-proof, and ready to roll.

Download free SPRK lessons and learn the basics of programming. Then unleash Sphero’s inner robot and program like a pro. The more you play, the smarter you get.
  • What’s in the Box?

One Sphero 2.0 ball with base, 2 inclines, and ball holder.

  • How Much?

129.99 (the app is free)

  • Age Range?

Grades 1 and up.  I did the program with Middle School kids.

  • How Did We Acquire it?

We purchased it using the ILEAD USA grant money.

Ideas for Use

Bring it out in the Library to whirl around. It will certainly get the kids’ attention.  All ages were interested in playing with it while I was on the reference desk.  The older kids liked to build obstacle courses for the Sphero and try to achieve some of the tricks by leveling up.

Time Involved

You need to download the app for your iPad before you begin.  Play around with it a little bit before giving it to kids.  It can be touchy, so you want to get a handle on the speed.

One-time or Recurring Program

We did a one-time program, however I could see it being used for another program focused only on Sphero.  The kids play together nicely with it, giving each other turns, creating obstacle courses and instructing each other on how to use the toy.

Extension Activities

According to the website and the Sphero packaging, you can use this product with video games and lots of other apps.  We did not go that far into programming with Sphero.

Skills You Need

You should know how to work an iPad and how to download apps. Other than that, it’s pretty easy to use.

Other Tools You Need

You’ll need the Sphero apps. There are over 30 apps available for the Sphero.

Good Stuff

This is easy enough for the kids to figure out.  They were thrilled at all the different capabilities of the Sphero.  They loved running the Sphero into their friends.


We didn’t have enough for anyone, and the kids were disappointed about that.

Ending Thoughts/Observations

I’d like to work with Sphero 2.0 more to see what other games and activities we could do with it.  The basics were entertaining and I can only imagine how much more fun there is to have with the other Sphero apps and games.

Overall Rating:

This is a good investment.  I would buy more.