Mobile makerspace brings technology and accessibility to underserved areas

Not only will the new van provide access to STEM activites and emerging technologies but it will also bring many of the library’s services to local, …

The Jasper Public Library plans on bringing a mobile maker space to the county in 2020.

Based on an idea from the Los Angeles Public Library, the library plans on using a $120,000 grant to outfit a commercial van with STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — gear and a mobile internet hotspot.

An example of a mobile makerspace.

“As we considered what to do, we decided that it needed to be something that would impact the whole county,” Library Director Christine Golden said.

The library received a Ready Communities Implementation grant for the mobile makerspace from the Regional Opportunity Initiatives (ROI) board. ROI’s grant is made possible with a $25,870,000 grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc.

Golden explained that the mobile makerspace idea hit several key impact points the ROI grant program was attempting to address in Southern Indiana communities. Those included the lack of transportation and lack of internet connectivity as well as access to library resources in rural communities.

“It really started to make sense for us to be looking at this as a way to instead of focusing on getting people to the library but to get out to them as well,” Golden said.

Lego Mindstorm kits will be one of the STEM kits planned for the mobile makerspace.

The new van will be outfitted with STEM kits like snap circuits, Makedo toolkits and Makey Makey invention kits as well as Lego Mindstorm kits; all items the schools use to incorporate hands-on STEM activities for students. Additionally, the van will have a 3D printer, laser printer and a TV screen to use for instructional videos and presentations.

The goal is for the van to be accessible county-wide, not just within the Jasper Library’s contractual system.

“This will be something that will show up at community events but we also envision this as something we can set up at businesses, schools, community centers; basically, anywhere we are invited,” Golden said.

Golden wants the public to understand that this is not going to be a traditional bookmobile but it will be an extension of the many services the library already offers.

Not only will the new van provide access to STEM activites and emerging technologies but it will also bring many of the library’s services to local, underserved communities. Using the mobile hotspot, the library will be able to provide laptops or iPads to sign residents up for new library cards, demonstrate library databases and provide other online services like resume and tax assistance.

This can be used to serve the rural areas as well as help seniors who may have mobility or transportation issues.

“We don’t want to have this portion of the population left behind and that’s kind of what’s happening now,” Golden said. “We’ve got a big population group that we see (in the library) all the time. They’re wanting to find better employment and they’re looking for new opportunities. We want to give everyone an equal opportunity for access and to try and learn new things.”

The mobile makerspace is an extension of the planned makerspace included in the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center. According to Golden, both will likely be open and available in the fall of 2020.

“I think this is such a great opportunity; 2020 is already looking to be an unbelievably exciting year for the library,” Golden said. “This adds another component, another level of access and another level of excitement for everything we’re doing.”

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