Kids explore creativity at Oak Lawn’s Artbots

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As part of their “School Vacation Series,” the Oak Lawn Branch of the Cranston Public Library held a robotics workshop where children learned to build an “Artbot.”

All 15 children, aged from 5 to 15 years old, who had registered for this past Saturday’s program, were equipped with small kits containing basic robotics equipment and art supplies. Emily Brown, coordinator of youth services for the Cranston Public Library, led the children through the process of constructing their “Artbot.”

“I have a couple words up here I’m going to teach you guys,” said Brown. “The first thing we’re going to do today is create a circuit that works.”

Brown put up signs with the words “Conductor,” “Power Source,” and “Switches,” and she instructed them to find each of these pieces. Sifting through their kits, everyone found a battery, pair of wires and a miniature motor. Brown called back their attention for the next step, connecting their battery and motor.

“What kind of animal does this?” asked Brown, clamping her hands together.

“A crab,” “a snapping turtle,” “an alligator,” many of the children said at once.

“I heard someone say it,” said Brown. Holding up the ends of the wires she explained, “These are called ‘Alligator clips.’”

The Cranston Public Library system holds many events, all for various ages, but Brown said she thought it would be important to focus on electrical and mechanical skill sets in Saturday’s workshop.

With careers in fields of computer science or electrical engineering growing rapidly, it is important to get younger children involved in learning about these skills. Cranston libraries have become a center for teaching those skills.

“The kids are learning something, I’m learning something, and the parents are learning something,” said Branch Librarian Stefanie Blankenship.

Once the battery and motor were connected, the next step was to tape markers to an upside down plastic cup creating “legs” for it to stand on. Finally they placed a cork on their motor to exaggerate the movement of the “Artbot,” creating a “wacky” pattern as it vibrated around their sheet of paper drawing on the page.

After the workshop, the children signed their “Artbot” design and brought it home with them, along with a greater understanding of robotics and technological terminology. While this past Saturday’s workshop focused on technological learning, the Cranston Public Library holds events that focus on a wide range of topics.

Many of the children who attended the “Artbot” workshop also attend other events at the Oak Lawn Branch of the library. Natalie Battista, in the second grade at Glen Hills, and fourth-grader at Woodbridge Elementary Jordan Buttie are both members of the “Books and Breakfast” program at the library branch.

“Books and Breakfast” meets once a month, on Saturday mornings, and children ranging from kindergarten through middle school gather to discuss the books they’re reading, and eat breakfast.

According to Brown, the Cranston Public Library received a legislative grant from State Sen. Hanna Gallo. Before receiving the grant, Library Director Ed Garcia submitted a plan featuring proposed budgets, timelines and descriptions of what the library planned use the grant money for.

“That allowed us to buy the robot kits,” said Brown. “That’s where we got the funding for it. We used that to do two six-week programs. Now we’ve taken the best of those six-week programs and we’re repeating them at other locations and other times just to give more kids the opportunity to benefit from the robot kits.”

Funding from the grant is also being used to renovate the Children’s Room at the Cranston Public Library’s Central location on Sockanosset Cross Road. Those renovations are currently underway.

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