Travel Adventures, Cincinnati Attractions & Writing
Create music, robots, banners, photographs, and 3D models, (and read books, too, — ones you write and print yourself) at the MakerSpace in the downtown branch of the Cincinnati Public Library. Popular with artists, inventors, and entrepreneurs, the 9,000 square foot creative suite also educates and entertains kids. Ella Mulford, Team Leader of the Technology Center and MakerSpace, gave me a tour and told me, “I have three step-children, ages 2 – 8, and I bring them down here pretty often, and they always have fun, because this stuff is so out of the ordinary.”
“Kids love to put their faces on buttons,” Ella said at our first stop. A table equipped with the American Button Machine allows patrons to create 1.5 inch buttons of photos they bring, pictures they print, or art they make with the paper and crayons available. Paper crafts are also featured at the Ellison Machine. I found it fun to pick out a stencil, put it in place, pull the lever and punch out a perfect shape silhouette.
Kids can also use the die cut machine to create posters, paper dolls (with clothing and accessories), or even patterns for boxes to fold into their own Minecraft cubes.
Kids can also make a cube or craft with the 3D Printer. However, while it’s very cool, it’s also very slow. Ella showed me a plastic shark, about the size of my finger, and said it took 40 minutes to an hour to print it. “It’s sort of like a giant glue gun,” she said. “It extrudes the plastic, layer on layer, until it’s finished.” MakerSpace’s laser printer is much faster. The laser engraves designs on glass, acrylic, plastic, or wood. Ella said that the library stocks wood panels for $2, and that “Kids like to make plaques for nameplates to put in their bedroom or on their doors.”
Families often combine the stations available at MakerSpace. They take advantage of the photography studio, using the green screen, dressing in costumes, and putting themselves on a baseball field, under the sea, in outer space, or any place they can grab an image of from the Internet. Next, they use the vinyl printer to make a banner of their family adventure. When I visited, a musician was printing seemingly thousands of vinyl lemon stickers to promote his band. Perhaps he stumbled upon the idea after a session in the state of the art Audio Recording Studio, an audio booth with all the professional equipment and effects musicians need to record multi-tracking songs and demos.
While visiting, MakerSpace patrons can also check out lots of exciting learning toys for use in the library. Google Cardboard works with any smart phone and can transport users to museums, famous landmarks, and exotic locations. Kids’ favorites include roller coaster rides and jungle play.
Kids of all ages also love Cubelets, magnetic cubes with added properties that allow users to make and program simple robots. “These are fun for the youngest kids, and their parents too,” Ella said. “There’s so much you can do with them.” And who knew you could turn bananas into piano keys? Borrow Makey Makey and hook the alligator clips to almost anything, a coin, a pencil, or a finger, and make music, play video games, or use a computer – perhaps to reserve some time at the library’s maker space.