It used to be just STEM, but now it’s STEAM — Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math.
Young people at the Grandstaff Library’s STEAM Makerspace enjoyed a brief sprint into technology Feb. 2 as the kids learned some coding and robotics at the Dash and Dot session. The Grandstaff Library has a different STEAM Makerspace activity the first Friday of each month from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
About two dozen children and parents filled the children’s area at Grandstaff, as the kids held tablets and programmed their robots to skim across the carpeted floor. Some of the small blue automated devices turned in circles and others sped across the space to collide with other similar robots.
“Basically, it’s free play for an hour-and-a-half,” said Isabel Mora-Shafer, library technician at Grandstaff, as the children alternately coded and laughed at their robot’s antics. “Some of the children already understand coding, but it’s an app so anybody can use it; it’s trial and error.”
The next planned STEAM event at Grandstaff is March 2, titled, “Makey Makey.” That activity involves a tool called Makey Makey that is as small as a key chain and turns everyday objects into an internet touch pad, Mora-Shafer said.
What exactly that means is still a bit of a mystery, since Mora-Shafer and other staff at Grandstaff are currently in training mode and learn a step ahead of the children in order to facilitate the learning process, she said. The Dash and Dot activity involved basic sequencing, so it was more game than programming, Mora-Shafer said.
“Everybody turn on the white power button; you will find it on their tummy,” she told the children at the beginning of the Feb. 2 activity.
“Mine’s changing colors; here, look,” said 6-year-old, Jada Carnay to her mother, Joyce Carnay, as Jada and her 4-year-old brother, Jo, took turns charting a course for the Dot they programmed.
“If I do it like this, his head will move,” Jada said, demonstrating the new command she’d given the robot.
“I’m going to call him Zobo — Zobo the robot,” the little girl said, as she “petted” the head of her new automated friend.
Carnay said she was glad the library offered such a fun and educational event for children.
“This is Jada’s first introduction to coding,” she said. “It’s creative play and this is a wonderful opportunity for her.”
Carnay is an Army wife, and she and her husband are originally from the Philippines. The family has been at JBLM for two years.
They heard about the STEAM events through a Mothers Of Preschoolers group Carnay is involved in.
“We mark (the library events) on our calendar so we have something to look forward to,” Carnay said. “The best thing is it’s free.”
The Grandstaff Library event is designed for children ages 6 and older, but several smaller kids came that night, which was OK as long as their parents accompanied them, Mora-Shafer said.
Six-year-old Christopher Van enjoyed programming his Dot to speed across the floor, looking a bit like a Star Wars BB-8 astromech as it accomplished the child’s bidding. His dad, Kraig Van, of Lakewood, a retired Army veteran, watched as his son played with the robot.
“He doesn’t want any help,” Van said, a bit surprised that the child had mastered the technology so quickly.
Eight-year-old Hailey Hasting, a second grader at Evergreen Elementary School, also didn’t require any assistance from her mom, Susana Hasting, but that came as no surprise to Hasting.
“Hailey loves science,” Hasting said.
Hailey said she was having fun making her robot dance and move around.
“I’m going to be a chemistry teacher someday,” she said. “But, I also want to sing and be on TV.”
McChord Field Library has a similar program for children ages 8 and older, Dream STEAM, hosted the third Friday of every other month from 4 to 6 p.m.
The next McChord Field Library event is April 20. Registration is required by calling 253-982-3454.
No registration is required for the Grandstaff Library’s STEAM activities.