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Learning through play

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018 Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, Technology and Resources, Training and Continuing Education | Comments Off on Learning through play

five boys playing with Lego robots on the floor.With Microsoft, Amazon, Google and many other companies based in Washington we are a technology state. Washington State is endlessly hungry for skilled technology workers and STEM learning is an important component of educating our future workforce.  The State Library, seeing this need, has invested in many STEM kits which we circulate to interested libraries around Washington. Coding and robotics are work skills that are highly prized, and one of our original, and very popular kits, Lego Mindstorms teaches these skills.  Purchased in 2016 these kits have so far visited 28 libraries and have a waiting list that stretches out until well into 2018.

While endlessly fun, fascinating, and educational, Lego Mindstorms also have a steep learning curve.  At the beginning of the program, Joe Olayvar and Evelyn Lindberg developed a hands on training, signed up interested libraries and hit the road.  Travelling around the entire state, Joe and Evelyn visited 43 public, Tribal, School and Academic libraries, training staff in 44 different Legislative districts. The trainings were a huge success with comments such as, “Great example of how to do a Mindstorms program.”, “Excellent training – I want MORE!” and “I wished there was an hour of just free play.”

As popular as the trainings were, the kits soon had a waiting list that was over two years long.  Joe realized that by the time they arrived at some of the later scheduled libraries, the person running the program might need to learn all over again, or might not even work there anymore. Being a problem solver by nature he set out to do just that, solve the problem.  A comprehensive LEGO® Mindstorms® EV3 Programming Basics tutorial was created complete with accompanying YouTube videos.  While he was creating this resource, Joe thought of it as support for Washington libraries. Little did he know that his work would be discovered and spread widely.  The first to contact him was COSUGI .  They were so impressed by the tutorial that they are bringing Joe and Evelyn to Atlanta to do a training at their annual conference in April.  Recently a Community College instructor in Oregon contacted Joe asking permission to use the resource.  Joe regularly receives calls about the tutorials, which are being used around the nation.  We can only imagine what will happen after their April conference presentation!

Thanks to this effort, the youth of our state, and now the nation, are being exposed to robotics education and coding in a way that is so fun and hands-on they don’t even know they’re learning.  You’re welcome Tech industry.