‘It’s pretty cool’

Kids de­light in open­ing of Rudy Park’s Mak­erspace

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By JES­SICA IANNETTA

jian­netta@ce­cil­whig.com

— The kids be­gan cir­cling the doors of the Rudy Park Com­mu­nity Build­ing as early as 3 p.m., more than two hours be­fore the rib­bon-cut­ting re­veal, hop­ing to get a glimpse of what lay inside.

A month ear­lier, many of

ELK­TON

those same kids had helped with a demo project inside the Rudy Park Com­mu­nity Build­ing that saw walls come down be­tween what was for­merly an of­fice, a laun­dry room and a garage to cre­ate one big room.

But very few of them had seen the area since, and by the time Elk­ton Hous­ing Au­thor­ity res­i­dent co­or­di­na­tor Nancy Craw­ford cut the rib­bon around 5:30 p.m., she faced the very real pos­si­bil­ity of be­ing run over by the

crowd of kids ea­ger to burst into the space.

When the group of nearly two dozen kids fi­nally did get through the door on Thurs­day, they got to ex­pe­ri­ence the county’s first Mak­erspace, an area filled with high­tech equip­ment that rep­re­sents a cross be­tween the DIY move­ment and tech­nol­ogy. The Rudy Park ver­sion boasts 3-D prin­ters, a Lego climb­ing wall, a MaKey MaKey pro­gram, KEVA planks, Osmo gam­ing pro­grams and at least three kinds of ro­bots.

“I think it ex­ceeded the (kids’) ex­pec­ta­tions,” Craw­ford said. “These kids can imag­ine what a ham­mer looks like but they have no idea what a 3-D printer is.”

The open­ing of the Mak­erspace was the re­sult of a part­ner­ship be­tween the Elk­ton Hous­ing Au­thor­ity and Ce­cil County 4-H, with lots

of out­side help from the com­mu­nity, said Vicki Stone, the Univer­sity of Mary­land Ex­ten­sion pro­gram as­sis­tant for 4-H.

Though the Mak­erspace will pri­mar­ily serve kids from Rudy Park and Wind­sor Vil­lage, the 4-H Ro­bot­ics Club will also be based there. 4-H also plans to hold classes to teach county ed­u­ca­tors and other youth lead­ers how to use the tech­nol­ogy in the Mak­erspace so they can hold classes and other ac­tiv­i­ties there too, Stone said.

The space will be free to use for every­one, she added.

Though the kids need to un­der­stand the re­spon­si­bil­ity that comes with us­ing the equip­ment, Stone hopes the Mak­erspace be­comes a place where kids can ex­per­i­ment and learn by do­ing.

“I want you to ex­plore. I want you to take apart what you can,” Stone told the kids be­fore the rib­bon-cut­ting. “We pro­mote tin­ker­ing.”

Tin­ker­ing was just what was oc­cur­ring on Thurs­day af­ter­noon when the kids got to use the Mak-

erspace for the first time. At one end of the room, two girls played with Le­gos on a Lego board set ver­ti­cally on the wall. Just be­hind them, a group of four kids got instructions from a 4-H club mem­ber on how to use the Osmo pro­gram on an iPad to make com­plex draw­ings.

On the other end of the room, one group of kids gath­ered around a ta­ble to make LED pa­per flash­lights while mem­bers of the 4-H ro­bot­ics team played with the ro­bots and ex­per­i­mented with the 3-D prin­ters.

Seren­ity John­son, 7, who lives in Rudy Park, said her fa­vorite part of the Mak­erspace was the Osmo pro­gram since she wants to learn how to draw bet­ter. But she liked ev­ery­thing about the Mak­erspace and said she’d be back.

“It’s pretty cool,” said John­son, who wants to be an en­gi­neer. “I get to see cool things and learn about engi­neer­ing stuff.”

Marc DiSciullo, 12, who lives in Elk­ton and is in the 4-H Ro­bot­ics

Club, was ea­ger to use the 3-D print­ing ma­chines, not­ing the club can now make al­most any part it needs for its ro­bot. And since the 3-D print­ing ma­chines make parts out of plas­tic in­stead of me­tal, they’re much lighter and will re­quire less power for the ro­bots to move, he said.

“I re­ally like it. We haven’t re­ally had a build­ing for the club,” DiSciullo said. “It’s re­ally cool that we have it all in one place now.”

The cre­ation of the Mak­erspace is, in many ways, the nat­u­ral next step for the tech­nol­ogy and STEM­fo­cused pro­grams 4-H has been hold­ing at Rudy Park and Wind­sor Vil­lage for years. About five years ago, Ce­cil County 4-H got a grant from the Of­fice of Ju­ve­nile Jus­tice and Delin­quency Pre­ven­tion to start the Tech Wizards pro­gram, which pairs kids up with men­tors to learn about STEM sub­jects.

The grant, which is about $40,000 a year, helped cre­ate the be­gin­nings of a tech­nol­ogy lab at Rudy Park with the pur­chase of

lap­tops and later iPads, Stone said.

Ear­lier this year, Stone was able to pur­chase one 3-D printer and took a class at the Dig­i­tal Har­bor Foun­da­tion in Bal­ti­more to learn how to use it. Dur­ing the class, she learned how the foun­da­tion had con­verted a for­mer re­cre­ation cen­ter into a Mak­erspace and won­dered if she could bring that con­cept to Ce­cil County.

Stone brought the idea to Craw­ford who was en­thu­si­as­tic and got sup­port from the Elk­ton Hous­ing Au­thor­ity to trans­form the three rooms at Rudy Park. Res­i­dents and staff at Rudy Park helped out with some of the ren­o­va­tions and lo­cal busi­nesses also do­nated some of the tech equip­ment that went inside, Stone said.

Craw­ford said she was happy about how the com­mu­nity came to­gether to cre­ate the Mak­erspace and is ex­cited for all the use the area will get.

“I think it will be a fun place where kids can still be kids,” she said.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JES­SICA IANNETTA

Nancy Craw­ford, Elk­ton Hous­ing Au­thor­ity res­i­dent co­or­di­na­tor, cuts the rib­bon to open the Mak­erspace at Rudy Park.

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