‘It’s pretty cool’
Kids delight in opening of Rudy Park’s Makerspace
— 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
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.
Nancy Crawford, Elkton Housing Authority resident coordinator, cuts the ribbon to open the Makerspace at Rudy Park.