STEM Resources Delivered to Kids in Need

Danielle Duvall has a serviceable work space at the King County Library System service center in Issaquah, though she scarcely uses it. Instead she can be found at the refugee centers, homeless encampments, assisted living centers, and community centers of King County.

Duvall’s official title is public service specialist, though it hardly seems to adequately encapsulate her duties and their impact on the county.

“I am the only person in the King County Library System that has this job, which is to go out and deliver technology related classes to different areas in King County that are under served,” she said.

Last summer, Duvall wanted to find more ways to engage children and young adults during the summer months when education and engagement are at a minimum. So she partnered with free lunch programs in the area to institute a Minecraft-centric technology program which served more than 400 children in only eight weeks.

“At the end of summer, I told to my boss that as much as I love Minecraft, I would really like the opportunity to do some curriculum that was a little meatier; I felt like Minecraft was a good base line pilot,” she said.

Duvall’s proposal, ideaX, outlined five categories of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programming that could be adapted to KCLS’ existing mobile learning labs or stand alone at a branch library or community center. Suggested categories included 3D printing, electronics, robotics, digital media, and game design.

“The idea was kind of a shot in the dark, will they fund this? Who knows, I was going to ask for the moon,” she said. “And be careful what you ask for because the project was funded completely.”

Typically, projects of this magnitude require a year to plan and implement, yet Duvall began planning January 1st for a late spring release of the first two modules, electronics and robotics.

To facilitate this quickly approaching deadline, Duvall enlisted the help of a team of tech-savvy teens to consult on the project including 17-year-old Mei’lani Eyre who heard about the council from a teen librarian in her Girls Who Code club.

“I didn’t expect to have that big of a role in this program like I currently have, but the student council has given myself and the other members a chance to share our ideas and have those ideas be heard,” Eyre said. “The fact that our small group of teens has been able to take the best of their abilities, knowledge, and ideas and utilize them to help build an educational STEM program impresses me to no end.”

Together, Duvall and the council began designing each module starting with electronics and robotics, breaking them into age appropriate sub-categories with detailed instructions. The over-reaching goal, was to make each module stand on its own while also informing subsequent modules.

“The modules cross over among all five categories,” Duvall said. “When you do 3D you’ll notice that it also has applicability for when you start to create characters in a video game, the concepts are similar.”

By serving communities that typically go under served and bringing new technologies into these areas, KCLS is giving children opportunities that can inspire a life-long passion or possibly a future career in technology.

“Even in today’s age, where STEM education is a hot topic, free STEM programs with the needed resources aren’t as readily accessible as one might think,” Eyre said. “Not everyone has the means of owning or even accessing a 3D printer, or the software to make their own digital film. Having free programs that provide these materials can expose kids and teens of all ages to new technologies, ways of thinking, and endless possibilities.”

KCLS will continue to roll out the rest of the modules throughout the summer and into the fall. Some 3D kits will begin appearing by mid-to-late July, whereas the teen council is expected to turn in a curriculum for music editing, film editing, and video game creation by September.

Eyre said she is waiting excitedly for the rest of the program to launch. “Because of these experiences, I can’t wait to meet the youth that will be taking part in our programs to see what they learn, how they grow, and what I can learn from them,” she said.

For more information about the program, visit KCLS’ website.

is an assistant editor at 425 magazine. Email her.
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