Local Washougal library and schools partner for STEM opportunities

Canyon Creek Middle School students learn about electrical circuits with Makey Makey kits.

Washougal, WA — A partnership with Washougal Community Library and the Washougal School District is helping to bring words such as circuit, conductor and electricity to life for Washougal students.

“Our workshops are giving kids an opportunity to explore technology in a fun way that is interesting to them using the popular Makey Makey and Squishy Circuits kits,” said Rachael Ries, Fort Vancouver Regional Library District, Washougal Community Library Branch Manager.

The Makey Makey kit features a circuit board that allows students to operate simple programs by connecting everyday objects to a computer. “Instead of using the computer keyboard buttons to play a piano program, you can hook the Makey Makey to something fun, like bananas or play-doh, and that becomes your piano keys,” said Ries. “We use this to demonstrate how electric current and circuits work.” Students can choose to use the circuit board to control games, take photos or play music.

The workshops have been held for Washougal students in elementary, middle and high school levels and were the brainchild of Hillary Marshall, Washougal High School Library Media Specialist. “I wanted to bring computer science opportunities to WHS and opened the BETA Base Makerspace in September 2017 after three years of research, attending Makerspace trainings and writing grants to fund this space,” said Marshall. “I briefly mentioned to Rachael this fall that I wanted to bring more students into the Makerspace. Rachel suggested a meeting with Jamie Bair, the FVRL Makerspace Librarian, who encouraged us to incorporate Makerspace programming with our WSD schools.”

The materials the students are using in this Tech Workshop are supplied from the Office of the Secretary of State – Washington State Library and the Fort Vancouver Regional Library. “Without the Makey Makey kits and Squishy Circuit kits, this workshop wouldn’t be available to our students,” Marshall said.

Alyssa Harness and Hailey Smith took part in a workshop in their seventh-grade science class at Canyon Creek Middle School. “We created ten outputs for our synthesizer program,” explained Harness. They expanded the circuit board with jumper cables connected to play-doh buttons.

“I was so impressed with the students at our CCMS workshop,” said Marshall. “I saw risk taking, experimentation and creativity in their work.”

The workshop at Hathaway was an afterschool offering during Robotics club. Marshall has recently become the Hathaway Robotics Advisor. “In March we plan to collaborate again with FVRL by working with their Edison Robots,” Marshall explained. “Each of our elementary schools have four Lego EV3 Mindstorm robotics kits to start a robotics program with our younger students in the district. Programs such as these are helping to bring more bring STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) opportunities to Washougal schools.”

Hathaway Elementary students explore robotics.

Hathaway parent, Chris Sampson, was pleased to see this opportunity to expose students to technology and give them new challenges “It is really good for the kids. We let Keegan come to any of these extra classes that he is interested in whenever possible,” he said.

FVRL is hosting a variety of tech programs for Teens and Tweens that can be found on their website at fvrl.org. In Washougal, the next tech program for Tweens (9-12 years) will be on Wed Feb 21, 2-4pm in the Washougal Community Library. The next tech program for teens (12-18 years) is during Teen Night on Friday March 16th, 6-8pm. Registration is required for both events at fvrl.org.