Libraries, MAKE!, Presentations

School Library Journal Think Tank: Makerspaces and Makerculture

I’m leading a group chat about Makerspaces and Makerculture for the School Library Journal Think Tank that is happening today in Nashville, TN. I’ve collected all of the notes from our discussion and I’m sharing them here.  Thanks to the great participation from everyone involved!

I’ve embedded the Google Doc below, but if you can’t access this you can click here to read it

Chattanooga Public Library, Libraries, MAKE!, Technology, Teens

The 3 D’s of 3D Printing (Version 1.0)

2013-12-18 16.18.50
Megan Emery teaches a group of tweens and teens about 3D printing on The 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library

Over the past month, we’ve been working on a 3D printing program for the 2nd Floor called the 3 D’S of 3D PRINTING

The idea came out of brainstorming session between myself and Megan Emery.  While we were super excited to offer 3D printing to our tweens and teens, it got to be a lot less fun and more of a 3D printing factory.  We wanted to capture the excitement of the 3D printer, give it some guidlines, and help streamline the process.  What came out of the brainstorming session was this:

To introduce tweens, and teens to 3D Printing, they must go through three steps:


  • Tweens and Teens will use to locate an item they wish to 3D print.
  • Tweens and Teens will download the STL file.
  • Tweens and Teens will load the STL file into Makerware, resize the object, and make the object into an X3G file to be 3D printed.
  • 3D printed in 20 minutes or less


  • Using, Tweens and Teens will create a basic design that can be printed in 30 minutes.
  • Tweens and Teens will download the STL file.
  • Tweens and Teens will load the STL file into Makerware, resize the object, and make the object into an X3G file to be 3D printed.


  • • Using or, Tweens and Teens will create and/or download a object and have the object print in 1 hour or less.

• You must be present for the print
• The tweens and teens get a card that shows their progress (located at the 2nd Floor Workspace). Staff will mark their progress on the card using their initials.

Over the past month, we’ve beta tested the program with 22 tweens and teens (so far!) and have closely looked at where the program works and where it doesn’t work.  We’ve got some fine tuning to do over the next few months so stay tuned and we’ll keep you updated.  In the meantime, have fun 3D printing!

Chattanooga Public Library, Libraries, MAKE!, Teens

Happy Holidays to You

1476458_1428423114056672_1996036609_n3D printed tree ornament, made by Samuel Kertay.  He designed it himself and asked us at The 2nd Floor to 3D print it for him.  It was so awesome to see this photo shared by him on Facebook yesterday.


Chattanooga Public Library, Libraries, MAKE!, Technology

Building a Bear that Tweets (post by Justin Hoenke and James McNutt)

One of the best things about working at the Chattanooga Public Library is the freedom we have to try new things.  Nate Hill once said that he sees The 4th Floor at the Chattanooga Public Library as a beta space where things are tested, kinks are ironed out, and then are sent out into the rest of the library.  I’ve embraced that idea with all of the projects, programs, and things we’re trying out with ages 0-18 on The 2nd Floor of the Downtown Chattanooga Public Library.

Nowhere is that freedom and spirit to give everything a shot more visible than with THE AWESOME BEAR.

Awesome Bear Page

The Awesome Bear started its life as a plastic bear that I found in a closet during one of my first weeks in Chattanooga.  It had no use just sitting in a closet, so I set it out for the public.  Its job was simple: collect bits of paper which people would use to write awesome things on.  It could be a wish, something neat that they saw, or a recommendation.  The Awesome Bear would collect these things and put good vibes out into the world.

After collecting scraps of paper for a few months, it was clear that the Awesome Bear was super fun for those who visited the 2nd Floor but the idea needed to grow.  Along came Meg Backus, doer of great things at the Chattanooga Public Library with this comment:

The AWESOME BEAR    Comment

After a 15 minute chat with Meg, it was clear that only a few things were needed to make the Awesome Bear tweet: a keyboard, an internet connection, a twitter account, and a Raspberry Pi.  Megan Emery and I set up the Twitter account and trascribed the written notes inside the Awesome Bear into its first ever tweets.

James McNutt (Education Director at Engage 3D, 4th Floor Awesome Person) came into the project as we set up the twitter account.  He remarked that it would be super simple to write a few lines of code in Python to collect what people were writing.

For details on how the Awesome Bear got some technology and tweets, I’ll turn it over to James McNutt, Education Director at Engage 3D and all around amazing person.

Raspberry Pi B
SD card (4+ GB)
Ethernet cable
Power supply
Monitor (HDMI or RCA video cable)

For ease, I went with wheezy/raspian. You can get the latest images at

Once you have the .zip file extract it

My preferred method to write images is the dd comand

When you plug the SD card in, it will be mounted.

This is Mac specific:

In the terminal we are going to look at our mounted disks with: diskUtil list

  • Write down the path of the device we are going to write to (for example /dev/disk2)
  • Now we unmount that device with diskUtil unmountDisk /dev/diskN (where N is the number in your specific case)

Now we are going to write the image to that disk

Caution: we are running this command with root privileges and if you specify the incorrect disk you can end up writing to your primary drive instead


sudo dd if=2013-09-25-wheezy-raspbian.img of=/dev/diskN

(this will prompt you for you username and then password, when typing your password nothing will appear on the screen)

(again where N is the number in your specific case)

 This will take some time

Once it is finished you SD card is ready!

Insert your SD card, connect your ethernet cable, keyboard, a monitor, and lastly your power supply. Your device should boot upon connecting the power supply

The first time you boot you’ll need to do some configuration, like setting your keyboard defaults to US rather than UK!!!

Likely your pi will reboot and you’ll login with your username and password (“pi” and “raspberry” if you didn’t change anything).

First thing we’ll do is install apache2

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install apache2

After installing the apache server will start and anything in your /var/www directory will be served up.

For our purposes we only concerned with being able to see this on the LAN so we’re good

Let’s get rid of the filler index.html

sudo rm /var/www/index.html

Now since we only want a text file let’s make that

sudo nano /var/www/index.txt

Write whatever inspirational message you like to be the first thing on the record.

  • Type ^x to exit and save

Now we’ll give this file to the user pi or whatever you made your user

sudo chown pi /var/www/index.txt

Now we’ll change the privileges

chmod 644 /var/www/index.txt

(Justin here: Here’s the Python script that James wrote to collect the tweets on the Raspberry Pi)

filename = "/var/www/index.html"
    submission = raw_input()
    f = open(filename,'a')


In regard to the python script it might be worth instructing to save the file as and running it with python

  •  Type ^x to exit and save
  • Write down your IP address
  • ifconfig
  • Find your address under the eth0
  • Now run the program
  • Type something and hit return
  • On another deviceopen up a web browser and type the IP address in the URL followed by index.txt
  • You should see messages! (please note:  this doesn’t tweet using the twitter-python api but just serves a local file.  Basically it will save everything everyone types into a text file.  It will be your job to copy/paste those into twitter)

Libraries, MAKE!, Technology

Let’s Talk: 3D Printing

Let’s have a good discussion about this.  We can talk here in the comments or we can talk over at Branch here.  You pick.  I’ll compile the discussion at a later point and post it to this blog.

I’ve reached a point where 3D printing feels more like a 3D printing service…you come to the library, you make something, we print it at a later date, and you pick it up.  I want to change this but I am hitting a roadblock.  Any suggestions on better practices?

Thank you all for your input.

Chattanooga Public Library, Chattanooga, TN, Libraries, MAKE!, Technology, Teens

3D Printing in Libraries: My Experience

Before I arrived in Chattanooga six months ago, I had never seen a 3D printer nor did I have much interest in them.  Over those six months, I’ve had many experiences with a 3D printer from both close up and afar.  I haven’t seen anyone write about their experience with 3D printers in libraries in great detail before, so I decided to give it a shot.  Here’s what I’ve been thinking/feeling:


AT FIRST you will have a mix of emotions.  The machine is scary because you’ve never seen anything like it before.  There it is, sitting there, printing something really neato out of a spool of plastic.  You’ll want to jump right in and print something out for yourself.  You want to use the machine.  You need to use the machine.

YOUR FIRST FEW ATTEMPTS will most likely fail.  This is a great thing because you will learn a lot.  I highly suggest that you browse around on Thingiverse for a bit, find something that you would like to print and use that to get familiar with 3D printing.  You will get a feel for the types of files that your 3D printer will accept, see how they look on a computer, and get to watch them print out before your very eyes.  The next step I suggest that you take is to sign up for an account on Tinkercad and play around with their simple 3D design tools. Tinkercad offers new users a simple setup with pre-made shapes, letters, numbers, etc and an easy way to download your designs and send them to a 3D printer.  It is what I have been using with the tweens and teens that have visited my library.

ONCE YOU GET OVER THAT INITIAL HIGH and print a few neat things (bracelets! shapes! your name!), you may get bored with 3D printing.  For myself, I zoned out for a bit and didn’t make any attempts to print anything.  I had it in my head that all I could do at that moment was print out novelty items and what I wanted to do was something IMPORTANT.  I got through this by reminding myself of two things:

1. This is BRAND new technology.  Having it in your library is sort of like having the first ever computer in your community back in the day.  It’s fancy, it’s fun, and it is limited.  Learn to work and understand those limits and know that the best is on the way.

2. THE KIDS/TWEENS/TEENS are loving that you offer this service for them.  No matter what they’re making, they’re having a unique experience in the library.  They’re leaving our institutions having had an experience they most likely can’t have at many other places.  You’re introducing them to a new world.

Chunks of plastic removed from a 3D printer.  It was not much fun getting these out and it took 1-2 hours.
Chunks of plastic removed from a 3D printer. It was not much fun getting these out and it took 1-2 hours.

You also have to remember that learning about all aspects of 3D printing TAKES A LOT OF TIME.  The first few times our machine got jammed up with plastic I had to sit there for a few hours, take it apart, fix the problem, and put it back together.  This is challenging.  You have to remember that you do not have all the time in the world and that your library work time is precious.  But this is something you will come across, so be prepared.

AND IN THE END, I can’t wait till the next kid/tween/teen comes in and blows my mind with the 3D printer.  Despite any drawbacks I have mentioned in this post, I think that teaching youth about 3D design, printing, and everything else is one of the most rewarding things I have done in a library.  To see a teen do this on a computer and turn it into a real thing that they can hold is AWESOME.



NOTE: I’ve only used Makerbot 3D printers so far.  I have seen other 3D printers but I have not spent much time with them.

Chattanooga Public Library, Libraries, MAKE!, Presentations, Teens

The Community Joins In: Library Makerspaces

I had the honor of presenting with the amazing Michelle Cooper of Henderson High School and Amy Koester of the  St. Charles City County Library District today at the 2013 Library Journal/School Library Journal event THE DIGITAL SHIFT: Reinventing Libraries.  You can find our collected slides below.

In addition to our presentation, the team prepared a Pinterest board highlighting some amazing library makerspaces around the country and the programs they are offering to their community.  You can find those resources here:
Thanks to all who attended, everyone at Library Journal and School Library Journal, and many thanks to Amy and Michelle for being so awesome to work with.