WILSON COUNTY, Texas – From Lego robotics kits to 3D printers to pancake bots, Wilson County Public Libraries have it all, and you can check out what they have to offer at the upcoming Full STEAM Ahead: Maker Expo. KSAT meteorologist Kaiti Blake dropped in on Sam Fore Jr. Public Library in Floresville for a preview in this week's Blake's Brainiacs.
Library director Nicki Stohr said her libraries don't just host the usual story time activities. They allow kids to check out science, technology, engineering arts and math, or STEAM, kits, such as GoldieBlox and science sets, leave their stuffed animals overnight for sleepovers and participate in maker hangouts throughout the summer.
"It's considered a pop-up kind of activity, where you walk in the room and there's different things that you can do," Stohr said. "This year, our theme was Libraries Rock, so a lot of it had to do with music. How can you see music? How can you hear music? Can you feel music?"
Maker hangouts are designed to be like summer camp. Children go into the library to use hands-on technology to code, design and print miniature items, build robots and create circuits for free. This summer, the libraries began providing free lunches, as well.
"There is no charge. You don't even have to have a library card," Stohr said. "The original concept for the maker activities we have was to give people access to mediums that they would not normally work with."
Wilson County has three public libraries, and they've seen a huge spike in visitors lately. In 2009, they welcomed 40,000 people through their doors. Last year, about 100,000 people stopped by to check out books, make use of family services and even borrow baking pans.
"When we ran the statistics, we saved the county over $1 million just by coming and checking out our items. You don't have to buy them from Amazon," Stohr said. "You don't need to go buy it. You can probably get it from us."
Not far from Sutherland Springs, the Sam Fore, Jr. Public Library received a 2018 Texas Library grant to help community members cope with grief after the mass shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. The library dedicated a special section to self-help and counseling books for friends and family of the victims (picture below).
For new parents, the Sam Fore Jr. Public Library offers the opportunity to meet with resource specialists from their community to learn about nutrition, growth, speech and hearing. It's part of the Family Place Library program, which is made possible in part by a Texas State Library and Archives Commission grant by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
As for the upcoming maker expo, dozens of businesses will set up booths, including the DoSeum and the Alamo Rocketeers. Hundreds of children will be able to participate in an assortment of activities, such as using a blender bike to make their own smoothies (picture below).
The Full STEAM Ahead: Maker Expo will take place on Sept. 15 at the Floresville Event Center at 600 State Hwy. 97 West in Floresville. All the money raised will go to benefit Wilson County Public Libraries.