Academic journal article Young Adult Library Services

How to Host a Teen Soldering Program without Getting Burned

Academic journal article Young Adult Library Services

How to Host a Teen Soldering Program without Getting Burned

Article excerpt

Teen makerspaces, maker projects, and connected learning projects all sound awesome, but how does one reasonably and successfully implement one? Especially given safety, liability, and bureaucratic concerns? That's what you'll read in part 1 of this article. In part 2, you'll read an interview with Coco Kaleel, a girl who led the soldering workshops for the library.

Part 1: Library Logistics

Teen Tech Week is a national initiative sponsored by YALSA and aimed at teens, their parents, educators, and other adults interested in helping teens succeed in using technology. The purpose of the initiative is to ensure that teens are competent and ethical users of technologies, particularly those they encounter in their daily lives and those that are available through libraries. Teen Tech Week encourages teens to use libraries' digital resources for education and recreation, and to recognize that library staff are qualified, trusted professionals in the field of information technology. Teen Tech Week began in 2007.

In 201B, YALSA's Teen Tech Week theme was Check In @ your library! This theme encouraged libraries to throw open their physical and virtual doors to teens and showcase the outstanding technology offered, from services such as online homework help and digital literacy-focused programs to resources like e-books, movies, music, audiobooks, databases, and more. It seemed like the perfect time and theme to host a Soldering 101 program, which was a workshop I had been thinking about hosting for a while.

The program was taught by an 11-year-old named Coco whom I met at a local hackerspace, Null Space Labs aka [nsl], that I am a member of. Coco and her father had been going to [nsl] so that she could get help completing her robot Halloween costume. Her involvement at [nsl] grew from that start. I had originally planned to teach the Soldering 101 class myself, but when I met Coco and learned how much she loved robotics, Arduino programming, and soldering, I suggested that she teach the class. (I am a big fan of co-learning and thought it would be empowering for both her and the teens she would be teaching.)

In terms of safety and logistics it was very important to make sure that library staff and administration were very clear on what the teens, Coco, and I were trying to achieve with the program. In addition to promoting the idea that libraries are more than book depositories, the Soldering 101 workshops promoted STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) concepts and provided the teens with an opportunity that they probably would not get at home or at their cash-strapped schools in downtown Los Angeles.

To address the issues of logistics and goals, I put together a proposal that I submitted to the library administration. The proposal outlined the history of Teen Tech Week, including how it is celebrated nationally, an equipment list, program description and agenda (including safety measures), and a list of links to articles about other libraries that have hosted similar programs.

I also asked my library administration to give me a list of their concerns and safety requirements. I went through these concerns and then revised the project proposal and description. Safety measures that we had to clear included securing a permit from our local fire marshal, which required a venue walk-through, and garnering program approval from the city's risk manager and our building engineer.

We originally planned to hold the class inside the building (which other libraries have done), but our local fire marshal nixed that idea due to ventilation concerns. The biggest hurdles to overcome were the fire marshal's requirements, which included having two fire training--certified adults on hand in case of emergency. Our requirements were very, very strict because the Central Library is famous for having burned down in two arson fires in the late 1980s. I would imagine other organizations would not necessarily have the same issues. …

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