A program developed at the Mount Prospect Public Library to generate early interest in math and science has proved so successful that it is being expanded into an eight-state region.
Through the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers-Chicago Section, a prototype project grant made it possible for librarians at the Mount Prospect Public Library to create "Science-to-Go" engineering kits and a Mad Scientist Club. The kits proved so popular with library patrons and the demand was so high that the project is being expanded throughout the Midwest.
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"This is the classic example of taking something developed at the local level and making it available for replication on a much larger scale," said Michael Deering, director of development of the IEEE Development Office, during his recent visit to the Mount Prospect Public Library. "The IEEE Foundation attempts to be a catalyst for good ideas to promote interest in science and engineering, and this is certainly one."
In June 2011, the IEEE Foundation awarded a grant from the IEEE Life Members Fund in the amount of $40,000 to the IEEE-Chicago Section for the science kits for Public Libraries Project to allow the Mount Prospect Library's prototype program to expand to 26 additional libraries in Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin, as well as Illinois. Additional funding was provided by Chicago-based S&C Electric Company.
While the IEEE Foundation has programs for schools and museums, this is the group's first major foray into the public library setting.
"We felt that libraries are a central place in the community," said John Zulaski, MPPL board member and project director for IEEE-Chicago Sectin Science Kits for Public Libraries. "These materials in the library are available to everyone in the community including individual students, teachers, those involved in home schooling, youth leaders and parents. Not only can students conduct experiments at the library as part of the Mad Scientist Club, they can also take the science kits home and explore their interest in science at their own pace."
The seven "Science-to-Go" kits contain all the necessary equipment and instructions for a variety of fun scientific activities. One of the most popular is the Van de Graaff Static Electricity Generator.
"It makes kids' hair stand on end and teaches them science at the same time," said Mount Prospect librarian Keary Bramwell. "The kids love the hands-on and fun nature of the activities, and the science just naturally follows."
The Straw Rocket Launcher is another hit.
"At first, the kids just want to see how high they can get the straw 'rocket' to go," said librarian Brad Jones. "Gradually, we introduce the physics involved in flight -- ideas like angles and lift. They really pick up on it and begin making the connections."
Other kits in the series include the Energy Lab, which uses solar, wind, and wet cell batteries to generate power; Snap Circuits, which can create working electronic circuits and devices; Electronic Project Lab, used to build 75 electronic experiments; Early Structures, focusing on basic building concepts; and Early Simple Machines. The kits can be borrowed for a three-week period.
The Chicago Section of the IEEE serves electrical engineers and computer professionals in the Chicago area. The group has established a new foundation fund, the IEEE-Chicago Section Fund, to address major technological, educational, historical and peer-recognition activities in the Chicago area. For information on the IEEE-Chicago Section, visit www.ieeechicago.org.
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