Libraries are quiet places, often filled with the stoic as they read books, research and use computer terminals to access the internet. But Thursday Newton Public Library was a little different.
"Listening to the happy noises, it gives you hope," said Susan Bartel, a librarian at NPL. "Not just for the cyclists who do this, and that is awesome, but for the smart, funny, amazing kids who come have fun."
As she was speaking, a group of kids were building Ardumotos — vehicles built with a popsicle stick frame, a couple of wheels and small electric motors from a kit and controlled by an Arduino circuit board.
Mathew Luerman, an aerospace engineering major from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was helping lead the class. He is one of eight members of the MIT Spokes team, which is cycling across the country and giving STEM workshops to youth along the way.
"We have them building some robotic vehicles," Luerman said. "Once they are ready, the wheels are powered for four seconds and we see how far they can go. It is a combination of weight, wheel alignment and reducing drag on the floor to see how far they can go."
The workshop had 30 young students registered to start the day. Students were able to build their very own camera obscura and program computer animations, stories, and games using Scratch.
The MIT team is making 11 "teaching stops" at nine locations as they pedal across the country. Next up for the MIT team, which is crossing the country from east to west, will be at the Loveland Public Library in Loveland, Colorado.
Luerman said it was unclear who was having more fun at the workshops so far as he and his teammates channeled their inner teachers — the kids or the college students.
"It is a close race between the two," Luerman said. "Hopefully the kids are having more fun, though. We are trying to excite them."
The team has been on the road for about 40 days, planning a 10-week trip.
They are one of two teams — the other is from Stanford Univeristy, Stanford, California. The Stanford team will host a STEM workshop day at the Newton Public Library on July 30.
Classes planned are “The More Loving You: Self Compassion and Creative Writing,” “Drawing Blind,” “Kare(l) to Code?” “Crickets & the Meaning of Life,” “Light Up the World with Renewable Energy,” “Chem You Dig It?” and “Mathemagic: A Different Type of Card Counting.”