Makerspace Programming Is Up And Running In Fulton County
By David Hazledine
ROCHESTER — From noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, March 4, Fulton County Public Library in Rochester will host a free “Build + Code” workshop led by new Makerspace Coordinator Erica Coffing.
The workshop will feature a LEGO Education Spike Prime set and participants will learn to program LEGOs and create robotic projects using motors, sensors, sounds and light displays. This is just one in a series of programs announced since Coffing’s hiring, which expand FCPL’s ability to bring integrated science, technology, engineering and art education to community members of all ages.
“We’re trying to offer more creative projects that encourage experimentation, play and personal growth,” said Coffing, adding the LEGO “Build + Code” workshop will also be offered at the Aubbeenaubbee branch from noon to 2 p.m. April 8.
In February, Coffing led a workshop demonstrating how to source royalty-free photo references online and edit them using Adobe Photoshop. Participants then used an edited photo to create a watercolor painting using traditional materials.
From 5-6 p.m. Monday, March 20, a gardening workshop will be offered to all ages and skill levels, which will touch on concepts beyond just garden making, including life skills, food production, biology, chemistry and environmental science. The workshop may also help expand FCPL’s seed library, which was started in 2022.
While this flurry of activity may seem sudden, Coffing credited her predecessor, Quenton Oakes, and others for gathering the necessary equipment and tools to offer these free workshops to “all age groups and all branches. … FCPL has been building this in the background for a while and now we’re ready to bring it to the public. You have to have a framework before you just go do programming. I’m part of the journey.”
In fact, the LEGO Prime set was a surprise. FCPL Director Andrea Stineback won the set in a raffle at a virtual conference she was attending. “A big box came in the mail with all these LEGO kits and I excitedly brought them all down to Erica,” she recalled. Altogether the prize is worth over $2,000, according to Coffing.
“Finding the right person to run the Makerspace is difficult,” Stineback commented. “They need to have the expertise as well as the ability to talk to people and teach. … We’re very lucky to have Erica.”
Coffing is quick to point out, however, that her expertise is more geared toward the arts than science and engineering, which is why she is keen to find “volunteers who want to give back to the community by sharing their expertise.” One example is naturalist Wayne Pope. “I’m a facilitator. I don’t have every skill set.”
The hiring of Coffing and the ramping up of Makerspace programming is a key part of Stineback’s long-range plan, and integral to her belief the library is more than just a “storage space” for books, DVDs and other media.
Coffing agrees. FCPL, she observed, “has been a place in the community where you can actually find community.” She hopes it will become even more of a “community hub,” building on Debbie’s Dandies, Tech Time with Zak and the children’s department’s many regular activities. “Where else can you take art classes for free in Fulton County?”
“The point of these events is to open people’s minds to what tools are available and how to use them. … We can help demystify the process.” Coffing hopes her programming will help participants overcome their fear of technology. “The more you do it the more the anxiety goes away and you enjoy solving the problem.”
Coffing already has several future workshops in mind running through the summer, including teaching product design through a cardboard furniture class and a cosplay workshop using papier mâché, simple sewing patterns and makeup to create costumes and special effects. Eventually, she hopes to offer classes using audio visual equipment to facilitate social media productions such as podcasts.
Coffing also hopes to find a more permanent laboratory space on the premises. “As interest grows in Makerspace programming we’re going to have to expand.”
Anyone interested in volunteering on future Makerspace programming may contact Coffing at (574) 835-7699.
For more information, visit facebook.com/fcpublib or fulco.lib.in.us.