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Imagine, Invent, Create

Wilton Library's innovation station



Megan Smith-Harris

If you visited the Wilton Library at any point over the summer, you no doubt noticed yellow footprints on the floor, inviting you to follow the trail to something exciting: the newly opened Innovation Station Makerspace.

Housed within glass walls and positioned just outside of the teen area, the Innovation Station offers patrons and visitors the opportunity to learn about new technologies, try out different types of digital and traditional equipment, and utilize the resources for individual projects. Library staffers invested plenty of time in researching, visualizing and designing the space, based on its intended use.

“We needed to figure out what we wanted, what we could support in the space we have, and what we wanted the emphasis to be,” says Webmaster and Network Services Assistant Thomas Kozak. “Most Makerspaces have 3D printing, some are focused on digital media, whereas others are more about woodworking, which requires a very different setup and equipment.”

Ultimately, the Innovation Station was designed to focus on technology, but incorporates traditional equipment as well. In addition to a 3D printer, it also houses a digital sewing machine, dye cutters, and craft materials.

“There is a lot of overlap there with certain methods of thinking,” adds Kozak. “A knitting pattern is a very complex set of instructions, similar to what we do on a 3D printer. It’s doing things in a certain order so that you get the design you planned in advance.”

In experimenting with the 3D printer, library staffers have turned out items both pretty and practical. On a recent afternoon, a red, patterned cuff bracelet was created, giving its new owner a wearable conversation piece. Shortly after, customized brackets were copied to hold pieces of library hardware in place.

The beauty of the digital sewing machine is that in addition to coming loaded with hundreds of stock embroidery programs, it also contains software which allows the user to design his or her own patterns. Need a whimsical light-up tie for the holidays? Using conductive thread, the machine can be configured to produce wearable electronics. On the more functional side, one could create a biking jacket with electronic turn signals.

When it comes to new technology, no group demonstrates its use better than the Wilton Library robotics team, Singularity Technology. Formed just last year, the team of high school and middle school students engineered their way to the state championship in their rookie season. Their competition robot will now find its new home in the Innovation Station, something one team member says will benefit the team greatly.

“In terms of the robot itself, the multiple computers and the 3D printer facilitate programming, research, and the creation of custom parts,” says Nickia Muraskin, a sophomore at Wilton High. “Though we won’t be holding formal demonstrations in the Innovation Station due to space constraints, people are definitely welcome to watch us there as we work on the robot.”

“The Innovation Station is visible so that people will walk by and say ‘Oh, that’s cool! I want to join in!’ or ‘What are you working on right now?’” adds Head of Teen Services, Susan Lauricella. “It’s what a Makerspace is all about: sharing ideas and inviting people in.”  

Library Executive Director Elaine Tai-Lauria says that programs designed around the new station may include a tie-in with books on a featured subject, creating a fully integrated learning experience. “It’s creation, it’s invention, it’s innovation, and in many ways it’s also literacy,” she says.

Throughout the fall, demonstrations and hands-on workshops will be available for teens and adults to learn about new technologies and receive instruction on how to use the equipment. After training and supervision, and the completion of an Innovation Station agreement form, patrons ages thirteen and up will have the ability to reserve space to work on individual projects by showing a valid Connecticut library card.
What happens from there is up to your imagination.

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