Keary Bramwell overcame a few technology glitches to give a great presentation on zSpace and STEAM kits at the Mount Prospect Public Library!
In the interest of equal time during our unofficial library month, today we welcomed Keary Bramwell, Youth Collections Librarian at the Mount Prospect Public Library.  
Keary talked about the Library's new Discovery Zone, which came from their recently completed rennovation, their circulating STEAM kits, and, most impressively, their new zSpace - which she had on hand for a live demo!  
The Discovery Zone is designed to encourage kids to learn and explore, almost without realizing that's what they're doing.  Different sections of the zone cater to different ages with age appropriate games, activities and materials.  Sometimes the kids make unexpected uses out of this stuff which so impress the staff that they incorporate these ideas into their services!  
MPPL received a grant from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers to purchase science kits that patrons can check out and bring home.  These kits include age appropriate experiments and activities and children often use them as part of their science fair project.  These initial kits proved so successful that the Library is investing in more kits to cover the rest of the STEAM spectrum.  They've proven popular as well.  The kits are color coordinated for easy organization and library staff include related material with them.  For example, one kit is a model of a shark.  Staff included several books on sharks with it.  
The zSpace is a virtual reality system purchased through a Bosch Community Fund grant.  The user wears special glasses which creates an eerily accurate 3D environment and allows the user to 'move' the screen by turning their head.  The system also comes with more conventional 3D glasses that others can wear so they can see what the user is doing.  The system comes with several different programs, with more always in development.  Currently, the most popular programs are those that let the user dissect a frog (or any number of other animals) and create an aquarium with predator and prey fish.  Of course THE most popular programs are the games.  This system made me recall R2-D2 and Chewbacca playing chess on the Millennium Falcon.
MPPL is doing plenty of fascinating things these days.  I know I'm going to steal some of their ideas for my library!