Blogger Lisa Nowlain

Circulating tech kits to teachers

The California State Library has a grant opportunity called Pitch-an-Idea. We were lucky enough to get one of their grants and create a Technology Lending Library for teachers and after-school providers. All teachers need is a library card to check these kits out for a month, and non-profits sign an agreement for their employees. What makes this unique is that the kits are not for individual checkouts – they’re made to be used in school or after-school environments. It has built a lot of great partnerships with schools and teachers. We have done outreach at principal’s meetings, with the Superintendent’s Office, at teacher meetings, at local events with non-profits, and more, and it is always great to have something to offer that makes people’s eyes light up and say, “Really?” 

 We’re currently halfway through our grant period, and we’ve hit some speed bumps for sure, but the tech is circulating. The main issues we’ve had is repackaging some of the technology kits for circulation, managing purchasing (we’re a County system, so we have some hoops to jump through), and getting the word out. For more information, visit​ 

 We purchased kits of robots, electronics, invention kits, and more, including:

 Kibo Classroom Set
For 10-24 students.
A screen-free coding experience for ages 4-7. Use blocks to sequence, and then scan them with the robot to see it go!
Classroom idea:  Read a myth, create a map and cardboard characters, and program Kibo to recreate the story.

Lego Mindstorms Education EV3 Set
For 2-4 students. 13 Sets available.
Enables students to build, program, and test their solutions based on real-life robotics technology.
Classroom idea: Build a robot that solves a real-life problem.

Snowflake microphone

​Kit of 4 microphones and USB cords. Easy to use and very portable: just plug the microphone into a USB port and get great sound.

Classroom Idea: Create podcasts or voiceovers for videos.


K’Nex Builder Sets

Sets of blocks and connectors.131 K’NEX pieces, and print building instructions. Grades 2-6. Create tactile 3 dimensional forms using a variety of attachments.


Sphero Education Power Pack

12 Spheros in a rolling charger case. Programmable rolling robots that you control through an app. 

Classroom Idea: Build a maze and program the Sphero to run it, or dip the Spheros in paint and create abstract art. Discuss Jackson Pollack and other Abstract Expressionists.


LittleBits Workshop Set

Kits for up to 16 students. Easy-to-use electronic building blocks for creating inventions. Electronic building blocks are color-coded, magnetic, and reusable. For ages 8 and up. 

Classroom Idea: Invent a throwing arm.


Dash and Dot

Set of 3 Dash, 3 Dot robots and technology for 18 students. Dash and Dot are robots that can sense, act and think! Students use block coding on four different iPad apps to control their robots. 

Classroom Idea: Engineering and math challenge-as you solve problems, move your robot through a course.


Wacom Tablets

Sets of 10 Tablets and pens. Draw, paint, and edit with an easy to use pen tablet that you connect to your computer with USB. 

Classroom Idea: Improve your digital art lessons.​


K’Nex Maker Kit

For ages 8 and over. Instructions for building simple machines that use pulleys or levers including: seesaw, balance, wheelbarrow, hockey stick,etc. Instruction booklet included. 597 pieces.


Makey Makey

Set of 12 or 5 Makey Makeys. The Makey Makey allows you to take everyday objects and combine them with the internet to create fun inventions. 

Classroom Ideas: Program a game in Scratch (a free online coding program), and then have a game controller creation contest, using fun materials to create circuits!​


Arduino Starter  Kit

Set of 10 Starter Packs. An open-source electronics prototyping platform-a mini-computer with sensors. 

Classroom Idea: Create web-based games to learn programming, or a Fidget Spinner RPM Counter


This project is supported by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian.


Lisa Nowlain is the Youth Librarian at the Madelyn Helling Library in Nevada County, CA. She’s also an artist type.

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