STEAM Education Centres: Learning and Making in St. Thomas and Elgin

This is a guest blog post by Jessica Moyes, Executive Director of STEAM Education Centres! STEAM Education Centres is one of the Library’s Community Partners. Like us, they offer services that encourage self-directed discovery, community maker spaces and continuous learning. See Jessica’s post below to learn more!

STEAM Educations Centres: Learning and Making in St. Thomas and Elgin

It’s hard to believe but this fall will mark one year since the STEAM Education Centres opened its doors to bring new educational approaches to learning and making to the St. Thomas and Elgin County region. And what a year it has been! We have lead some awesome programming, participated in a variety of community events, opened a temporary pop-up location and have some exciting plans for the near future – and, I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Programming with the Community

The STEAM Team and guest teachers have designed and lead some amazing workshops and school field trips, both in the Centre and in the community, for learners of all ages on topics ranging from coding, computer rebuilding and animation art using 3D design and printing, to Teen and Adult coding with Raspberry Pi and Maker CNC projects. We also took our programming on the road this summer to a pop-up location at the Elgin Mall! There, we lead four weeks of summer camp for kids – Music Maker Camp and Alien Investigations Camp – as well as a range of teen and adult workshops such as Make your own digital picture frame using Raspberry Pi (shown below).

Learn to make a Digital Picture Frame using Raspberry Pi – Summer workshop for teens and adults at STEAM Education Centres pop-up location.


Making Connections

It was an active summer connecting with people out in the community for the STEAM Team. We kicked off the season with a free BBQ at the STEAM Centre and topped off the night with a screening of Most Likely To Succeed; a film about the future of education and innovation. It was a fantastic evening filled with the sounds of laughter, discovery and summertime spirit.

Steam 2
STEAM Centre Block Party guests screening Most Likely To Succeed; a film about the future of education and innovation, June 2017
Steam 3
STEAM Education Centres’ Summer BBQ and Block Party, June 2017

We also participated in the Canada Day festivities in Pinafore Park this summer. Kids of all ages learned how to program, or code, an Ozobot using colours, navigate a Sphero maze and made their own smoke ring machines!

Steam 1
Kids learning to make smoke and smoke machines with STEAM Education Centres at Canada Day celebration at Pinafore Park, July 2017

Full STEAM Ahead

Looking to the fall, there are no signs of slowing down! We are currently busy organizing our first event called STEAM Mission 150 for September 30th! STEAM Mission 150 is an exciting new event that will test students like never before while honouring the history of the local community, land and Canada’s 150th! This one-day event will see teams of students between 12 and 15 years old diving deep into fun challenges that require creativity and collaboration while tapping into science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) skills. And, just for fun, a handful of brave teachers will be able to enter the Mission as well!  We invite everyone to join us for an unforgettable day, whether to participate, spectate or volunteer! With Mission sites scattered throughout the community and over 165 students, teachers and volunteers participating, Mission 150 is set to turn St. Thomas and Elgin County into a STEAM learning playground with a new adventure around every corner! For more information or to get involved as participant or volunteer, visit

Steam 4

We are also busy preparing our workshops for ages 7 and up, starting September 12, 2017. While most will be new themes, there will be a few repeats due to popular demand such as Kid Roboteers and STEAMKids 101! Stay tuned or enroll now at

Finally, this fall we will welcome STEAM School in partnership with Thames Valley District School Board. This project will see seventy grade 10 students and four TVDSB teachers joining the STEAM Team this fall while students work to complete four regular high school credit courses through the lens of ‘making life better for someone else’. Students will undertake community based projects and work closely with the STEAM Education Centres staff to gain needed support throughout the fall semester. You can find more information on STEAM School at

So, as we close out our first year and look ahead to the future, we wish to express our sincere thanks to the community that we support and has supported us, as well as the St. Thomas Public Library staff. It’s been a phenomenal year and we look forward to meeting more people, making more partnerships, and providing greater essential learning opportunities to our rural region of learners and makers!

Jessica Moyes

Executive Director

STEAM Education Centres






3D Printer Upgrade

St. Thomas Public Library has two brand new 3D Printers! Come in and check out our new Lulzbots. These models are an upgrade from our previous Cube models: You will find them easier to use, they can print using many different filament materials, and more colour options are available. You can even bring in your own filament and 3D print for free! (Prints normally cost 10 cents per gram).

What have people been up to on the new printers? Right now the trend is fidget spinners. Print a cap and a shell and then add your own weights for a custom spinner that no one else will have! You can find hundreds of designs like these ones on Thingiverse:

Also exciting: You can watch what people are printing live on our new Twitch channel! The channel switches between our two printers so you can watch a 3D print in progress. See if you can guess what each print will be!

To learn how to use our Lulzbots, join one of our 3D Printing Certification Sessions. Check our online calendar  for session dates. You can register online with your library card, or drop by the Adult Information Desk to sign up. If you can’t make a Certification Session, we now have the option of booking a One on One Session. Ask at the Adult Information Desk and we’ll find a time for a staff member to assist you!

Stay tuned for more changes to Creators’ Community. We’re currently working on a Creators’ Corner, a welcoming work space to accommodate new classes and allow better access to our resources!

Technology Zoo – Printers and Vinyl and Robots – OH MY!

We’re launching our Creators’ Community with a Technology Zoo!

Creators' Community with 3 DsCreator’s Community is waiting for you to Devise, Design, and Discover with an all-day, hands-on open-house on the main level with new technology and library services. Live demonstrations will help YOU be a “Tinker Thinker” at ANY age! Visit three or more demonstrations to fill up your Passport to Prizes for chance to win a Kobo Touch!

CatalogueNew Online Catalogue – Demonstrations from 9 to 10 AM and 1:30 to 2:30 PM, Rotary Lounge, Main Level

Harness the full power of the library! Our online catalogue is changing in June – we are excited to offer an updated look and feel, as well as improved search functions.
Some things remain the same:

  • You can place holds on items
  • You can renew items online

Some things are improved:

  • Clearer search results
  • Easy facets to limit results by genre, format, or author

Some things are no longer available:

  • No advanced search
  • No “lists”

If you have questions or comments about our new online catalogue, the staff are here to help!

3D Printer3D Printers – Demonstrations from 9 to 10 AM and 1:30 to 2:30 PM, Creators’ Community (near Adult Non-fiction) , Main Level

We are so excited to be launching our new 3D printing service! Two “Cube” 3D printers will be a available for public use at all times in our Creators’ Community space on the main level. Be among the first to know how to design for 3D print, use them and see them in action! 3D printers are all the rage, but what does it mean for YOU? Find out at our live demo where we’ll teach you how to set up the printer, use the basic provided software, and how to unleash the awesome power of 3D printing! Printing costs are the bare minimum: 0.10 per gram. Not interested in creating your own design, but still interested? We will have demonstrations to let you watch the 3D printer in action!

DatabasesOnline Databases – Demonstrations from 10 to 11 AM and 2:30 to 3:30 PM, Rotary Lounge, Main Level

The library has so many online databases for cardholders to use – but there are a few that are new this year! We now subscribe to Gale Courses (for online education), Consumer Reports (for product recommendations and reviews) and Britannica online (for research at any age). GALE Courses offers hundreds of free online courses for professional development, technology skills, and personal enrichment. We’ll show you how to search the course catalogue and sign up for these fun and interactive courses. Thinking of buying a new car, vacuum, or bacon? Consumer Reports  offers complete access to rating information from the Consumer Reports Magazine, Buying Guides, and more. Results of product testing are made available by the Consumers Union, an expert, independent, nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves. We’ll show you how to navigate this database, and get the answers you need to help you make the best purchase decision. Britannica Library is the primary source for research – from elementary students to college students, from business professionals to curious seniors. Whether it’s frogs or physics, gardening or geography, Britannica Online Public Library Edition covers it all.

AncestryAncestry Library Edition & Microfilm Reader – Demonstrations from 10 to 11 AM and 2:30 to 3:30 PM, Local History, Second Level
Are you interested in doing some genealogical research? Our online database is an excellent place to start! Ancestry is easy to use, and has lots of full-text documents. Aren’t sure how to use it? Our knowledgeable staff can help get you going!

Did you know that St. Thomas Public Library has copies of old editions of the St. Thomas Times Journal on microfilm? We do! For example, you can read the newspaper from St. Thomas on the day the Titanic sunk. Both nifty and bone-chilling. It is easier than ever to take a look at old copies of the paper, using our microfilm readers! If you have never used a microfilm reader, now is your chance to get some hands-on training and practice using the machines, from our Local History experts!

ebookseBooks – Demonstrations from 11 AM to Noon and 3:30 to 4:30 PM, Rotary Lounge, Main Level
No late fees. No returning books. All of the books with none of the weight. eBooks and eAudiobooks are amazing. With access to over 50,000 eBooks and eAudiobooks, it’s no wonder our Overdrive Download Centre service is so popular!  Whether you have an iPad, Android tablet, or dedicated eReader, we have books for you! Our knowledgeable staff will be on-hand to answer any questions you may have, or walk you through the process of checking out an eBook, among other services offered by OverDrive digital service. Never used Overdrive Download Centre before? Give it a quick look-over before you get the full demonstration.

Vinyl CutterVinyl Cutter – Demonstrations from 11 AM to Noon and 3:30 to 4:30 PM, Creators’ Community (near Adult Non-fiction) , Main Level
Our vinyl cutter is a brand-new tool that the library is trying out! Do you have a small business and need some vinyl signs? Are you interested in using vinyl to decorate your home or garage? Would you like to create a custom bumper sticker for your car? Come on in and try out our vinyl cutter; costs of cutting are low at only five cents per square inch! We offer a variety of colours to use and the vinyl cutter is available during regular library customers on the main level in our new Creators’ Community space on the main level.

Lego RoboticsLego Mindstorm Robotics – Demonstrations from 1:30 to 4:30 PM, Magazine area (near Adult Non-fiction) , Main Level
Lego Mindstorm Robotics has been a staple program in our Children’s and Teens’ Department for a few years now – we thought it was time for them to shine and let people over the age of 12 see them in action! Come and watch the Robotics Team at St. Joseph’s Catholic High School put on a demonstration of Lego Mindstorm Robotics – who knows, you may discover a brand-new hobby! You won’t BELIEVE what these little Lego robots can do, and the St. Joe’s team is very enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and absolutely brilliant!

MinecraftMinecraft Available to play all day, every day!
Did you know that the Library maintains its very own Minecraft server? Using a Minecraft EDU license, library card holders can log-in from any of the Children’s and Teens’ Department computers to access our Minecraft server. We change up the world every month, so there is always something new to discover!

MakerSpaces in Libraries

You’ve probably heard the buzzword before: “Makerspace!” But what exactly is a Makerspace, and why should the library even care about them? Well, I want to answer these questions, and talk about why the “Maker Movement” is important to public libraries.

Put simply, a Makerspace is a community-operated workspace where people with common interests, often in computers, technology, science, as well as digital and electronic art, can meet and collaborate. Makerspaces are often fee- or subscription-based, and this is where some public libraries have been able to meet the needs of their communities: by offering Makerspace equipment, programming, and spaces at low cost to the general public. The themes of lifelong learning and collaboration are present in both the Makerspace and Public Library mission statements, and so they are a natural partnership.

Maker Kids
Maker Kids

Some Makerspaces are stand-alone facilities, such as London’s UnLab and Kitchner’s KwartzLab. These facilities are normally accessible 24/7 and are not actively staffed. Rather, customers pay a subscription fee to use the resources at their leisure. Customers work on self-directed projects, and have their own working knowledge of the tools and technologies available. Another type of stand-alone Makerspace is one that is geared towards children, such as Toronto’s Maker Kids. Maker Kids is also a subscription-based model, but they have staff on-hand at all times to assist the users, and lead programs and activities.

Many libraries are integrating Makerspaces into their services, using different models. The Toronto Public

Innisfil IdeaLab
Innisfil IdeaLab

Library’s Digital Innovation Hub has a technology focus, and requires that their patrons be somewhat self-directed; staff are not there to hand-hold through projects. However, they do have staff who offer “certification” classes, that provide customers with the basics of how to use their resources. Other libraries are more engaged, such as Innisfil Public Library’s IdeaLab. They allow experimentation, but also guidance when using their tools, which include a laser cutter. Another way that libraries are getting involved is by offering programs and activities using “maker kits”. This allows library patrons to experience new technologies, but without forcing the library to set aside a great deal of time and money towards a larger-scale project.

Creators' Community with 3 DsAt St. Thomas Public Library, we have been fortunate to receive a donation of $50,000 from the Palmer Estate to help fund our own “Makerspace”, which we have branded our “Creators’ Community“! We foresee a model that blends together some of the aspects that other libraries are using: we want to offer 3D printers and audiovisual equipment to the public, as well as provide some training on how to use them. In addition, we will also offer in-house programs and activities using maker kits (such as Makey Makey, Arduino, Snap Circuits, etc), as well as integrate these technologies into our outreach activities. We believe that it is important to cultivate a strong sense of digital and technological literacy, as these skills are becoming increasingly important in our modern society.

When can you expect to see some “maker” programming at the library? We hope to have programs up and running as early as June! We want to give the St. Thomas community access to 3D printing technology, and foster some creative collaboration through new tech tools and programs.

Stay tuned for more information!

Want to learn more? Visit our website:

Have questions or comments? Email us!

Submitted by: Sarah Macintyre

Maiden Voyage of STPL's 3D Printers
Maiden Voyage of STPL’s 3D Printers

Palmer Donation Means “MakerSpace” for STPL

Sarah Macintyre MakerspaceDorothy Palmer Estate donates $50,000 to St. Thomas Public Library to create a MakerSpace

St. Thomas Public Library announced today that the Dorothy Palmer Estate has donated $50,000 to support the development of a St. Thomas Public Library MakerSpace.

MakerSpaces are part of a growing movement of hands-on, mentor-led learning environments to make and remake the physical and digital worlds. They foster experimentation, invention, creation, exploration, and innovation.

“We are excited about the opportunities that this funding presents to us,” Chief Librarian, Rudi Denham said.

“We are looking forward to creating an environment where our customers can interact with some cutting-edge technologies. The Library continues to be a dynamic community hub, and, with the generous support of the Palmer Estate, I am excited to be able to introduce this new type of service to our customers,” said Sarah Macintyre, Systems and Support Services Librarian.

St. Thomas Public Library will plan, design, and pilot a MakerSpace that will be available to the general public within the Library, located in downtown St. Thomas. The aim is that the MakerSpace will introduce adults, families, teens, and children to technology and equipment, including 3D printers, design software, video and audio recording, and mobile devices.

“This is a wonderful project,” stated Andrew Gunn, Trustee of the Dorothy Palmer Estate. “In the twenty-first century, the concept of literacy has expanded beyond reading and writing, and now includes digital, visual, and mechanical literacy. The new MakerSpace at the St. Thomas Public Library will be a terrific resource for the whole community, and especially for children and young adults who are curious about 3D printing, video and audio recording, and various design applications.”
For additional information, please contact:

Rudi Denham, CEO, St. Thomas Public Library

About St Thomas Public Library

In 2014, St Thomas Public Library is celebrating its 130th anniversary! The Library has been dedicated to meeting the lifelong learning, reading and information needs of St. Thomas residents for well over 100 years now, and our mission to educate, inform, and enrich the community has never been stronger! We look forward to expanding our services with the introduction of a MakerSpace in 2015. For more information, visit


About Dorothy Palmer

Dorothy Palmer was born in 1925 and was the only child of Fred and Ethel Ingram, who operated the Elgin County House of Industry from 1927 to 1942. Mrs. Palmer was a graduate of St. Thomas Collegiate Institute and later taught elementary school in Eden, Sparta, and St. Thomas. A lifelong resident of Elgin County, Dorothy lived for many years in Aylmer with her husband, John. Before her death in June 2010, Mrs. Palmer made a generous contribution to the St. Thomas Public Library, which was recognized with the establishment of the John and Dorothy Palmer Youth Library.