Young inventors make grabbers at library

Some of the kids test drive their grabbers.

By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff

“Has anyone ever used any robots?” was the key question asked of children at the Dover library on Thursday, February 28. Some children nodded.

If they hadn’t before, they were going to learn today.

Children came to the Dover Library, back fresh and well-rested after finishing their February break, ready to learn about robots and build their own grabber. The workshop, a partnership between the Dover Library and the Charles River School, was designed for children to get their STEM on - and put their building skills to the test.

“I love science,” sang one child, skipping about the room. Though all of the kids were excited to start building, they were also happy to sit down and first listen to a book. Nancy Tegeler, the children’s librarian, picked the perfect story for the occasion: “And the Robot Went,” by Michelle Robinson. Each of the children was given a sound effect to make as Tegeler read the book aloud. Sound effects like “Bang!” “Boom!” and “Zap!” were made until the Robot finally said a simple “thank you.”

After the story hour, Harrison and Steve from the Charles River School explained what the kids would be building. “Sometimes I have trouble reaching stuff,” said Harrison. He showed the children the grabber he had constructed, a simple claw made from wood, cardboard, tape, and brass fasteners. With the grabber, Harrison showed how he could pick up a paper cup, but couldn’t pick up a ball or a screw. With this, he told the children of their task: to build a grabber that could pick up the cup, the ball, a small toy hamburger, and a screw.

Harrison and Steve provided children with the basic instructions to make an identical grabber to the one Harrison showed them, then let them experiment to make their own more tactile in whatever way they wanted.

Two of the girls share their ideas for their grabbers.

Two of the girls share their ideas for their grabbers.

The 16 children got to work with Steve, Harrison, and Nancy checking on their progress. Each kid was given a supply of cardboard, a pencil, popsicle sticks, a piece of wood, brass fasteners, and a piece of wood to build their own grabbers. The kids got to work, eager to create grabbers that would do the job.

“This is the worst thing that can happen: the tape gets stuck,” said one of the children as he tried to attach some of the cardboard to a wood piece.

One group of girls used their grabbers to high-five each other as they made progress with their inventions. They also picked different names each time they advanced with their grabbers: “The three musketeers!” they shouted when they successfully completed the first step of their inventions. “The three windmills!” they shouted when they successfully attached the brass fascinators to their creations. “The three grabbers!” when they successfully finished their grabbers.

The kids began to test their grabbers, slowly making their way to the table with the items they had to pick up. One child used her grabber to slowly make her way around the room while carrying the cup. Another used his grabber to briefly, but successfully pick up each item. “I have to redo this part and replace my Popsicle sticks,” he concluded. He returned to his work table and began his changes to his grabber. Other children helped each other wrap tape around the arms of the grabber or reattach a rubber band to improve the grabber’s ability.

A group of boy try their grabbers out.

A group of boy try their grabbers out.

By the end of the workshop, each child had built a grabber that would help them with their own troubles reaching items. With them, they could finally get to the cookie box on the highest shelf, or that toy that was just out of reach. Though their parents may have placed those items there for a reason, they are surely happy that their kids got the chance to flex their building abilities, make their own successful grabber, and be excited about science.

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