The Byron Public Library District will begin circulating educational STEM Kits at the end of September. What are STEM kits? STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math. Each kit comes in a bin and contains hands-on learning in a STEM field.

The kits are made possible by a generous donation from Exelon Generation’s Byron Station. Julie Reckamp, head of youth services at Byron Public Library, attended a workshop at the Illinois Library Association conference about STEM kits. She learned that a lot of larger libraries in the Chicago suburbs were circulating the kits, many with a grant from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) – Chicago Section.

“I looked into that grant but found out that our library was not eligible, due to our location. I thought about possible local avenues for funding the kits and approached Exelon,” said Reckamp.

Exelon came through with a generous donation to the library.

“As a leader in innovation Exelon is always excited to help the next generation develop critical thinking skills,” said Exelon’s Paul Dempsey. “Having access to kits like these is a great way for kids to learn.”

The kits are divided into four categories: Build, Circuits, Discover and Program.

Build kits feature open-ended building materials, such as Magna-Tiles and KEVA planks. Magna-Tiles are magnetic translucent shapes. The tiles connect together for endless play and building.

“These are a huge favorite with children of all ages,” said Reckamp. KEVA planks are identical wooded planks that can be used to build towers, ball runs, and more.

Circuit kits teach principals of circuitry. Cool Circuits, Jr. is a puzzle board that lights up when the challenge is completed by finishing a circuit. Another kit consists of a rover. Users build a working remote controlled rover by snapping together electrical components.

Euler’s Disk and a straw rocket launcher are part of the Discover kits. Discover kits are math and science based. Euler’s Disk is a chrome-plated steel disk that spins on a mirror. “The disk changes speed and sound, as it spins. It is hypnotic to watch,” said Reckamp.

Beginner programming skills can be utilized with the Program kits. Kits in this category include: small robots, LEGO WeDo, and a Makey Makey. A Makey Makey is an invention kit that turns everyday objects into a touchscreen.

Byron Public Library will be hosting a STEM Kit try-it day on Friday, Sept. 16, from 1-4 p.m. The event is open to children ages five and up, accompanied by a caregiver. Those who attend will be able to enter to be the first to borrow their favorite kit.

“Some of the kits are appropriate for those under the age of five. However, many of the kits have a lot of small parts, so this event is for those five and up,” said Reckamp. “We do have a tri-fold flyer that has a picture and description of each kit. Parents can check out any kit that is a good fit for their child’s interests,” she added.

Following the event, the kits will be available to check out from the library. Kits must be checked out and returned to the Byron Public Library. They cannot be sent to or returned to other libraries in the area. Cardholders from other area libraries can check the kits out by coming to Byron Public Library. Byron cardholders can place holds on the kits.

“I’m so grateful to Exelon for funding this endeavor. I’m excited to get these kits into the hands of our library users,” said Reckamp.

Byron Public Libray STEM Kits 1

Audrey Markham, Ashlyn Smith, and Clair Hildreth show off their giant Magna-Tile creation.

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