TPiB: Strawbees, a great tool for Makerspaces
My first weeks as the YA Services Coordinator at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County in Ohio, the children’s librarian came to me with an ad for these things called STRAWBEES and asked what I thought of them. And what I thought of them was that they looked pretty cool. So she ordered the two AccuCut dies, which you then use to cut out a variety of connectors. The connectors are used to connect straws together in any variety of ways to build things. They are Maker tools, and they are pretty cool.
Over the weekend my family was visiting – this whole people having jobs in two different states is really the worst – and we made exploring Strawbees a family affair. Here are our thoughts on Strawbees, from the point of view of a variety of ages.
What are Strawbees?
According to the website, Strawbees are “The drinking straw educational toy for makers of all ages”. You use an Accucut die to cut plastic connections to build things out of straws. As a mom to a recently small child they remind me of Tinkertoys.
You start out with the AccuCut dies (although I believe you can also buy pre-cut packs of connectors, but if you have an AccuCut machine this is the way to go):
Here The Tween is using the plastic bought from the Strawbees/AccuCut store to make the connector pieces using the AccuCut machine. She cut for about 2 hours and got a pretty reasonable amount of connector pieces.
Next she used some straws and the connectors to see what she could build. She ended up making this thing which she called a “crown”.
Next The Mr. – who to be fair was an art major in college – started building.
He ended up making a wide variety of shapes and pieces which you can see modeled here by Thing 2.
Some final thoughts:
Everyone had a really great time with these. The amounts of things you can do are endless. We built some projects alone and some in groups, which were both fun.
For the 2 AccuCut dies (around $110.00 each), 2 packs of each color of plastic, and a multitude of straw, PLMVKC spent about $350.00.
We bought clear straws and I would hands down recommend buying fun neon colored straws.
PLMVKC is also in the process of collecting donations of empty milk jugs and other plastic recyclables to make more connectors, which would make this is a great Earth Day Makerspace.
We also talked about putting about a display of science and architecture books with an instruction sheet taped to a plastic bag of say 25 connectors for patrons to take home and do on their own.
I was sharing the Strawbees fun on Twitter and Laura Renshaw shared that these would be perfect for a program they had called “Everything is Strawsome”, a play on the song from the Lego movie. I loved this program idea so much I’m working on putting one together of my own featuring Strawbees. I’ll include a TPiB about it soon but it will involve things like other straw themed crafts and making your own Pixie sticks.
Some basic Googling revealed that there are a lot of fun things you can do with the Strawbees for all ages, and you can use things like a Raspberry Pi and other electronics to automate your build and take your making up a notch. Check out this YouTube video from the Strawbees channel:
Versatile, creative, and a pretty decent price range, I highly recommend Strawbees. I’m looking forward to all the fun things we are going to do with them at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County. And really, they work with all ages.
Strawbees in the Wild:
Here’s a cool Instagram video of a Strawbees robot: http://instagram.com/p/vg7QmpMJyv/
Robots made with Strawbees: http://toyland.gizmodo.com/you-can-finally-build-a-robot-army-using-cheap-plastic-1669993341
Also, you can search Twitter with the hashtag #Strawbees to see pictures of Strawbees in action
And finally, yesterday flying home to Texas to see my girls (see note above about working in separate states), I saw this piece of art on display at the Dallas Love Field Airport. You could totally have kids make this with Strawbees:
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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