September 14, 2015
MTCC VISTA Erik Swanson
Public libraries are community hubs for information, activities, and support for community members and families. Missoula PublicLibrary offers these services, as well as unique programming. The Missoula Public Library in partnership with the Univervsity of Montana’s SpectrUM science museum is a current host site for an MTCC VISTA project. the project is developing infrastructure to help alleviate poverty in a community by generating early interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (or “STEM”) careers.
One of the new and unique services available atthe Missoula Public Library is the MakerSpace. This new area is located downstairs and can help anyone “turn an idea into a physical thing” according to VISTA Erik Swanson. Some of the examples of things people have made are replicas of arrowheads, a zebra, a fox, and a frog. 

Fox and Frog 3D prints

During the first year of the project VISTA member Rebecca Rice, helped increase the community awareness of the MakerSpace area and develop an interest for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) through outreach to economically disadvantaged youth and community. Visits to the MakerSpace increased each month from 78 to 229, a 290% increase. Near the end of this first project year, the Missoula Public Library offered summer camps, which enrolled 10 children, aged 8 – 12 years old, to learn about STEM and how to make things in the MakerSpace. MTCC VISTA Summer Associate (and former staffer!), Kathy Peterson, currently a full-time college student at University ofMontana, served during the summer for 10 weeks to support these camps with direct service. Kathy built partnerships with spectrUM and recruited UM students, and faculty, to help teach STEM lessons to young people.

VISTA member Erik Swanson started his  service in July and is currently recruiting University of Montana college students to help in this center and to develop training and programs for the MakerSpace. So far, he has seven volunteers who help him with the space and he is busy trying to get internships set up to help keep the MakerSpace available even more to the community.
Erik has taken on the task of increasing volunteers and implementing strategies to create sustainability within the MakerSpace. He is currently looking for volunteers and interested persons to teach classes on all kinds of STEM topics. Some of the electronics equipment currently in use at the MakerSpace is the Raspberry Pi, a microcomputer that hooks up to a standard monitor, keyboard and mouse, and it helps learn programming. There are electronic snap circuit board sets, soldering, and a 3D printer and scanner, which can help make “an idea into a thing”. Erik explains this 3D printing technology is something many industries are using and it is becoming an important skill to develop in our youth and community as it can build a path out of poverty. 

Missoula Public Library’s MakerSpace is located in downtown Missoula at 301 E. Main Street and are open seven days a week!