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At Las Vegas Library, students learn to play sounds via banana

To signal the start of STEAM Exploration at Las Vegas Library on a recent Wednesday, Tala Miranda rang the bell. The head of the Youth Services department alerted the children to come in the story room on the second floor. Four ran in.

First, Miranda showed them the video of Makey Makey, an invention kit that turns everyday objects into touch pads and connects them to the internet.

“You guys are going to get a chance to do this,” Miranda explained, the computer screen reflecting in her purple glasses.

But first, they watched a Makey Makey video. They watched a notebook turn into a game controller. A finger tap on a banana instantly played keys on a piano. One step on a stair played the drums.

Via the connection of electrical alligator clips, the computer is “tricked into touching the keyboard,” Miranda explained.

The experience was part of the library’s STEAM Exploration, held on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

“The library is just trying to get ahead of the game and introduce STEAM outside of the classroom,” Miranda said. “STEAM is everywhere. We don’t get big crowds like the other libraries, but we try to provide programs for different age groups.”

Michael Dotson, an 8-year old third-grader sporting a blue shirt and a mohawk, exclaimed that he knew why they were called alligator clips.

“‘Cause they look like alligator mouths,” he said. “They pinch.”

To get started, 7-year-old Zion Mitchell leaned over.

“You can put it on fruit; you can move it around!” she said of Makey Makey.

Her 10-year-old cousin, Domonique Williams, responded, “Yeah, you don’t even have to touch the keyboard.”

Miranda clipped the alligator clips to the Makey Makey, sticking the other end into balls of orange and green Play-Doh. Each round ball signified the space and arrow keys on the computer.

“Charles, get your finger ready,” Miranda said to one of the boys.

Charles Lynch, 8, pressed the space bar on the Makey Makey and saw the computer screen respond. He smiled and fixed his oversized glasses. “Ah!”

Charles began to play the drums and bells by tapping on the different-colored Play-Doh. He played “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” on the keyboard. Tapping an orange ball, he used the makeshift arrows to play Tetris. As the music played and he maneuvered the blocks in the game, Charles kept his eyes fixated on the screen.

“It’s going fast,” he said.

Miranda said the program is to “introduce the basics, and let them figure it out.”

As the class came to an end, she handed out free scented bookmarks. Charles’ mother, Michelle, waited for her son.

“Come on, Charles,” she said. “It’s dinner time.”

He slowly followed her out of the story room, leaving the Makey Makey behind.

Contact Briana Erickson at berickson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5244. Follow @brianarerick on Twitter.

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