Robot makes returning books fun at Jacks Valley | RecordCourier.com

Robot makes returning books fun at Jacks Valley

by Amy Alonzo
aalonzo@recordcourier.com

School libraries aren't usually known as the most exciting spot on campus, but at Jacks Valley Elementary School, students are pumped up about checking out and returning books.

That's because in February the school received — at no cost — a child-sized light-up robot for students to drop their returned books into.

"I love it," said fifth-grader Anthony Smokey. "I think it's a really good piece of art."

When Corky Goldade took over as the school's media technician and librarian in the fall, students returned their books in a box.

"They would leave books on the desk and it was just a disaster zone," she said.

Goldade, a retired visual designer at General Electric, suggested to her husband, Mark, a metrologist at G.E., that the students needed a better way to return their books.

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"I like to tinker with stuff so it was right up my alley," he said. "I thought a robot would be a good place to start."

The end result is a roughly four-foot tall plywood and plastic robot that has three levels of motion detection. Stationed by the library's main desk, the robot lights up and flashes when people walk by. If a student runs their hand past a sensor in front of the robot, a slot opens up for about 5 seconds to deposit a book.

Mark started the construction project in September with a targeted finish date of October, but it took him until February to finish the robot. He said he worked on it three or four nights per week for about two hours at a time.

Construction took "a lot of trial and error, of course," he said. "I got into it without even knowing where I was going."

The robot's body is made of plywood, plastic, Styrofoam and items from the Goldade's garage and the Dollar Store. The head is two plastic garbage cans taped together; the motion sensors are capped by toothbrush-holders.

"Mark is all about repurposing," Corky said.

When the robot arrived at the school last month, students' "minds were blown," she said. "They were like 'This is the coolest book drop ever.' It kind of served a dual purpose — it showed kids a practical application for robotics … Now it's kind of fun to return books."

The robot has served another purpose as well — the number of lost and overdue books at the library has gone down since the robot was installed, she said.

A drawing will be held later this year to name the robot, she said.