Howard County Library System’s STEAM Machine visits county fair through Saturday

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, center, in the STEAM machine, joins Tonya Aikens, president and CEO of the Howard County Library System.

Set up as an exhibit booth near the fair entrance, the STEAM Machine is hosting workshops where people can interact with robots, see a 3D printing pen in action and do science experiments.

The STEAM Machine truck is 13 feet high and 33 feet long. Pullout awnings and a dual inside/outside speaker system will allow for outside learning when the weather cooperates.

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Visit the Howard County Fair in Maryland through Saturday and you can learn about more than agriculture while surrounded by carnival rides, cotton candy, tractor pulls and livestock.

The STEAM Machine is welcoming guests to see how it will bring science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics education directly into county communities as a hands-on classroom on wheels.

“We have on here, all sorts of high end, MacBook Pros; we have surface tablets; we have Dell computers. And, we have the capacity to be able to have 12 kids on at a time in the STEAM Machine. We have all sorts of surfaces where they can sit down and have hands-on learning,” said Christopher Heady, the Howard County Library System’s STEAM mobile unit driver and instructor assistant. “People just call me the STEAM guy.”



Set up as an exhibit booth near the fair entrance, the STEAM Machine is hosting workshops where people can, for example, interact with robots, see a 3D printing pen in action, and do science experiments.

“It’s really just kind of the tip of the iceberg of what we can offer people. We have high-end camera equipment. We also have like a giant pull-down green screen. And we have these very large monitors on the STEAM Machine,” Heady said.

Calling it a massive endowment for education, Heady said the truck is 13 feet high and 33 feet long. Pullout awnings and a dual inside/outside speaker system will allow for outside learning when the weather cooperates.

The vision is for the STEAM Machine to reach under underprivileged communities to get technology into kids’ hands and break down barriers that are preventing kids from being able to access technology.

“This is a very big push to give that hands-on learning and to make all of these principles accessible,” Heady said.

The library system is reaching out to stakeholders and partners to see where and how the STEAM Machine might be best put to use.

“We want to get to hear from the community to be able to really understand what they want from us as far as classes…. And when we’re not targeting K through 12, we’re going to be having some adult learning, as well,” Heady said.

The STEAM Machine is funded in part by an American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Grant through the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and is administered by the Maryland State Library Agency. Additional funds are being provided by Friends & Foundation of HCLS.

You can find the Howard County Fair’s schedule of events on the fair’s website. The fairgrounds is at 2210 Fairgrounds Rd. in West Friendship.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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