Little Sandbox arrives at Norris Green Library

NORRIS GREEN Library has welcomed a new tenant to the building which will increase learning opportunities for local residents.

Little Sandbox, which provides tech and maker activities for young people has found a new home at the library following a successful series of workshops as part of the Liverpool Library Service, Maker Difference Project.

Co-founder Helen Stephens said “We were overwhelmed by the response in Norris Green, we filled all our places and when Pat  (library manager) moved us into the bigger room we just invited everyone in who turned up. It was brilliant.”

Word soon got around with kids and parents all coming along to make T-shirts, code robots and learn 3D design.

“We fell in love with Norris Green, the kids were so enthusiastic and the library staff really welcomed us. When we heard the space was empty we just knew we had to move in.” Helen said.

Co-founder Chris Huffee agrees “It’s a really exciting time for making in libraries and we’re thrilled to be developing a maker community here in Norris Green Library. There’s so much we can do here.”

Among the plans for Little Sandbox, the team are keen to develop a women’s maker club as well as providing support for creative makers to start their own businesses.

Chris confesses to being excited about how the space will develop and wants it to be largely community lead. “We’ll provide the tools and equipment and support, but what they do with it is entirely up to them. I’d love to see some micro businesses starting, producing crafts for sale, or repairing and upcycling items rather than dumping them in landfill,”

The pair are no strangers to building community lead projects as their kids tech club shows.

“When we first started the kids club, it was aimed at addressing the skills shortage and gender divide in the tech sector, but we quickly realised that we were creating a space for kids who don’t fit in at the usual clubs. It became a a safe environment for those that struggle socially, giving them a place in which they were free to be themselves without fear of ridicule. “

The club has been a success with members travelling from as far as Runcorn to attend.

This year the club entered the Big Bang NW competition with their Kerbinator 3000 project – the first time an independent kids tech club has competed –  and were among the winners selected to represent the North West at the National Awards.

Their project aims to address issues facing wheel chair users after one of the club volunteers expressed frustration that planning routes using google maps didn’t always turn out to be accessible because there was no way to know if there were any drop-kerbs.

The team were delighted when the project also won 2 Inspiration Awards at the event – They scooped the Digital Innovation award, sponsored by Lime Pictures and The Bright Spark award, sponsored by Scottish Power.

Chris said “We’re thrilled that our young inventors have been selected as finalists, representing the North West in the National Big Bang Awards next year.”

Helen said, “I’m so proud of everyone involved. I hope this recognition will inspire our members to continue to develop their tech skills.

Earlier last month, Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram was amazed when he visited Little Sandbox and heard all about the project. The Mayors office sent their congratulations to the team and said “This is fantastic news, best of luck to them from here on in.”

Chris and Helen are now bringing their kids tech club to primary schools across the City Region.

Helen said “There’s still not enough support for teachers tackling the computing curriculum and our mission is to inspire as many kids as possible and show them how fun and exciting technology is.”

Chris adds “At our club, the kids are there because they’re passionate about technology. But with the school clubs, lots of the kids haven’t done any tech activities at all. We’re able to show them the fun creative side and inspire them to take an interest.”

The clubs have been popular with school pupils. Maisie, who attends the after school club at Bedford Primary in Bootle, said “I want to be an engineer or an inventor, and Little Sandbox has helped me because they’ve given me the confidence to believe I can be anything I want to be.”

With their success in mentoring award winning inventors, their after school clubs will no doubt be very popular.