Pathfinder Cassidy Pham: Incorporating Electronics in Crafts/Art at Tully Library

Pathfinder is a series of blogs about intrepid library staff who are leading interesting programs that you may not yet know about.

Librarian Cassidy Pham has been soldering since he was eight years old.  Of course, he tells me that an adult always supervised him when he was young!  As a result, of his lifelong training in electronic crafts, he has had a lifelong interest in electronic circuitry.

Cassidy is also interested in crafting, so he naturally "incorporates electronics" into his crafts.

According to Cassidy, following are some crafts that he has enlivened with technology and science:

  • "Stuck with a boring greeting card? Give it a sound board that has a catchy tune to liven it up.
  • A dull and static toy model? Add lights wherever possible to bring it to life."

Cassidy says that these upgrades

"are far more amusing and challenging. There is a curious satisfaction when creating something with your hands, and thinking creatively on what materials, tools, and techniques to make the product. Of course, the product doesn’t always turnout right, but the learning experience is valuable and half the fun. I hope to share in this enthusiasm, as I have no doubt that other children will be excited if given the opportunity learn to apply technology and science in their crafts."

Let's learn more about the Illuminated Crafts Program and the Basic Soldering and Crafts Program that Cassidy is leading!  How did he develop these programs?

The Development of the Illuminated Crafts Program and Basic Soldering and Crafts Program

Cassidy's adventure in introducing these innovative programs has taken on several incarnations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Originally set to begin near the start of the pandemic, Cassidy used the skills that have aided him in his crafting in order to provide a flexible and gradual introduction to these programs.  The gradual introduction to these programs may have actually aided in their growth!

Cassidy tells me, "I had always thought of starting the Illuminated Crafts program at some point during my employment at the San Jose Public Library."  The problem was that he wasn't sure if he had enough ideas to choose from in order to create a series of interesting programs.

The pandemic allowed him the time to come up with ideas and to have parents provide the supplies in the initial phase, when the program was presented on Zoom.  Because of the shutdown, parents were eagerly looking for ways to entertain their home-bound child(ren.)  He says, "Parents were encouraged to purchase the necessary supplies and watch a live video session."

As time passed, the Library shifted from virtual programs to a partial-reopening.  Cassidy developed an intermediary phase where he provided supplies and instructions for projects.  At this time, many libraries started to provide Grab and Go Crafts that allowed children to craft at home, when indoor programs were still not available at the Library.  This was when Cassidy made premade kits with all of the necessary materials for craft construction.

In the final phase of development, the Libraries fully reopened to the public and Cassidy developed his onsite program.  By this time the Illuminated Crafts Program was already successful and it was easy to transition to an in-person program!

Because of the success of the children's program, Cassidy decided to introduce an in-person program for adults also!  Teens and adults who participated in the program requested a program for older groups.  Recognizing a need, Cassidy immediately started to make plans.

Cassidy says,

"In terms of the Basic Soldering and Crafts program, I’m an advocate of DIY (Do-It-Yourself) projects—largely because it is an excellent creative outlet. Also, with the lack of trade skill classes in today’s education system, introducing and teaching patrons the tools and skills to create—whatever it may be—opens opportunities.

Basic Soldering is a teen and adult program that teaches basic usage of soldering iron and proper techniques—in addition to safety and its application in making crafts."

Cassidy's approach differed from the children's program in that he chose to present Basic Soldering as a pilot program, to gauge interest.  The pilot program was implemented:

"to determine best practices, lesson planning, setup, class structure, etc. Basically, we wanted to do it, but also see what worked and what didn't for this programming. The pilot program was a three-day class-based program that occurred Wednesdays. This three-week program included:

Day 1: Teach safety and best practices in using a soldering iron, and a basic introduction and instruction on circuits.

Day 2: Planning and soldering circuits.

Day 3: Finish soldering circuits and complete craft.

Though our pilot program was restricted to 6 participants since tools and supplies were limited, the program nonetheless proved successful as all participants left with some knowledge of soldering and were able to leave with a LED 3d frame."

Intrigued?  Let's learn more about the programs!

The Illuminated Crafts and Basic Soldering Crafts Programs

The goal of the Illuminated Crafts Program, according to Cassidy,

"to introduce children to basic concepts of electronics and chemistry."

Children learn how to illuminate their art enrichment or crafts using the "application of a simple circuit and LED lights (or glowsticks.)"  Cassidy thinks that there are all kinds of possibilities for illuminating "an endless possibility of crafts."

The popularity of the Library's STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics) programs are undeniable in Silicon Valley.

Cassidy says of the Illuminated Crafts Program:

"It serves as a venue to a wide range of themes and topics, such as animal and earth science, astronomy, fashion, etc.

By the end of each session, children will walk away with not only a learning experience, but a completed craft that’ll illuminate their imaginations for years to come—or at least until the battery or glowstick dies out."

If you are an adult, you might consider Cassidy's Basic Soldering Crafts Program!  He says,

"For more mature participants, the Basic Soldering and Crafts program that we’ve recently introduced is a great opportunity to teach safe practices, basic soldering skills and techniques, and of course, its application on craft-making."

Let's find out where and when these programs are available!

Attending the Illuminated Crafts Program or Basic Soldering Crafts Program

Cassidy tells me that space is limited for these programs!

Here is what you should watch for when looking for one of Cassidy's programs:

"Space within the Illuminated Crafts and Basic Soldering and Crafts program is often limited due to the number of supplies and equipment However, I’d encourage parents to regularly check the San Jose Public Library website’s event page for the program as it reoccurs biannually from February to May and August to November.

If you wonder whether he regularly provides new crafting ideas, he says,

"Although we do replace and introduce crafts every year, most of the crafts are the same as the previous sessions. This provides an opportunity for those who may have been unable to participate to join later.

Those who have created and taken home these crafts leave with a greater understanding of the topics in question, and certainly a new appreciation of technology and science.

Additionally, they have shared their appreciation and wide smiles every time.

(Finally,) I hope more families will have the opportunity to explore and discover more ways to incorporate lights into their lives."

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section below.