Fifteen public libraries and museums in Iowa are splitting a half a million dollar grant, using the money to provide programs for kids that organizers hope will spur interest in high-skilled manufacturing jobs. Iowa companies are working together with community colleges on the project.

The project manager, Robyn Ormsby, says she hopes to expose children to the benefits of careers based in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. “The wages are fantastic, I mean a lot of times kids coming out of school with a one or two year certificate degree are making $40,000 to $60,000 and they are just going up from there,” Ormsby said.

The programs at the libraries and museums will include LEGO building, gaming, and robotics. Most programs will begin towards the end of August and continue for at least one year. Ormsby believes exposing kids to career options early can make an impact. “When they are thinking of what they want to be when they grow up, they are thinking about their inner circle. You know, what their mom and dad does, they know what their teacher does obviously, maybe what their doctor or dentist does. But beyond that, they are not exposed to a lot of other careers at those early ages,” Ormsby said.

More than 6,000 manufacturing jobs in Iowa are unfilled, according to Ormsby, and most of the jobs don’t require a four-year degree. To learn more about the grants, visit

Here’s a list of the projects:

African American Museum Iowa – An interactive exhibit about African Americans influential in manufacturing, starting with George Washington Carver.

Burlington Public Library – A robotic LEGO club for grades 2-6 using WeDo Lego kits.

Cedar Falls and Waterloo Public Libraries – Workshops for tweens and teens using littleBits (electronic modules that snap together with tiny magnets for prototyping).

Elma Public Library – A monthly LEGO & Goldie Blox Club featuring different manufacturing themes.

Estherville Public Library – A “Tinker Tuesdays” after-school program using Snap Circuit kits and KEVA plank sets.

Fonda Public Library – A LEGO program for children ranging from simple Duplo building blocks to Klutz LEGO Crazy Action Contraption kits with gears and and axles.

Gibson Public Library – A project-based program to help students learn about and experiment with the skills needed in advanced manufacturing.

Griswold & Lewis Public Libraries – A LEGO Club collaboration between Griswold and Lewis Public Libraries for boys and girls 9-14.

Iowa Transportation Museum – A “Transportation YOU” career program to introduce students to advanced manufacturing jobs, including high tech opportunities related to transportation and logistics.

Orange City Library – A LEGO program focused on the construction of objects in their community to promote better understanding about how things are built.

Pella Public Library – A manufacturing-career focused LEGO program utilizing volunteers from area companies with a special emphasis on encouraging girls to get involved.

Sheffield Public Library – A LEGO program for K-6 focused on demonstrating how interesting and complex manufacturing can be.

Sloan Public Library – A robotics program to introduce youth to science, math and computer programming, as related to advanced manufacturing. Also featuring guest speakers.

The Sawmill Museum – An interactive kiosk showcasing changes in advanced manufacturing along the Mississippi River in the Gateway area. The kiosk will include videos, games, websites, pictures and maps.