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Connected Messages

Connected Messages

Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation

Program Summary

Philadelphia is a city of murals. This public art provides messages of inspiration throughout our neighborhoods. Drawing inspiration from Philadelphia’s identity as the “City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection” and the Born Brave Bus Tour, the Free Library of Philadelphia seeks to empower youth through a hands-on introduction to technology as a platform for public creative expression. Beginning July 8th, youth ages 10″“18 will come together at 5 Free Library sites to participate in the Connected Messages project, creating digitally augmented postcard murals. This project integrates technological and traditional literacy with art to spread messages of bravery, acceptance, and identity.

Participants will engage with near-peer mentors through the Free Library’s existing Maker Ed Initiative.
In daily workshops, youth will make digital postcards using conductive materials and programmable lighting elements. The postcards will be compiled, creating 5 interactive murals. The murals will be connected to a web platform, eCrafting.org, where youth and online viewers can build icons, images and messages by controlling the lighting elements on the postcards through a web interface.

Connected Messages will culminate in a public celebration on August 17, 2013 — a Maker Faire where 50 youth presenters and over 100 additional attendees gather in the lobby of the Central Library to share their messages of kindness. Participants will have the opportunity to share the meaning behind their postcards, as well as the technological knowledge they have accumulated over the summer by helping attendees create their own postcards.

Connected Messages is an opportunity for youth to create and share their objects and ideas with their community and through the web platform, communicating their messages across the city and around the world. As such, their work will open a dialogue that stretches between neighborhoods, communities, and the web through an open access institution: the public library.


The Connected Messages project connects youth from disparate neighborhoods in North and West Philadelphia by having them design universal messages of kindness, acceptance, and self-expression. On June 10, 2013, through funding from the Maker Ed Initiative, 5 library sites including neighborhood libraries and Hot Spots (Widener, McPherson, Heavenly Hall, IDAAY and the Village of Arts & Humanities) opened makerspaces staffed by Maker Corps Members and equipped with DIY electronic materials. The Maker Ed project continues through August 17, 2013.

Project:Connect funding would enable Maker Corps Members to help youth create and decorate their own electronic, paper-based message cards. Beginning July 8, 2013, participants will have the opportunity to design a postcard related to a weekly topic — such as identity or acceptance — by drawing and designing with electronically augmented materials. As they create additional post cards, their level of skill will increase. Youth will start by using conductive inks and making simple patterns and shapes with paper, and may eventually advance towards complex circuits where lighting elements can be programmed with different computational design principles — such as conditionals, iteration, and looping — and integrated into their message. Similarly-themed postcards will be linked via color-coded conductive paint, sending positive collaborative messages to communities.

The completed postcards will be photographed and also physically attached onto a wall at the neighborhood site, as well as documented on the Free Library Maker Ed blog. The postcards will have lighting elements and identifying tags that will register them on a website and be part of a citywide circuit that can be viewed over the Internet. All materials needed to build these artifacts, including paper, markers, scissors, and electronics, will be available at each location. All five sites contain access to computers.

After workshops, each participant will take away a “Kindness Mini-Postcard Kit”: a business-sized card with an LED, a battery, and copper tape. Inspired by the Born Brave Kindness Cards, the mini-postcard serves as a starting point to explain a simple circuit, as well as engages participants in a dialogue about how the Mini-Postcards can be used as random acts of generosity.

Over the course of six weeks, as more postcards are created, a mosaic image will emerge on the wall, organized by weekly themes. On the final day of programming onsite, all locations will light up their walls and view all five mosaics coming together through the website, revealing the collaborative efforts of their celebratory messages to the entire city of Philadelphia.

At the August 17th celebration, participants will be invited to share the messages embedded in their city-wide postcard mosaic with over 100 attendees. After sharing their work, they will also demonstrate the technological knowledge they have accumulated over the summer by teaching those in attendance how to create their own postcard. Thus, this project will not only display messages of brotherly love and sisterly affection, but will give the participants an opportunity to demonstrate their acts of kindness while sharing their knowledge with diverse youth and adults from neighborhoods all over the city.

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