I'm doing a research project on engineering education that's looking at how middle and high school students use physical artifacts to learn about technology. What kind of tools do teenagers use to learn engineering and how does the design of these artifacts affect the kind of learning that occurs with them (what features do they have? do they cater to visual learners? experienced programmers? traditionally underrepresented minorities in technology? students who might have difficulties in "normal" classrooms?)

The following is one part (approximately 33.3%) of a scholarly paper I'm working on; this is an overview and call for help with the "library" section - the other two sections focus on the effect of artifact design on student-artifact interactions and the usage/effect of artifacts in classroom settings, respectively, but I'm focusing on this one for now.

The short:
If you were designing a section of a library dedicated to helping teenagers learn engineering, how would you create the space, choose the materials, and run the whole place, and why?

The long:
In particular, if you were including toys (electronics kits, building sets, K'nex, bot competition kits (Vex?) books, soapbox racers, mindstorms...) how would you set them up in a system that would give you as much kid-learning as possible for as little librarian-trouble as possible (parts getting lost/broken, students not knowing what to do with them, etc.)

The little I've seen with engineering toys in libraries so far amounts to sticking gadgets in bins on the shelves and treating them like "normal books" for checkout, but there must be other ways to do this - I'm looking for everything from informal brainstorms to personal anecdotes to suggestions for books and papers to read. (I'm also looking for folks to interview by phone, email, or anyplace reachable by car from Boston - especially librarians and high school students.)

The explanation:
It's not just the design of the toys and tools themselves but the space they're within and the people within that space who shape how kids interact and learn with them. A library is a fantastic space to learn within - no schedules, no set subject boundaries, space to explore, and librarian-mentors around to help you find information so you learn how to teach yourself things. What would a teen library for engineering education look like? As a librarian, how would/do you use "engineering toys" as ways to promote and teach information fluency?

The obligatory disclaimer:
I'll be using this information for my studies in engineering education, and will give you full credit for contributions and cite you however you wish (requests for pseudonyms or anonymity will also be honored). The paper will be licensed under a creative commons attribution-noncommercial-share alike license when it's finished in May, and I'm working on ways to share it in draft form before then. If you'd like to contact me outside the comments, drop me a line at mel [at] students period olin period edu.