The New Milford Public Library now has its own server for the popular online world-building game Minecraft, thanks to Robotics And Beyond.

A team of four middle school students, guided by two high school age mentors, built the computer that hosts the server and then created Minecraft mini-games for the library’s Minecraft club to play.

“I hope the server provides an added dimension to our monthly Minecraft Club, so everyone can play together,” said young adult services librarian Valerie Fisher.

This is the first collaboration between the library and the nonprofit STEM educational group, although R&B Executive Director Paul Chayka said the two groups have been looking to work together for a few years.

The Minecraft server was Fisher’s idea so the library’s club could have its own server to play on.

“I spoke to Paul about what I wanted and he made it happen,” Fisher said.

Chayka chose Schaghticoke Middle School seventh-graders James Tillman and Alex Wagner and eighth-graders Nathaniel Smith and Taylor Briggs for the project because of prior experience learning about Minecraft servers in R&B’s afterschool robotics program.

“I knew this project would deepen the boys’ understanding of servers, and give them leadership experience as the server administrators and game moderators for library gaming events,” Chayka explained.

Mentors James Mester, a New Milford High student aiming to study engineering in college next year, and Collin Lavergne, a home-schooled junior, brought the technical and teaching experience needed to make the project possible.

The project was also a way for the mentors to develop team and project management experience.

“They completely met my highest hopes for this project,” Chayka said.

James, Alex, and Nate had previous experience setting up a Minecraft server on an R&B computer. But this project had a bigger scope.

The team first had to build a computer to host the server.

Led by mentors James and Collin, the four middle-school students learned the basic components of a computer, including every part required for a server.

Using what was on-hand at the R&B office, the team built the computer with minimal help from the mentors.

The process included troubleshooting any problems with hardware function and making sure there was compatibility between parts and software.

Building their own computer saved about $500 in hardware costs.

The next step was creating the Minecraft server.

The students set up the software, devised and configured a variety of mini-games, and set up permissions (what certain levels of players are allowed to do) within those games.

After everything was ready to go, the team had to build the "maps" for their games — the locations in which the players use.

The prior experience of setting up a Minecraft server came in handy at this point.

“The library server is similar to the R&B server, with multiple games running at the same time, but with different worlds and games,” Chayka said, noting it’s also faster.

The added challenge of the library server is the increased number of players.

“In past server classes at R&B, we've had about four students testing the server at once,” Chayka said. “At the library, there will be many more players at a time during game events.”

The Minecraft Club currently has between 10 and 15 participants, but Fisher hopes the new server will attract more players.

The new server is capable of hosting a group of players from inside the library’s network and also from outside.

“The Darien Library Minecraft server hosts players all over Fairfield County, and in coming months I would like our server to fill the same role in Litchfield County,” Fisher said.

The R&B team thinks that the new server can handle around 50 players. However, for a group that large, they want to have team members monitoring the games in case something goes wrong.

James, Alex, Nate, and Taylor are also responsible for maintaining the server for the library, as well as creating new game maps and conducting the actual game events at the library.

In the coming years, these students will gain more experience by supervising the next server-building project, including identifying and training candidates for the next project.

For more information about the library Minecraft program, call 860-355-1191, ext. 204.