Maker Educator: 3D Printing Night Recap


Maker Educator: 3D Printing Night is our most recent offering from DHF’s Center of Excellence with the focus on bringing together educators to learn, create and, inspire each other.

The Maker Educator Meetup is designed to focus on three key components: review of new technology tools, hands-on learning techniques to apply the covered materials, and networking among educators to share ideas and experiences. We will meet quarterly to explore the latest technologies in the field and discuss practical applications to bring back to the classroom.


Our first meeting was held in December 2014 and the night was chock full of insightful tips shared by Shawn and Stephanie Grimes. We started the night with a quick presentation about 3D Scanning technology and reviewed different types of 3D Scanning tools to help users decide which tools worked best for them. Then, we jumped right into demonstrations on how to use the scanning tools and we loved seeing participants so eager to engage with the 3D printers and scanners. Participants not only walked away with new resources and connections, but some participants also had 3D printed busts made. To see other photos from the Meetup visit our Flickr page here: Maker Educator: 3D Night.

If you weren’t able to make it to our first meeting, but would like to learn more about the materials covered, you can read Shawn’s review of 3D Scanners here: 3D Scanners: A Quick Review.


Thank you to all those who attended our first gathering, we can’t wait to see how the group grows and develops! The next Maker Educator Meetup will be March 25, 2015 and you can signup here: Maker Educators: 3D Night.

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2014 in Review

Giving Tuesday & The New Year

‘Tis the season to be jolly! And what better way to be jolly than giving back to a cause you are passionate about? This December marked Digital Harbor Foundation’s second campaign through Giving Tuesday.  This year, we came together to inspire even more young makers in Baltimore through our new Tech Center Field Trip Initiative.  The field trip initiative makes it possible for youth all around Baltimore to visit the space and learn about our programs and what kids their own age are making and learning.

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Creativity matters, and Digital Harbor Foundation prides itself on providing young makers a chance to create and learn in an open and positive environment. When you sponsor a field trip, you give more kids the opportunity to explore programming, electronics, 3-D printing, and high-tech projects in our joyful space – an opportunity they may not have had without your support.

Through this year’s Giving Tuesday Campaign we raised over $15,000 and within one week of announcing the program more than 50 Baltimore-area schools have applied! We are working diligently to schedule as many as possible for the first few weeks of 2015, and will easily have field trips scheduled for the rest of the school year by the time we are done. Having such amazing supporters is a huge gift and without your help this would not have been possible. We would like to thank our friends at Network for Good for helping us build up so much support and making our goal a reality. The Digital Harbor Foundation family would love to extend a HUGE thank you for your support in helping us create new opportunities for so many youth.

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2014 Family Make Nights Wrap Up

It was just a little over a year ago that we began hosting our Family Make Night events and we have had so much fun with it this year! Our first Family Make Night took place in November 2013 where participants made 3D Printed Cookie Cutters – and it was such a hit! This November, we wanted to replicate the excitement and enjoyment of that project so we hosted our 2nd 3D Printed Cookie Cutters Family Make Night event. (Don’t be surprised if this becomes an annual tradition!)


We were really excited to have a good turn out for this year’s cookie cutter night and to be able to print close to 40 cookie cutters within 24 hours!


The Tech Center was buzzing with the hum of seven 3D printers, kids’ excitement over seeing the 3D printers in action, and families discussing their cookie cutter designs. Everyone in attendance had a great time and we look forward to being able to host another cookie cutter Family Make Night!


See more photos from November Family Make Night.

For our final Family Make Night of 2014, we wanted to share a project that families could enjoy throughout the holiday season and try one of our new tools. Our project for December Family Make Night was Glowing Gingerbread Houses.


We used our Cricut machine to cut out all of the paper “gingerbread” houses that everyone got to construct and decorate with some markers, a LOT of glitter, and a bit of creativity. While the project took a good amount of time, everyone was really focused on creating something awesome and unique and the results were so fun to see. Each completed house got a flickering electronic candle to finish it off!



If you would like to see how we made the houses, we prepared a nice step by step guide – Tutorial: Glowing Gingerbread Houses.

See more photos from December Family Make Night.

In other Family Make Night news, we are really excited to have a new home for all things related to these events! During our WebSlam this year, one of our youth teams built a brand new website for Family Make Night and they did an awesome job! You can now visit to see all of our past events, get information about upcoming events, and access all of our project tutorials.

Thomas, Rory, Josh, and their Tech Coach Shawn did a fantastic job on the new site and we are grateful for all of their hard work!


We will be skipping Family Make Night in January, but will be back in full swing in February! We are excited about our second year of this program, sharing new projects, and getting more families making in 2015! Keep an eye out for the next Family Make Night event by joining our Meetup group.


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3D Printing: Chocolate Molds

During the last few weeks, I’ve been experimenting using 3D prints to create chocolate molds with mixed success and a lot of delicious failures.  Along the way I have learned a lot about the process of chocolate mold-making and had a lot of fun.  I finally feel like I’ve gotten my chocolate mold-making process to a point that I can share.


The Process

The first challenge I had was learning about the process.  Here are the important steps that I learned:

  1. Melt the chocolate
    1. Chocolate has a low melting point (which is why it melts in our pockets) so you don’t need a lot of heat and if you use too much heat, the chocolate will burn.  If it burns, it will taste bad, but it also won’t be very viscous which makes it hard to pour, you’ll think you need to turn up the heat but you’ve actually ruined the chocolate.
    2. The best method I have found for melting chocolate is using my electric tea kettle and two ceramic crocks I found in our cabinets (the kind that would be used for making Crème brûlée).
    3. Heat some water in your electric kettle and then pour into one of the crocks.  Place a second crock on top and add in your chocolate.
    4. Stir the chocolate consistently (now is not the time to walk away!) until it gets smooth.
  2. Spoon your chocolate into your molds.
  3. Tamp your molds onto the counter to get some of the air bubbles out.
  4. Let your molds cool at room temperature.
    1. I made a lot of mistakes by not letting them cool long enough.  Give them 60 minutes or more to cool.
    2. Do NOT put them in the refrigerator or freezer.  Moisture does bad things to chocolate and makes it brittle.  It took me a while to learn this mistake too.
  5. Carefully peel your molds off of your chocolate and enjoy.


The Molds


I also spent a lot of time trying to get the molds just right.  One of the keys is to make your mold as thin as possible so that it has some flexibility when you are trying to remove it from your cooled chocolate.  I’ve created a template in TinkerCad that you are welcome to use and remix to get you started:

Here are some tips for your mold:


Release Agents


I did some testing of release agents (things that make the chocolate come out easier) and the results surprised me a lot.  The best thing I found to use was nothing at all or vegetable oil.  The other solutions I tried were: Pam Original Spray, Pam Baking Spray, Pam Coconut Oil Spray, Crisco Vegetable, Vegetable Oil.  Everything except regular vegetable oil seemed to seep into the chocolate and made it look wet and not appealing.


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I love to learn new things when I take on new projects and I definitely learned some interesting things about working with chocolate. The great thing about working with chocolate is that the mistakes are delicious! I’m going to try some wax candle molds next and I don’t think the mistakes will be anywhere near as delicious.


Have fun and keep on making!

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Giving Tuesday at DHF!

‘Tis the season to be jolly! And what better way to be jolly than giving back to a cause you are passionate about? Creativity matters, and Digital Harbor Foundation has prided itself on providing its youth members with Maker experiences using the latest technology, allowing them to get ahead of the curve in the STEM world and its careers. Together, we can give kids a space to make and learn in an open and positive environment. Now, we want to involve more youth in tech and Maker activities outside of normal programming hours. You can offer more students the chance to create, build, and innovate by supporting our NEW Tech Center Field Trip Initiative.


This is our 2nd #GivingTuesday campaign and it’s your chance to donate to our cause and help us make our programs available outside of normal programming hours. Last year, we raised nearly $15K in donations and this year we plan to double that. With your help, we can make this experience more accessible to youth all around Maryland and build the next generation of coders, innovators, and entrepreneurs right here in Baltimore.

Be sure to spread the word, donate, and thank you for your support!

Support Tech Center Field Trips Today!

TEDxYouth@Baltimore 2014 is Coming Soon

12045529846_c506a0eaac_z We are proud to announce that we will be hosting our 3rd TEDxYouth@Baltimore event on November 15, 2014! This year’s theme of Worlds Imagined is sure to inspire our youth speakers and attendees alike. For all of the details and information about this year’s event, and to secure your tickets now, head over to our TEDxYouth@Baltimore page. (Space is limited). We hope you will be able to join us for this awesome, youth-focused event!


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3 Key Strategies for Anyone Interested in Creating a Makerspace for Youth

A lot of folks have been asking me recently for advice about how to create their own Makerspace for Youth. While even just a year ago there were only a handful of makerspaces specifically for youth, the number has been growing exponentially with museums, libraries, and schools all converting underutilized corners into creative spaces for youth!


This growth is really exciting and we are happy to do whatever we can to support others! As Shawn (DHF’s Director of Technology) just highlighted in his recent post 3D Printers for Educators: A Review, we don’t want folks to have to struggle the same ways we did if they don’t have to — so please feel free to reach out and take advantage of the opportunities to learn from us!

Here are 3 lessons learned that anyone interested in creating their own makerspace for youth should know and do:

1. Partnerships Are Key


2. Be a Part of the Larger Movement


3. Don’t Be Afraid to Innovate (Iterate!)


In short, don’t be afraid to get started wherever you are and work with what you have! Reach out to folks, talk about what you want to do, then do it! Start by making a real difference in the lives of all of the youth who come into your program!


3D Printers for Educators: A Review

Join the discussion of 3D Printing for Education by joining our Google Group:

There are a lot of educators anxious to jump into the 3D Printing waters and I’m really excited for their youth to get a chance to work with these awesome machines that have almost literally changed my life. I’ve worked with software all my life because I liked the safety of an “undo” button, with 3D printers, I get that same safety with physical creations and objects.
I’d like to be a lifeguard for those educators jumping into the dark waters of 3D printing, to help them avoid from jumping where there are rocks below the water’s surface, or to pull them out when the undercurrent is pulling them under.


I’ve been using 3D printers for about 18 months and I want to prevent all people, especially educators, from making some of the same mistakes I made when I first started. Instead, I would like people to stand on my shoulders and make new mistakes that will help us push this whole movement forward.

With that, here is a review of the 3D printers I have used and some that are on the market. These are all assembled printers, no kits are reviewed here.


The reviews below are my own, Shawn Grimes, and do not necessarily represent the views of the entire DHF staff. My reviews are based on my own experiences or the experiences reported to me by trusted colleagues in the tech community. This is a snapshot of time and is my current opinions as of October 19, 2014.

Make’s Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing

Do check out Make’s Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing for even more opinions. The newest version should be coming out soon hopefully. I know that the testing for it has been completed and they need to compile the reviews. While their tests are not specifically with youth or in a classroom environment, it is still important to get multiple opinions and their testing team is made up of mostly experts.

Short Answers

If you want to just jump to the main course, these are my most current recommendations for educators:

The Printers

Printrbot Metal Simple

Printrbot Metal Simple

Price: $599

Print Area: 150mm x 150mm x 150mm

Heated Bed: Optional Upgrade (+$150 roughly)

Auto Bed Level: Yes

This printer works right out of the box and it’s so inexpensive compared to other printers that you can order two of them in case you have any issues in the future, you will have a backup printer or two printers that students can use.

Not only is this printer inexpensive, it’s super reliable! This is my go-to printer for reliable prints, I have the least problems using this printer and I can print one youth project after another all day.

The software they recommend can be a pain but using MatterControl(free) or Cura(also free) is an easy fix for that.


Afinia 3D Printer

Price: $1,299

Print Area: 127mm x 127mm x 127mm

Heated Bed: Yes

Auto Bed Level: Yes

I used the older version of this printer and I was amazed at the quality! The software is really easy to use.

The bed is small for the price. If this was less expensive or had a bigger bed, this printer would be at the top of my list.


MakerBot 3D Printer

Price: $1,999

Print Area: 285mm x 153mm x 155mm

Heated Bed: No

Auto Bed Level: No

Disclaimer: My direct experience is with the Replicator 2 in our space, not the new 5th generations but I have not heard or seen anything different about the new generation (it’s actually hard to find a working MakerBot anywhere but at the MakerBot store).

When it works, the quality is very nice. The software is easy to use. It has a very large print area (but due to bed warping this is greatly reduced after a few uses).

The print bed tends to warp and is very hard to get leveled just right. We had two print beds warp within 3 months of use. Once they warp, you can only print smaller objects and you have to get MakerBot to send you a replacement board, which required me to create a video to demonstrate the wobble in the warped board.

We paid a lot of money for this printer and it is the one I am most unhappy with.

Lulzbot Taz 4

Lulzbot Taz 4 3D Printer

Price: $2,194

Print Area: 298mm x 275mm x 250mm

Heated Bed: Yes

Auto Bed Level: No

Massive printing area! This is my go-to printer for big prints. The only thing I wish it had was an auto-level probe but surprisingly, once we got it leveled, it hasn’t needed any adjustments in 3 months. It uses safety glass that doesn’t warp as a platform.

The software they recommend can be a pain but using MatterControl(free) is an easy fix for that.


These are my recommendations for educators based on my using these 3D printers with youth on an almost daily basis for the past 18 months. I have my own personal 3D printers that I use as well but they are not the same ones I recommend for in the classroom. There are a lot of 3D printers available and even more appearing daily. As I test them, I will provide reviews.

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