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 familymakenight.org 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: https://tinkercad.com/things/3ZacMuatu10

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: https://groups.google.com/d/forum/3dfored

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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3D Scanners: A Quick Review

Join the discussion of 3D Printing for Educators by joining our Google Group: https://groups.google.com/d/forum/3dfored

I love talking tech with anyone, but I especially love talking tech with educators. When an educator is asking me about different technologies, it makes me excited that youth are going to get a chance to experience these technologies. However, Not all technologies are ready for mass adoption in the classroom (or other education space).

It took a while before there was a 3D printer and software that I could recommend for classrooms. My earliest recommendations were for bleeding edge adopters of technology, educators who were tech savvy and comfortable with temperamental tech and staying late for the chance to be one of the first in their county to be using a 3D printer. Now, I feel the technology has stabilized and some printers are reliable enough to use by almost anyone.

As 3D printers are adopted more and more, I am now getting asked about 3D scanners. Three awesome educators snagged me on Twitter for my opinion on 3D scanners while I was at a concert the other night on my vacation. I felt compelled to reply (I told you, I love talking tech) and as my replies turned into rapid bursts of 140 character tweet blasts, I realized it was better put to a blog post together for all to see so that I could be as verbose, ahem I mean thorough, as I want in my response.

Short Answer

The promise of “scan it/print it” does not exist yet.

None of them are great, but the one I like the most right now is the Structure Sensor by Occipital. It is $499 for the scanner and software. It is best for scanning objects the size of a basketball or larger (I love it for scanning people). At best, your scans will have the texture/detail of a stone carving statue.

For scanning smaller objects, I will not recommend any current product.

Make’s Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing

In last year’s Make guide they just barely touched on 3D scanners. I imagine this year, there will be a lot more so when that comes out, get a copy and see if they have anything to add to my content below.

Project Ideas

I haven’t really come up with any practical uses of 3D scanning except for scanning larger remote objects in museums that could then be brought back to the classroom. Similar to the work of folks at We The Builders. I’m open to hearing more possibilities though so please share them with me if you have any.

The Scanners


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. In the not-too-distant future, I may put together a formal testing procedure for testing 3D scanners, as I’m sure this post will not be my final word on 3D scanning.

Xbox Kinect

Price: $45 used from GameStop (get one with the AC adapter) + $129 for Skanect Pro software

OS: Windows

Software: Skanect Pro

Type: Handheld

Pros: Inexpensive start to 3D scanning, decent for scanning people.

Cons: Loses tracking easily, you must move the Kinect or subject slowly. Can be frustrating and time consuming to get a good scan. Requires wired connection to computer.

Review: This was our first scanning solution. We used a tripod to mount the Kinect and then had the subject turn themselves in a $10 swivel chair from Ikea. It was a lot of fun but also pretty frustrating. Scans had to be done very slowly and weren’t always reliable. In theory, the software all should have worked on a Mac but it made the scanning process unbearably slow and it would keep losing it’s reference point which resulted in a pretty bad scan. Just a note, you need the first generation of Kinect not the latest one so get it used from Game Stop.

This is an okay way of getting started with 3D scanning and youth think it’s cool that you can use an Xbox Kinect. The software can be re-used with the Structure scanner below so it’s an okay place to start and then you can upgrade to the Structure Sensor later. We lived with this scanner for about a year before I bought the Structure Sensor. Only recommended for very patient youth.

Structure Sensor by Occipital

Price: $499 (software and hardware) + iPad/iPhone

OS: Windows, Mac

Software: Skanect Pro

Type: Handheld

Pros: Reliable hardware that is easy to use. Great for scanning objects larger than a basketball, works great with people. Cordless.

Cons: Requires additional hardware (iPad, iPhone) but that actually helps it work better.

Review: This scanner has been a lot of fun to use and is easy to use. I need to try it with elementary aged youth but I don’t think they will have any problem completing scans. It clips to an iPad (but I 3D printed an iPhone clip for it so I could use my phone instead) and uses the iPad to wirelessly connect to a laptop. The laptop processes the data sent from the scanner. This is a great design because it allows for pretty reliable scanning. I’ve had almost no issues with scans losing reference. The scanning process is very fluid and only takes a minute or two. I love using it to scan people and to 3D print little statuettes of them.

Sense 3D Scanner by 3D Systems

Price: $399 (software and hardware)

OS: Windows, Mac

Type: Handheld

Disclaimer: Untested by author, review is based on reports from other users in the tech community.

Pros: The software looked good.

Cons: Supposedly loses tracking often. Requires wired connection to computer for scanning.

Review: When this scanner was announced, I was super excited! I had been looking to upgrade our Kinect scanner and I thought that this could be the unit for us. I saw a demo of the unit on YouTube and it looked pretty easy to use. They plugged the scanner into a laptop and then someone held the laptop and then another person held the scanner and they walked around the subject and scanned them. The software looked really cool too. I was out of town when Todd Blatt from We The Builders stopped by the Tech Center with one and showed the youth how it worked so I never got to see it in person. I went back and forth so many times on whether to buy it or not. I would have it in my shopping cart and then remove it at the last minute. I started reading some reviews on Amazon and a lot of people complained that it lost tracking a lot and didn’t work on small objects. The small objects wasn’t a big deal to me, but the loss of tracking was exactly the problem I had with the Kinect. I figured that maybe these folks didn’t know how to use it correctly. I talked to a few other people in the tech community who had used or seen them used in person and they all said that tracking loss was a big issue and having to be tethered to a computer was a pain too. Ben Heck did a video with the Sense scanner and that didn’t look very good either. The Structure Sensor filled the void that this scanner was supposed to fill and coincidentally, they’ve released a product that looks a LOT like the Structure Sensor. In fact, I think it’s just a licensed version of the Structure Sensor with the 3D Systems logo slapped on.

Matter and Form

Price: $579 (software and hardware)

OS: Windows

Type: Desktop Small Object

Pros: Folds up nicely with a nice handle.

Cons: Scans, so far, have not been usable. Software is Windows only.

Review: Truth be told, I haven’t spent a whole lot of time playing with this scanner. I’m borrowing it from a friend (thank you Amy!) and I got it working just a few days before I left for vacation. I tried scanning a few different sized objects including a Dewalt 12v cordless drill battery, a medium sized 3D printed Make Robot (that’s right, I 3D scanned a 3D printed object), and my iPhone 6 Plus. None of the scans came out to a quality that I could have printed or even used. There was very little detail and the scans took 15 minutes on the low settings and about an hour or more for the high settings. I will continue playing with this when I get back in November and post a separate update then, but for now this gets two thumbs down from me.

MakerBot Digitizer

Price: $799 (software and hardware)

OS: Windows, Mac

Type: Desktop Small Object

Pros: Software is easy to use and supports Mac and Windows.

Cons: Scans, so far, have not been usable.

Review: I saved this one for last. This is the one that educators ask me about the most. I think that’s because MakerBot spends a lot of money into marketing to the education market. Most of the original minds behind MakerBot that developed their first highly successful products are now gone and the stuff they are putting out comes in a great looking case but the reliability is lackluster for the expense.

This scanner suffers from the same issues as the Matter and Form printer (same issues, $200 more expensive) but the software is much better than Matter and Form’s software and it works on a Mac. The only problem is, it doesn’t matter how good the software is if the hardware can’t scan. Some of my friends have reported having more success scanning objects that are red in color so they only scan objects using red playdoh. I’ve seen the results first hand and they were still pretty mixed.

Looking Forward

At Maker Faire NY, I saw the Zeus 3D printer and scanner. This is one of the first “all-in-one” 3D printer/scanner I have seen. They had a sample of a scanned and printed object that was small and seemed to carry a lot of detail with it. They weren’t doing a live demo because the scans could take several hours but I will be keeping an eye on this product, more for its scanning abilities than the printer itself.

I will also be keeping an eye out for the Make Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing 2014 edition to see what new scanners they have seen and covered.


My current recommendation is that the technology is still very new and there are a lot of kinks that will be worked out. Handheld scanners are getting better and I have really enjoyed using the Structure Sensor but it’s just not the right time to buy into it, even for early adopters (unless you are buying it for yourself). In 6 months or a year, we’ll be looking back and remarking on how hard 3D scanning used to be and how easy folks have it.

Additionally, it seems a bit of a novelty right now and the technology needs to make some progress before we can start using 3D scanners for practical purposes.  I have personally bought our 3D scanners at DHF because I haven’t seen the benefit to our organization to make them a worthwhile investment yet. But as a technologist, I love the idea of them and will keep playing with them until I find a purpose.

Due to the lack of performance of small object scanners, we aren’t at a point where you can scan an object and then print a copy of it or even manipulate it into your designs. Currently, your best bet for small objects is to take lots of measurements and recreate it in your choice of design software.

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Continuum of Connectivity

I believe we do not have as much of an achievement gap as we do an opportunity gap and to overcome the digital divide, youth need access to both technology and technology education.

Yesterday, we hosted a special showcase that highlighted the power of partnerships between public, non-profit, and private organizations. The focus of the event was on how all of us working together can create a continuum of connectivity, building opportunities to successfully go from the classroom to one’s career!


David Cohen, executive vice president of Comcast, addressing attendees.

The youth had a great time showing off their projects to all of our special guests, including:

Also in attendance were representatives from Baltimore City Public Schools, Office of the City Council President, Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore, Maker Education Initiative, Johns Hopkins University, Exelon, the Abell Foundation, the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, the Bowe-Stewart Foundation, CyberPoint, KeyTech, and more!


DHF youth Amiri & Darius showing off their hard work to Governor Martin O’Malley, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Comcast’s David Cohen, and Andrew Coy.

Check out more about the day any of the links below:

We are really grateful to ALL of our supporters who help make everything we do at the Digital Harbor Foundation possible! Without your help, we would not have been able to create so many opportunities for youth here in Baltimore, nor would we be able to help affect the larger conversation. Special thank for the recent support from:


Governor Martin O’Malley with DHF youth presenter Samuel.

12 Year Old Bella Releases Her First iOS and Android Game

Download from the App Store Get it on Google Play

Bella got her first taste of mobile game development at the Digital Harbor Foundation’s summer Maker Camp series in 2013. As an 11-year-old, she was one of the youngest youth in the camps, but also one of the most enthusiastic and ambitious. It was expected that most youth would take an entire week to complete the sample project, if not longer. She completed the self-paced curriculum in only 3 days.

During the rest of the camp, Bella worked on coming up with her own game idea and began working on it. Using artwork provided by Vicki Wenderlich of Game Art Guppy, “Monkey Mayhem” was born and a playable demo was ready for the youth showcase in only 7 days.

Bella during Camp

This was not your typical drag and drop development environment used by most youth her age, Bella used true programming techniques and tools to write real code which created her game. It totaled nearly 1,300 lines of code (1,291 to be exact)! Similar tools are being used by professional companies such as Mindgrub, and to create games such as “Thomas & Friends: Mix-Up Match-Up“, and “Truffula Shuffula” the official app for Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax movie.

Bella's Code

Last Fall, Bella joined the Digital Harbor Foundation’s after school program and continued working to add polish to her game with the hopes of eventually publishing it in the app store. Along the way, she served as an inspiration for other youth and women in tech by speaking at the 2013 TEDxYouth@Baltimore and speaking on a panel at the DC Mini Maker Faire.

Bella Speaking to Inspire

After over a year of working on her game (in between playing soccer, going to school, giving two public talks about making, working on two other projects, and being a youth), her game was ready to submit to the app stores! Bella put together all of the marketing paragraphs and materials, and completed the application to submit the app for approval at Apple and patiently, or at least as patient as any youth can be, waited for word from Apple.

Bella's Waiting for Approval

Apple initially rejected the name of Bella’s game and she had to brainstorm a new name that would still go with the main menu and theme of the game. After a few swings and misses, she finally came up with a name that Apple accepted and it was published in the store on August 22, 2014. It’s now available in the Google Play store as well.

Download from the App Store Get it on Google Play

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