Baltimore Youth Solve Transportation Problems with Digital Fabrication

Last week, DHF hosted our 6th FabSLAM Showcase as the culminating event for this cycle of the annual digital fabrication challenge. This year, during FabSLAM, Baltimore-area youth were prompted to identify a problem they might encounter using any form of transportation and then use digital fabrication methods, like 3D printing or laser cutting, to create a solution.

5th grader describes project to judge

On May 4th, 10 teams of youth in grades 5-11 from Baltimore and DC gathered at the DHF Tech Center to showcase their work to judges and each other. The finale showcase for FabSLAM is always exciting and inspiring and this year proved to be more of the same. Teams arrived ready to share their work with our equally enthusiastic team of judges who have the difficult task of selecting winners.

Our First Place prize was awarded to the Western High School TinkerDoves, for their high-tech bus stop design of improvements that could be made to the Penn North stop in Baltimore City. The judges were very impressed by their proposed solution to a hyper-local problem and one that they encounter on a daily basis on their commute to and from school.

WHS team presents project to FabSLAM judge

WHS team receiving 1st place prizes

Last year, second place was awarded to a Bryn Mawr School high school team, and this year Second Place was awarded to Mawrtian Nation 1, a Bryn Mawr School middle school team. Their project, The Seasick-Free Seat, used 3D printing to fabricate a prototype of a self-leveling chair that would be used on boats to allow “all people to have the most enjoyable sea-faring voyage possible.”

Bryn Mawr School team describes project to FabSLAM judge

Bryn Mawr School team with prize package and FabSLAM judge

Judges awarded Third Place to a DHF team, The Filamentors, for their Trash Collection Boat. The goal of their solution was to attach a fabricated net contraption to boats that are already traveling in the harbor to collect more trash.

Team Filamentors presenting FabSLAM project to audience

Filamentors presenting project to FabSLAM judge

Team Tabby Fab won the Fan Favorite vote from the audience for their Foldable Skateboard that they laser cut for easy storage in a backpack.

The remaining teams who participated had a great showing and we hope to have them all back next year! You can check out their projects here:

Ridgely Middle School FabSLAM team

Team: Ridgely 3D        School / Organization: Ridgely Middle School        Project: Console Trash Can

Greenhouse Turbine train

Team: Mawrtian Nation 2        School / Organization: Bryn Mawr School        Project: The Greenhouse Turbine Train

Fed Hill Prep team describing their FabSLAM project

Team: FabDestroyers        School / Organization: Federal Hill Prep Elementary        Project: Graphene Powered Hover Car

TGR Learning Lab sharing FabSLAM project with judge

Team: TGR Learning Lab        School / Organization: Cesar Chavez Public Charter School       Project: Fabulous Hovercar

Team Square One presents FabSLAM project

Team: Team Square One        School / Organization: Digital Harbor Foundation        Project: Key Collector with Breathalyzer

Bikers United sharing modified bike helmet

Team: Bikers United       School / Organization: Digital Harbor Foundation        Project: Casco Fresco Helmet

 

A giant thank you goes out to our 2017 panel of Judges, without whom we could not run this program! We were honored to have so many judges representing many facets of a variety of industries.

In addition to our awesome panel of judges and enthusiastic teams, we are also grateful for our FabSLAM 2017 Sponsors who provided prizes for the teams! Thank you to MatterHackers, HatchboxBuildTak, LulzBot, DHF Print Shop, Direct Dimensions, and The Foundery for the generous donations of products, materials, and experiences that were awarded to all our teams.

MatterHackers Logo

 

Hatchbox Logo
BuildTak logo

 

LulzBot logo

DHF Print Shop logo

Direct Dimensions logo

 

The Foundery Logo

Thank you to everyone who participated in FabSLAM 2017! We hope to have you participate again next year! If you would like to see all our photos from the event, you can check them out here: FabSLAM 2017 Flickr Album

Aeroponics Study Comes to Life

During my Youth Works employment at the Digital Harbor Foundation, I created an Arduino Hydroponics System.

I first began by researching hydroponics. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without using soil. There are many different forms of Hydroponics. They range in size and complexity. Here are a few different styles:

Image result for different indoor hydroponics

I choose to do the Aeroponic variation of Hydroponics. Within this sector, I picked the five-gallon bucket configuration. It requires the least amount of space, money, time, and upkeep. It looks like this:

Essentially the bucket is filled with water and the pump sprays the roots of the plants with nutrient enriched water. After conducting some research I found a website with steps on how to build this project. To access this website click this link: https://gardenpool.org/online-classes/how-to-make-a-simple-5-gallon-bucket-aeroponics-system

The next step was to create a project proposal and action plan. My action plan included the materials, their costs, and step by step construction of the buckets. Next, I began to assemble the buckets. I used the hole saw and a power drill to put holes in the top of the bucket. I could not find the guide for the hole saw, which complicated the process of drilling holes. The incorrect guide kept falling out. I thoroughly rinsed and sterilized the buckets to remove any debris. I cut the bottom out of the net pots with an Exact-o knife so that the roots could hang. I rinsed the hydrotons, which are clay pebbles used as a soil alternative, to remove all of the residues. The pump was placed in the bottom of the bucket and the cord was fed through the hole in the top. I filled the bucket up with water and added the nutrient solution into the water. Then I placed the net pots filled with hydrotons into the holes in the bucket. I plugged the pump into a timer so that it would turn on at certain intervals. When assembling the bucket, make sure to rinse all plastic shavings, dirt, and residue from the bucket to keep the water clean.

The buckets needed to be placed somewhere with space to hang the grow lights at varying heights. The area should have enough space so that the buckets are out of the way. At the tech center, I chose to locate the buckets in the kitchen. There wasn’t a place to hang the lights so I created one. My supervisor helped me use the circular saw to cut some wood. Then we placed wood blocks up and down two vertical planks with space to slide horizontal planks in between them.

To control the lights I created an Arduino switch. Shawn showed me how to use a simple blink program that turns the light on and off every twelve hours. I planted tomatoes, rosemary, peppers, curry, basil, and thyme. This is the final result:

 

After two weeks:

To take care of the plants you only have to check the pump and add nutrients every two weeks. Just make sure the roots do not grow into the pump and water is reaching them.  After I my session at Youth Works ended my plants died. The nutrients I was putting in the water were not concentrated enough to maintain mature plants. I had to completely scrap the buckets. In February of this year, we planted some strawberries in the bucket. we made some changes to the feeding schedule and the nutrients being placed in the buckets  The strawberries are doing well and we even ate some of them.

 

FabSLAM Baltimore 2017 Launches Today

Wow…it’s so hard to believe that this is our 6th cycle of FabSLAM! We are so excited to continue this program this year and to announce our challenge theme today.

What is FabSLAM?

FabSLAM is our annual, multi-week, team-based, digital fabrication competition. During this competition youth learn and practice design, iteration, and rapid prototyping skills primarily focused on 3D Design and 3D Printing. A challenge theme is presented and teams work to develop a product that fits the theme and meets any accompanying requirements. Teams work with a Coach to help guide the team through the challenge and aid in documentation. Everything culminates in a FabSLAM Showcase where teams present their products to a panel of judges and a public audience for review and feedback. Learn more about FabSLAM here.

Our 2016 First Place team, presenting their oyster habitat to judges

2017 Challenge Theme

This cycle’s challenge theme is TRANSPORTATION!

For this challenge theme, identify a problem you may encounter when using transportation that could be addressed using 3D printing and digital fabrication.

More information:

  • Identify a problem you might encounter when using any form of transportation.
  • Use digital fabrication methods (3D printing) to create a solution to the problem you have identified.
    • This might be a fabricated model of a new approach to a transportation system problem,
    • OR it might be a product that would solve a specific need or problem encountered when using transportation

Teams of youth in grades 3-12 (with an adult coach) are invited to register and join us to compete in this 3D printing competition. It doesn’t matter where you are geographically located in Maryland, as long as you can attend the FabSLAM Showcase at the end of the program on Thursday May 4, 2017.

If you have not registered for FabSLAM yet, simply click below to be taken to the Registration Page.

Register for FabSLAM Today!

We hope you’ll join us for this cutting-edge design and fabrication challenge!
 

3D Mapping MD

Inspired by the We The Builders project, Casey Kirk from the Maryland State Department of Education reached out to us with a concept for a similar project.  She wanted to create a topographical map of Maryland with pieces contributed from students from each county.

How It Was Done

This project was split into two main parts: logistics and technical pieces.

Logistics

Casey launched into action by contacting schools and youth organizations in Maryland’s 24 counties (including Baltimore City) to find who had 3D printing capabilities. She then compiled a list of contacts and revealed to all the strategy to have each county printed by a different organization. More details developed over time, but the initial plan was relatively simple. Each county would be printed in a specific color and then mailed to DHF for an assembly by youth on Digital Learning Day.

Excitedly, the Governor’s office showed interest in the project. A plan was hatched to assemble the project at his office. Casey and Val from MSDE took on the task of handling all of the logistics so that DHF could focus on the technical aspects.

Technicals

Using Maryland’s Mapping and GIS Data Portal, I was able to get Digital Elevation Models (DEM) of each of the counties. DEMs are grayscaled images where the white sections represent higher areas of elevation, and the darker areas are lower elevations.

Once I had a DEM for all of the counties, I then went to work converting them to 3D. I created a spreadsheet to help determine what scale could be used for the map. Maryland has everything from beaches to mountains making it a dynamic range of topography. Making it all fit on a reasonably sized map was challenging. It’s not perfect, and I would have tried to use a more universal scale next time, but I ended up using a different proportion for the height than I did for the length/width.

After I had my scale, I started converting the files into 3D. This conversion was made easy by the tool Simplify3D. Simplify3D has an add-in specifically meant to convert elevation image maps to 3D. One just needs to load the PNG and set the dimensions of the 3D model.

 

 

That was a great start. Then I loaded each model into Meshmixer to clean up the edges.

After all the files were cleaned up and ready to go, Casey kicked back into action and started to share the data. Initially, we used Google Drive to share the files but then immediately found out a few school districts in Maryland don’t allow teachers to use Google Drive. As an alternative, we switched to using Dropbox to share the files. Everyone now had access to all the county files in case they wanted to print their own version of the map.

Reflection

The project was a lot of fun. Working with Casey and MSDE is something that I love to do. They are extraordinarily innovative and are immensely motivated to bring making to Maryland schools and youth. Being part of a team where we each person contributes a different skill set was great.

If I were to do this again, one difference I would make is to form the horizontal and vertical scales a little more similar. The difference between these axes was very noticeable and one of the first things people noticed.

The event at the Governor’s office was outstanding. Seeing all of the youth from across the state come together to build the map was inspirational.

Traditionally schools have been bounded by physical walls, and a group project meant working only with people in the same room. The Internet has changed this, making our project an exploration of a collaborative strategy that is not limited by physical location. This is also the way that companies in the tech industry act today through tools like Google Docs, GitHub, and Skype.

The industries of the future will demand that our students have the ability and agility to do this type of work on a consistent basis. At the Digital Harbor Foundation, we are an agile research and development organization focused on what the future of education will look like and solve tomorrow’s problems today.

Northumberland Makers: Building Confidence through Teaching Electronics

The makerspace class at Northumberland Christian School is on mission to explore the world of technology and innovation. We seek to be part of ideas that collide with real-world opportunities. We don’t just want our students to create. We want our students to create with purpose. The things we make, the ideas we are exploring, and a little bit of chaos… All these will be part of our monthly student blog series. The goal is to let the students speak for themselves. Each post will include the work and observations of a student at Northumberland Christian School. They are the makers, reviewers, and tinkerers.

This post was written by Mia Epley.


I began working with littleBits at the beginning of the 2nd quarter. I’m a junior, so at this point I am looking into colleges or tech schools. I realized that I want to be involved with engineering. Taking up a computer programming class would look good on my transcript. However, it turned out to be more involved than I thought. I thought having a small class would make it a breeze. I quickly found out different when my teacher told us we would be presenting to the elementary classes. I found it easy to follow plans giving to me, but I struggled to make plans for these kids.

My teacher gave a presentation to the kindergarteners, while my class and I got to see an example of how we were gonna do this.

image01

I had little experience with littleBits, but I used this opportunity to teach other kids while learning myself. I started off my presentation explaining what littleBits are and the meaning of each color of the parts. The kids were very eager to play with them, which was exciting for me. After I explained how they worked magnetically together, I gave the kids one of each part and let them see what they could do. They were very excited to switch parts with their friends to see what they could create.

Here, two of the girls I worked with had switched parts with each other and were seeing how they could use their power to control their outputs.

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I had put the class into groups and this group of boys were working on how to make a circuit to make the fan go. They switched parts with other friends to find the right ones they needed to complete the challenge I gave them.

image02

It was so great to see how smart these kids were and how interested they became in these electronics. Introducing littleBits to this class was a learning opportunity for both me and the kids.

Youth Project: Raspberry Pi Touchscreen

Hello again, this is Bella Palumbi, back today with another recent project I’ve worked on at the Tech Center. If you’d like to check out my previous post, you can see it here: Raspberry Pi Time-Lapse Camera.

This project was to connect a Raspberry Pi to a touchscreen. The idea was to be able to run a 3D printer through a Raspberry Pi through a touchscreen. Right now, each 3D printer at the Tech Center is connected to a Pi, but they are still interacted with through a desktop computer. It would be convenient if every printer had a touchscreen connected to it, or if all the printers were controlled from a single, large touchscreen. There is a program called OctoPrint that the Tech Center uses to run its printers through Pis, and OctoPrint has a touchscreen mode that could be used in this project.

First, I had to assemble the screen. I was using a 7 inch display.

touchscreen01
Image from: Element 14

There wasn’t any soldering, but I had to unscrew a lot of small screws, as well as use wires to connect a few components.

Then, I installed the Pi in the case. It was a little difficult because the screen wasn’t attached yet and kept falling out of the case while I was trying to put in the Pi. For this project I was using a full size Pi instead of a Zero, so it was a little easier to work with.

Once the Pi and the screen were properly installed in the case, the next step was to install and boot up OctoPrint. That wasn’t too hard. Then, the device was connected to a 3D printer. It actually worked! Then I added some scripts to the Pi that would cause the OctoPrint interface to start up on launch.

touchscreen02

That’s it. It was pretty fun, especially the first time the Pi connected to the touchscreen, because it was so much easier to interact with a touch interface than a computer one. I think that it would be really neat to arrange a system where all the printers are controlled by one touchscreen, so maybe I’ll work on a project like that in the future!

Youth Project: Raspberry Pi Time-Lapse Camera

Hi! I’m Bella Palumbi. I’ve been a member of the Tech Center for almost four years now, ever since I was eleven. In that time, I’ve worked on lots of different projects, including iPhone apps, websites, virtual reality experiences, and much more.

Recently, I made a Raspberry Pi Time Lapse Camera. A Raspberry Pi is little computer that you can program to do almost anything you want. They’re great for small projects because they are cheap, light, and versatile. For my project, the idea was to make a camera that takes a picture every few seconds. You can play all the pictures in a row to see a time-lapse of the user’s day.

timecam01

The first step in the project was to burn the correct .img file onto the SD Card, which would be inserted into the Pi. An .img is an operating system. I used a program called ApplePi Baker because I was using a Mac computer.

The next step was to prepare all the wiring. I needed to solder together many different components including a button, a switch, a battery, and, of course, the Pi itself. All the wires and components had to be connected in the right way. The Raspberry Pi is very small, and I was actually using the Pi Zero, which is even smaller. So it was hard to be extremely accurate with the soldering iron. I probably spent most of my time soldering and re-soldering the wires!

It’s cumbersome to carry around a jumble of electronics and wires, so the tutorial came with a 3D design file to print a case for the time-lapse camera. The easy part was printing the case. The hard part was fitting all the pieces inside. I spent about an hour rearranging little tiny components in a little tiny plastic box. A couple times, the solder holding the wires together broke and I had to re-solder them. When I finally got the box closed, I was praying that it would work.

It did! When I turned the device on, after it booted up, it started taking pictures every 15 seconds. That didn’t seem often enough, so I took out the SD card, plugged it into my laptop, and brought up the code. By changing just one number, I was able to set the time interval to 10 seconds. Then, I booted up the Pi again. Still too slow. So I set it to 5 seconds. That seemed about right. Just for fun, I also tried a 1 second interval. The LED that blinked whenever a picture was taken was solidly lit now. The Pi couldn’t process fast enough, and was barely able to shut down. Finally, I set the interval back to 5, the number that worked the best.

timecam02

All in all, it was a fun project. I’m sure there will be some really amazing time-lapse videos of projects that we work on at the Tech Center.

Northumberland Makers: LEGO and LittleBits Birthday Parade Float

The makerspace class at Northumberland Christian School is on mission to explore the world of technology and innovation. We seek to be part of ideas that collide with real-world opportunities. We don’t just want our students to create. We want our students to create with purpose. The things we make, the ideas we are exploring, and a little bit of chaos… All these will be part of our monthly student blog series. The goal is to let the students speak for themselves. Each post will include the work and observations of a student at Northumberland Christian School. They are the makers, reviewers, and tinkerers.

This post was written by Ian Weirick.


Ever since I was very little, I have been fascinated with building things. As a result, I got into LEGO products at a young age. That interest has stayed with me throughout my childhood and remains prevalent in my life to this day. Earlier this month, my class learned that we were entered in a competition and that we had to work on a birthday-themed project. When we decided on the concept to build a celebratory parade, it did not take long for me to decide that these building blocks were the best material for me to use to complete my part.

lego1

I began my work soon thereafter, primarily selecting pieces from the large bag pictured on the right. Although I had a few different design variations in my mind, they all shared the same basic features. I would construct a long, thin platform out of the biggest plates I could find, then add wheels under it. Next, I would use pieces to spell “Happy Birthday!” twice to be visible on both sides of the float. I planned ideally to use translucent pieces so I could shine lights through them, and a surprisingly convenient visit to the LEGO store in Philadelphia supplied me with plenty of 1×1 translucent red pieces to use. Below is the result of experimenting with them.

lego2

My work to prepare the two sets of words at home stalled because of the lack of sufficient bricks to fill in the gaps. Meanwhile, in school, the float itself was coming along well. The platform and first set of wheels were finished within the first session of work. The picture on the left shows the status of the float after a couple days of building. The platform and the eight wheels necessary to support it are ready to go but still need some tweaking.

lego3

By the time I was this far on the float, I had also gotten enough white pieces that I could begin filling in the words for the float. Following several hours of tedious, frustrating manipulation of pieces, each of the two birthday messages look like this:

lego4

This second portion of work began when I brought together the two separate LEGO builds at school. I had added walls around the two LEGO phrases to form a three dimensional structure that would fit over the float that had been waiting. Unfortunately, this process became much more complicated than I had expected.

lego5

The workspace eventually came to look like the above picture on the right. Several of us worked together to figure out this struggle. Everything was going according to plan until I realized the circuit intended to produce the light would not stretch the length of the entire phrase. This sparked a long series of experiments to see what might possibly diffuse the light most effectively. The two most effective were the ideas of wrapping the middle Lego wall in aluminum foil and cutting up CDs to tape them inside the walls. Below are two pictures of the project “looking sharp” with all its reflective surfaces.

lego6

lego7

With crisis averted as efficiently as possible, we pressed on to fit the top onto the base of the float, which proved to be much easier said than done. Adding another layer of baseplates did not help much. We soon resorted to duct tape for aid. After several minutes of frustrated pressing, however, the pieces finally stayed together, and our test of the circuit was successful. Now the only part remaining was to connect all our floats to make one big parade.

lego8

My class completed the procession and submitted it for our competition. While I am interested in finding out how we did, I am satisfied anyway because of the unique opportunities I had in this project. It is not often that a high school student gets to play with LEGOs in school and actually say he is being productive. The LittleBits were fun to work with as well. Even though I was totally new to them at the beginning of the year, I got used to them quickly and enjoyed being able to combine them with the Legos I have been using for years. This project was very fun for me, and I look forward to the chance to build using these materials again.
To see the whole parade in action check out these 2 videos:

Northumberland Makers: 3D Printed Deck Boxes

The makerspace class at Northumberland Christian School is on mission to explore the world of technology and innovation. We seek to be part of ideas that collide with real-world opportunities. We don’t just want our students to create. We want our students to create with purpose. The things we make, the ideas we are exploring, and a little bit of chaos… All these will be part of our monthly student blog series. The goal is to let the students speak for themselves. Each post will include the work and observations of a student at Northumberland Christian School. They are the makers, reviewers, and tinkerers.


Making Custom Deck Boxes

by Braiden Reich

I was inspired with the idea to build deck boxes out of a 3D printer, because I enjoy playing MTG (Magic the Gathering). MTG is a popular competitive card game. For example some other competitive card games would be Pokemon and Yugioh.

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My deck boxes are made to be customizable and thanks to our 3D printer I can make anything a customer wants.. So if you’re not into video games or nerdy, competitive card games that’s fine. I have come up with some customizable ideas that will allow this deck box to sort and organize almost any card or board game.

I did run into some problem with my dimensions while making the box. My lids at the start were made to fit firmly so all your cards could safely be stored in the box. However, my lids for my prototype box fit way to firm (this caused stress on both the lids and the box). So I thought to myself, “Oh this is a simple fix. Just make the lids smaller.” Well of course i then ran into the trouble of my lids sliding out to easily. In fact I am still perfecting the dimensions of the top lid, but no worries all the deck boxes I have made so far are very firm. My issue with the upper lid is that no matter my dimensions the 3D printer is not perfect. It is only a machine, and that being said all dimensions or the box and lids are a hair different. Some of the plastic filaments often form differently. Some of the plastic fills are firmer and more hardier and others are lighter and expand more. The good thing is me and the machine are developing a relationship, and what i mean by that is, the more I use the machine and the plastic fills the more I am learning about them. So ultimately the more I am making the boxes the more perfecting I will be doing.

My deck boxes are able to keep your board games neat or organized. I know often it can be annoying to have to open a board game and see cards and dice thrown around within the box. My boxes will not only protect your cards but also keep them from getting lost. The boxes can be made of either durable plastic (PLA), wood, or carbon fiber filaments.

As I said before my deck boxes are made to be customizable. Sure they can be plain or just casual but where is the fun in that. My plan is to sell my deck boxes at Groggs Game Shop where I am a member. I am hoping to make some extra cash and also give some money to support 3D printing at my school. (I hope to be able to ship the boxes eventually). I have predeveloped dimensions for a 60 card deck, but I am willing to adjust dimensions for almost anything. Whether for a board game or for competitive card playing.

So the Zelda box mixed both the original 8-bit Zelda video games with the newer Zelda games,hence the more recent triforce and master sword lids. I custom made this of course for a friend of mine and not only was it fun to make but it was also my first sale.
So the Zelda box mixed both the original 8-bit Zelda video games with the newer Zelda games,hence the more recent triforce and master sword lids. I custom made this of course for a friend of mine and not only was it fun to make but it was also my first sale.

Maker Camp Recap: Circuit Circus

Closed Circuit 2

The MiniMakers have been busy this summer making and creating!  We just finished our Circuit Circus Maker Camp and had a blast learning all about Circuits.  We started off camp by creating closed circuits to light up our bugs for our Flee Circus.

Closed Circuit

Once we became familiar with closed circuits we added switches and buttons, creating open and closed circuits to our creations.

Electromagnet 2

You can’t talk about motors without creating Electromagnets for your Acrobats to swing from!

Electromagnet 3

Electromagnet 4

Continuing into DC Motors we created Wiggling Animals to perform in our Circus.  Turning up all kinds of animals only seen in the NanoLab Circus!

Vibrating Motor 2

Vibrating Motor 1

MiniMakers can’t get enough of Motors, especially when we combine them with paint!  We put our skills to the test to create Spin Art Boxes, creating a circuit that can be turned on and off, has multiple wires to connect, and not to mention all the cardboard and hot glue to make the box itself.

Spin Art 3

Spin Art 2

Spin Art 1

We had the misfortune of extreme heat and no AC in the Tech Center causing us to miss out on two days of camp, but we were lucky enough to still sneak in circuit boards using a Makey Makey.  We decided to create games based on the rule, “Don’t Complete the Circuit.”  Think of the game Operation, where you are trying to get the object out without causing the nose to light up.  Same concept with our games.  We had Mazes, we had throwing games, fishing games, quiz games, and more!

Makey Makey 2

Makey Makey 1

Makey Makey 3

Makey Makey 4

The best part was being able to show off our Games the last day of camp with our Family and Friends!

Showcase 2

Showcase 1

We had so much fun during our Circuit Circus Camp we can’t wait to see what else the MiniMakers will create in the months to come!