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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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

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

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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!

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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.

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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!

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

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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!

Girls & Making Series: Meet Claire

Digital Harbor Foundation is very passionate about having females in our space and involved in what we do. One of our main goals is to increase the number of female program participants and increase retention of girls in our programs. The Girls & Making Series is a way for us to share success stories and the important role that females can play in making and technology projects and careers. To see other posts from this series, click here.

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“I consider myself a maker because I can take my imagination and turn it into a reality,” Claire told us. Claire has been coming to DHF since last fall when she first joined our all female cohort of Maker Foundations and she says that the past year with us has been “thrilling.”

“I would have never thought that in just a year of being a part of DHF I would be where I am today,” she shared. Since joining us, Claire has been awarded many opportunities. “In my time at DHF, I’ve become the Baltimore City Mayor’s Office of Information Technology Hackathon prize winner, spoke in front of 600 people at the Regional Manufacturing Institute of Maryland Gala, visited the National Security Agency, met the United States Director of Education, and so much more!,” Claire shared.

Throughout her time with us, Claire has worked on many projects, however the project that she is most proud of is “Drako the Dragonfly.” He has a 3D printed body, laminated wings, and mechanics that are all laser-cut. This is a part of a series that she is working on that is made up of many different bio-mimicry robots. Claire is calling this series “NatureCoders.” Also in this series are Sy the Spider and Lulu the Lightning Bug.

Claire is very passionate about making, especially about girls and making. “I definitely think that more females should get involved! Yes, technology feels like an activity for men, but that is only because society has made it that way,” she said. Claire feels as though girls don’t see the way that they can connect technology to the other subjects that they are interested in, so her goal is to help to bridge the gap between these subjects and show girls that technology can be related to anything they want.

Although she is only 16 years old, Claire has already thought about her career path and what she might want to to. She is hoping to go into a tech related field, but isn’t exactly sure. She loves nature, animals, coding, 3D printing, and laser-cutting and wants to find a way that she can combine all of these things.

If you want to keep up with Claire and her tech journey, you can follow her blog or her Bugs and Code Facebook page.

Meet Our Summer 2016 YouthWorks Employees

Each year DHF employs youth who are members in our space through Baltimore City’s YouthWorks program. This year we are excited to have the most YouthWorkers that we have ever hired and are thrilled about the projects that they’ve been working on.

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blog_YW_01Immanuel is a 15 year old who has been involved in DHF programs for 2 years now. He chose to work at DHF this summer because it is a familiar place and he knew that he would get the chance to learn new technology. His position this summer is a Maker Assistant and he is working on projects such as laser-cutting tiles and creating a hydroponic gardening system. Immanuel chose to work in this position because he felt like he fit best into this role and knew the most about it.
blog_YW_02Ben has been coming to DHF for 3 years and he is 15 years old. He applied to work here this summer because he loves working with technology and solving problems. His position this summer is a Web Specialist and he is working on the dashboard website. Ben chose to be a Web Specialist because it seemed like the hardest position and he wanted a challenge, plus he enjoys programming.

 

blog_YW_03Aidan is 15 years old and has been at DHF for 3 years. He chose to work here because he feels comfortable here and already knows his way around. Aidan is working alongside 3D Assistance as an Assistant and chose to work in this position because he completed the internship and previously learned everything about it.

 

blog_YW_04Claire has been with DHF since last fall and she is 16 years old. She wanted to work with us this summer because she wants to eventually work in a tech related field, and knows that this will help her work towards that goal. She is working as a Maker Assistant and Program Planner. While in these roles, Claire is assisting in laser-cutting projects and helping to plan projects for The Makerettes group.

 

blog_YW_05Ian is 16 years old and has been coming to DHF for a little over a year. He wanted to work here because he loves DHF and has the opportunity to work on many different things. Ian’s position this summer is a Product Tester which means that he is testing products in order to write reviews and how-to guides. He chose this position because he enjoys reviewing things and felt like it would be perfect for him.

 

blog_YW_06Larson has been a part of DHF programs for 3 years and is 15 years old. He wanted a job this summer that would give him a good opportunity, but would also be a familiar place, and he felt like DHF was perfect for that. He is working as a Program Assistant in the Nano Lab and is helping to teach the first two Maker Camps of the summer. Larson wanted to work in this role because he enjoys working with kids and knew that it would be fun.

 

blog_YW_07Amiri has been involved with DHF for 3 years and is 18 years old. He wanted to spend his summer working at DHF because it is a fun place to be and has a friendly environment. This summer he is working as an Assistant for 3D Assistance as well as working on a compost project. He chose these roles because he has experience working with 3DA and he wants to help to better the environment.

 

blog_YW_08Jalen is 16 years old and has been coming to DHF for a little over a year. He worked here last summer and had a great experience, so he chose to do it again this summer. Jalen is working as a Product Tester which has him testing gadgets to write a review and see if they would be useful to have in our tech center. He wanted to work in this role because it is something different that he doesn’t have experience with and it allows him to use new technology.

 

blog_YW_10Thomas has been coming to the tech center for 2 years and is 15 years old. He wanted to work here this summer because he is a member here and wanted something to do throughout the summer months. He is working with 3D Assistance and is helping to fix 3D printers and manage prints. Thomas chose to work in this area because he enjoyed his internship with 3DA this spring and wanted it to continue into the summer.

 

blog_YW_11Nick is 15 years old and has been involved in DHF programs for about 3 years. He chose to work here this summer because it is a community that he is comfortable with and it provides him with the opportunity to work in an area that he is interested in. Nick is working with 3D Assistance and is helping to perform maintenance and repair, as well as construction, on 3D printers for the tech center. He chose to work with 3DA because he had an internship with them this spring and was presented the opportunity to continue his work with them this summer.

Girls & Making Series: Meet Sierra

Digital Harbor Foundation is very passionate about having females in our space and involved in what we do. One of our main goals is to increase the number of female program participants and increase retention of girls in our programs. The Girls & Making Series is a way for us to share success stories and the important role that females can play in making and technology projects and careers. To read more posts from this series, click here.


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“I consider myself a maker because I use my creativity to make things, whether it’s a jukebox piano or a simple craft,” said Sierra, one of our most active youth here at DHF. She first got involved in our programs in the fall of 2013 and she says that her experience here has been “insane.” “I never in a million years would have thought that I’d present at The White House or be involved in so many different events. All of this was possible because of the opportunities DHF has given me,” she told us.

Throughout her time at DHF, Sierra has grown to become very passionate about making, but even more passionate about girls and making. Early on in her time with us, Sierra noticed the lack of females in our space. “My theory is that the girls who came here didn’t have the opportunity to form a bond with anyone, which lead them to leave because they felt unwelcome,” Sierra shared.

Once Sierra began to notice this ongoing trend, she decided to do something about it. In November of 2014, Sierra formed a group called “The Makerettes.” “I started this group as a way for girls to be more comfortable here, to become more united, and to take action in the STEM industry.” This group consists of female Tech Center Members as well as female DHF staff. The group meets regularly to work on projects, discuss making, and get to know each other better.

Sierra believes that other makerspaces should have all female groups like “The Makerettes” because it helps to teach girls that making and technology is for anyone, not just boys. “More girls should get involved in making,” Sierra said, “I believe that many girls enjoy it, but are pushed away because it isn’t a typical female activity. Society pushes us away from it, whether we like it or not.”

When she first came to DHF, Sierra did not like technology. She joined us because she needed an after-school program and her mom was pushing her towards technology; which she was very hesitant about. However, through her experience with us over the past few years, she has become comfortable enough with technology that she has decided to study Electrical Engineering at either The University of Maryland or Johns Hopkins University when she goes to college in the fall of 2017.

Youth builds new DHF website

Digital Harbor Foundation is very excited to announce that we have launched a new website! On Friday, June 16th our newly designed website went live to the public. We are very happy with how it turned out and excited to share it with the world! This relaunch was taken on as a project by one of our own youth, 17-year-old Sierra Seabrease. Despite her struggles, Sierra can’t help but to be extremely proud of herself and the work that she’s done for us.

“I loved every second of this because it was all a learning experience. My favorite moment was when I looked back and saw the finished site. I was extremely proud when I realized that I had made that”, Sierra shared.

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The website highlights all of the programs that we offer for youth, as well as educators. It also showcases many of the projects we have at DHF, such as 3D Assistance, Pay What You Can, FabSLAM, Family Make Night, and our most recent endeavor, the Innovation Access Program. There are also links to our blog and our calendar of upcoming events so that you can keep up with all things new at DHF.

We feel as though this new website gives more insight into what life is like here at DHF and can help others in the community to get to know us better. We are extremely excited about this, and we hope that you are too! You can check it out for yourself here.