2016 Spring Game Jam

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[Youth participants of the Spring 2016 Game Jam]

 

We hosted a Scratch Game Jam on Friday, March 11 and Saturday, March 12. The weekend Game Jam turned out to be the most exciting and fruitful Game Jam we have ever hosted. With 19 youth in attendance it definitely seems like this event will keep on getting bigger and bigger every time we host it.

 

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[Sample Game Code from Game Jam]

 

For those of you who do not know what Scratch or Game Jam is here is some information on both. Scratch is a web based game development environment developed by the team at the MIT Media Lab. With Scratch you can drag and drop pieces of code in a simple to use interface which provides an easy way for our youth to learn simple and even complex programming principles in no time.

Game Jam is a hackathon style game development event hosted at the Digital Harbor Foundation. The event runs on a Friday evening and all day Saturday. Youth participants come together on Friday and form development teams to create a game together. As a guide for the youth, we provide a schedule sheet of the event along with information on how they can divide their team members and assign roles for everyone. Along with almost everything we do here at the Digital Harbor Foundation we try to keep an open format for the youth to either work on their own or on a team.  

 

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[Fan Favorites]

 

Team Panda were the Spring 2016 Game Jam Fan Favorites! They created a platform game called Panda Portal Jumpers that incorporates easy to use game mechanics in a fun, simple and yet hard to beat game.

 

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[We always need to take a crazy picture]

 

As we move to hosting more and more Game Jams as time passes I start to wonder what this event will look like in the future. With the increase in youth participation I can’t wait until we turn this event into a true game development hackathon! Here at the Digital Harbor Foundation we always strive to provide a safe, comfortable, and yet challenging, environment for our youth to create, explore, and fail. The Spring 2016 Game Jam is just one of the these environments. Here is the link to our 2016 Scratch Game Jam Studio if you’d like to see more of the games our youth created! We are already so excited for our next Game Jam, which will take place in October. 

 

Review: Desktop Cutting Plotters

 

Crafter, Maker or Tinkerer? Check out our review on which Desktop Cutting Plotter is best.

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Companies such as Cricut, Silhouette, and Sizzix are familiar to crafters and hobbyists alike who have used their products in the past to make scrapbooks and stickers. With the enormous growth in the DIY movement in the past few years, these companies are now targeting their products to the growing market of Makers. These machines are able to cut and score paper, vinyl, fabric, and more. Here at the Tech Center we were given the opportunity to test out 3 different Desktop Cutting Plotters in the hopes of finding one that worked well for our space.

Let’s plot our way through our review of the three machines.

Review Areas

In order to conduct a fair review of all 3 machines I decided to pick a project to test across all 3 Desktop Cutters. I landed on a fairly simple project which anyone can make to help youth learn more about 3 dimensional shapes. I chose to create a pyramid and a cube using perforated lines and numbers to represent each side of the shape. The test criteria for the project is as follows:

  1. Create something an educator could use in a learning environment so as to add a veracity to the review.
  2. Test the detail of each plotter in terms of how well it could cut the numbers on each face of the shape.
  3. Use a perforated technique with cardstock to create fold lines for each shape.

Results

Overall these desktop cutters do a really good job at cutting and my recommendation for use is ultimately based on who is going to use the cutter and for what purpose.

  • If you have little design skill, want to use a simple interface but also want to cut thicker materials and patterns then I would recommend the Cricut.
  • If you have a lot more design experience and need to have control of different settings or values then I would recommend either the Eclips2 or the Cameo.
  • For a classroom environment it will really depend on what the intended use case will be.

Cricut Explore

Cricut Explore

The Cricut will provide free software and an iPad application where students or youth will be able to upload and create their designs once they create an account with Cricut.com. You can also buy a bluetooth adapter that lets you send files wirelessly to your Cricut from a computer, iPad or iPhone. The Cricut performed well in the test by cutting through the cardstock but unfortunately it was difficult for me to create perforated lines using the design software. I had to create the dashed lines myself and substitute them for the solid lines based on where I wanted the folds to be.

Silhouette Cameo

Silhouette Cameo

The Silhouette Cameo, on the other hand, provides a free application called Silhouette Studio that that works for both Mac and Windows computers without creating an user account. A downside to the free version is the fact that you can’t import SVG files like the other two cutters but I was able to do a quick workaround by importing my design as a DXF file. The application can do very basic things but should be enough for a classroom environment. If you want greater control of the cutter and the ability to import SVG files then I recommend you pay for an upgrade to the application which opens open up different doors depending on which license you get. The Cameo did a good job cutting the cardstock but sadly did not cut the numbers all the way through. I know that with some time to play around with the settings I could have gotten the cut pressure dialed in correctly. A feature the Cameo has that I really love is the ability to turn a solid line into a perforated line with the click of a button without having to make dashed lines in the design file beforehand.

Sizzix Eclips

Sizzix Eclips2

The Eclips2 unfortunately comes with software that is tied to a product license. If  you want to use multiple computers with the eCal software you will need to deactivate the license on one computer to pass it to another. It works well for both Mac and Windows computers and like the Cameo does not require a user account every time you want to use the application. I really like the eCal 2 software that comes with the machine because of how jam packed it is with features. The Eclips performed on par with the Cameo by cut all the way through the cardstock but not cutting the numbers all the way through. I believe with some time to dial in the correct settings I could have cut the numbers all the way through. The eCal 2 software also gave me the ability to easily create perforated lines from my solid lines with the click of a button.

Recommendation

Personally, my top pick for our space was either the Eclips2 or the Cameo. I love having control over my settings because in the end I like having the ability to fine tune the cuts based on the design and material I am going to use. I also need a good interface to get my designs ready for cutting and this is where I see the Eclips2 having an advantage. The interface has a style reminiscent of Photoshop which provides the user the ability to create their designs inside the application and quickly send to the cutter while retaining maximum control over the settings for each cut.

Conclusion

For a learning environment like a classroom, library or makerspace it will really depend on what the intended use case will be. I have stated various reasons why one might be better than the other two for your particular usage. In the end, they are all very similar and perform well. If you want even more information about the cutters check out my video review below and find more information on our Blueprint site: Equipment Review: Paper / Vinyl Cutters