Video Celebrating Girls in STEM

Watch, like, and share this video to show your support for girls in STEM!

On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly designated October 11th as the International Day of the Girl Child, or Day of the Girl. This day “focuses attention on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.”

This year, the girls at Digital Harbor Foundation joined with youth at Wide Angle Youth Media to deliver a simple message: the world needs girls in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).

They reject stereotypes that boys are naturally better at these subjects than girls, that boys work harder in school, and that girls simply are not meant to go into STEM careers.

They embrace the importance of diversity in today’s global workforce.

They know that girls across the world are working together to create the future.

Want to learn more about how Digital Harbor Foundation is bringing technology education to Baltimore’s youth, regardless of age, background, gender, race, or ability to pay?

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Are you an educator interested in incorporating technology into your learning environment?
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Want to learn more about Day of the Girl or how to encourage gender and racial diversity in STEM?

United Nations International Day of the Girl Child: “There are 1.1 billion girls in the world, and every one of them deserves equal opportunities for a better future. They are a source of energy, power and creativity. They can drive change and help build a better future for all. Yet, most girls face disadvantage and discrimination on a daily basis.”

MakerEd: By enabling educators to use maker education—with a particular focus on those in underserved communities—we believe Maker Ed can help them transform their learning environments, and together we can reach thousands of youth of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities.

Girls Who Code: “Girls Who Code was founded with a single mission: to close the gender gap in technology.”

Black Girls Code: “[We] hope to provide young and pre-teen girls of color opportunities to learn in-demand skills in technology and computer programming at a time when they are naturally thinking about what they want to be when they grow up.”

Girls Communicating Career Connections (GC3): “Videos, games, and fun activities about cool careers that use math and science, created by young people—just like you!”

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.


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.


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.


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.

#SXSL Interactive Sign

Two years ago, two of our youth, Biren and Glory, created a sign for DHF whose color could be changed using a hashtag on Twitter. Today, that project has been scaled in size, magnitude and impact as it serves as one of the center pieces at the White House #SXSL event.


The build of the larger version letters was overseen and managed by DHF’s former Baltimore Corps Fellow, Jen Schachter, and a very special guest, ADAM SAVAGE!!! Nearly 50 of DHF’s youth and members of the educator community helped assemble the sign.


Each letter contains an LED strip and an Arduino device from Adafruit. Then a Raspberry Pi crawls twitter looking for the #SXSL hashtag and looks for certain keywords to make the lights react and change color.


Adam was amazing to have in the space and he was a real inspiration to our youth, not because of his celebrity status, rather because he worked right alongside of us the entire time and treating us as peers. By the end of the 10 hour build process, he was just as sweaty, dirty, and exhausted as the rest of us.



Send a tweet with the hash tag #SXSL that includes any of the following words to interact with the SXSL sign.

  • patriot
  • red
  • green
  • blue
  • yellow
  • violet
  • purple
  • orange
  • gold
  • pink
  • teal
  • cyan
  • sparkle
  • stars
  • rainbow
  • earth
  • farming
  • food
  • first lady

Announcing the Innovation Access Program

Digital Harbor Foundation is a leader in educational technology training for youth and educators. Through the Innovation Access Program, we we would like to expand access to innovative technology, resources and training to an increasing number of educators.

Announced in the White House’s New Commitments in Support of the President’s
Nation of Makers Initiative to Kick Off 2016 National Week of Making
and in partnership with Printrbot, MatterHackers, and BuildTak, we would like to expand access to our educator programs by announcing our commitment to provide a free 3D printer and accompanying multi-day training to one educator from every state.

Our technology workshops help educators, in both formal and informal settings, learn what they need to know to comfortably control (and troubleshoot) a 3D printer and incorporate iterative practice, 3D design, and 3D printing into their own curriculum. And with the help of this program, our hope is to increase access to other educators on 3D printing.

For details on what is covered in the workshop, please see this page and when you are ready, head over to complete the application.

Share this news with your educator friends:


What others say about our 3D Printing Workshop:

The staff were super friendly and so enthusiastic. In 23 years of teaching, this is the best Teaching/Professional Development course I have taken. 3D printing and DHF inspire creativity! The time absolutely flew and I couldn’t wait for the next session.


The workshop is great. I really wish I had been able to participate when I first started working with a 3D printer…


The amount of hands on time with the printers was perfect. I really liked the various pathways we explored on generating stl files, especially doodlefab.


I was not super excited about attending this workshop ahead of time as I was not sure how it could relate to my program. I also had envisioned that the 3D printer would be huge and not able to move to the different sites where I have my after school program. I was quickly proven wrong. I learned so much this weekend and am so excited about taking this incredible resource back to my after­school program. I have come up with a whole bunch of lesson plans and am going to start right away. Thanks for a great workshop.


The workshop is exactly what is advertised. It will give educators at all levels understanding technology with the tools to learn 3D printing. It was the right amount of hands on and informative.


Could IoT Have Saved My Plant?


My poor, withered plant. It deserved better. I bought the plant to show off my cool self-watering 3D printed pot but the thing about self-watering pots is that you still need to add water on occasion. As I have been delving into the world of the Internet of Things (IoT), one of the first applications that I thought of was a plant health station.

The very simple system that I built monitors ambient temperature, light levels, humidity, and moisture levels of the soil. Where the “Internet” piece of IoT comes in to play is that all of this data is uploaded to a service (you can see my data here:

I can then use a service such as IFTTT and the Maker channel to send a text message or email me when the moisture levels are low.

I’m also able to chart the data and analyze it Google Sheets, Excel, or Numbers.

I can even analyze that data and see trends. So you can see the moisture trend line is declining (as it should with an indoor plant).

I’m hoping that my simple plant health system will spare future plants from the same fate and that by connecting a plant to the Internet, I may be able to better keep one healthy.

To learn more about IoT, check out this blog post: New Workshop: IoT for Educators

To learn more about our new workshop offering for IoT, visit this page.

2015 Is A Wrap, 2016 Here We Come!

Below is the speech I gave at our 3rd Anniversary Showcase on Thursday, January 14th:

This has been an amazing year for DHF and it’s hard to believe that we are only wrapping up our 3rd year. When I remember back to our grand opening, I remember all the promise we saw , because honestly, promise was all there was to see. We didn’t have ceiling tiles, the walls were pure white, we had one 3D printer, about 10 laptops and only a handful of youth. The small number of youth was a good thing because we had no content for them either.


We have always been a fast moving organization. I like to think that is because we see the urgency in what we are trying to change and the lives we are trying to impact. We work with these youth, we have relationships with them, and we want to see them succeed. Our goal has always been to serve the youth of Baltimore and make them producers rather than just consumers, or as the nomenclature of today would call them, Makers.

In 2015, we have directly delivered over 27,000 hours of content and services to youth in Baltimore. 92% of that time was impact hours where we are working with an individual youth for 40 hours or more.

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Leading up to the fall, we brainstormed ideas to recruit more young women into our programs. The solution we piloted was to host an all-girls cohort of our Maker Foundations program. I’m delighted to share with you that those efforts resulted in 50% of the youth served this semester being young women. This is a direct result from the commitment of our staff to make a change in the world around them.

50 percent female youth

In the Spring of 2015, we launched a field trip program where schools could visit DHF during the school day and experience 3D Printing first hand. The youth on these field trips got to design their own 3D printed keychain and take it with them. We had over 600 students participate from 25 different Baltimore City schools. This was the first time that 68% of the students had seen a 3D printer. With your help, in just 6 weeks, we exceeded our goal of raising $15,000 to continue this program and offer 30 more field trips this coming year.

Field Trips

The field trip crowdfunding campaign is just one example where you, our community of supporters, came together to be champions for DHF. In February of this year, you gave us your vote to earn an $8,000 makeover from IKEA without which, we would not have the chairs or storage to serve as many youth this year.

IKEA Challenge

This summer, we partnered with the Center for Urban Families and the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development to provide trainings to youth in their YouthWorks program who could participate in the Digital Harbor Foundation’s WebSLAM. WebSLAM is an innovative program we created where students learn web development skills in a six-week training program, then immediately put those skills to work building websites for local small business and nonprofit clients. This summer, the 50 participating youth built websites for 27 local nonprofits.

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People across the country are taking notice at what DHF and the youth of Baltimore are doing.
6 of our youth this year were asked to represent Baltimore and DHF at the White House for various events including the White House Science Fair and an opportunity to share their thoughts on how the High School experience could be improved. Our Executive Director was invited to become a Senior Advisor to the White House because of the work that he has done for Baltimore by creating the Digital Harbor Foundation and for his vision that the impact this program can have for youth across the nation.

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We teach our youth the iterative process of Design, Make, and Share. And this philosophy is ingrained in our organizational culture. Our first year, we designed the space and designed what we thought youth programs should be (and should not be). In our second year, we made the designs become reality and we developed and refined our youth programs. In our third year, we started sharing our methods and resources through our Center of Excellence initiative. This initiative was designed to spread our lessons learned to other youth educators so they can stand on our shoulders and improve the lives of the youth they serve.

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In 2015, we worked with nearly 200 educators from almost 90 different organizations. 42% of which were public school teachers, another 21% were after school time providers like DHF, and 14% were from our Public Library systems.

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Through this initiative, we have gotten to work with amazing educators who are passionate about working with their youth and needed some guidance on how to add Making to their programs.

Even our youth have decided to become involved with helping other educators support making in their space. Over the summer, Darius, one of our former youth and now a member of our staff, co-founded a program called 3D Assistance where they use their expertise in 3D printer repair and troubleshooting to support educators who run into issues. We like to think of it as Geek Squad for 3D printing. Darius’ program has even earned the endorsement and support of Brook Drumm, the CEO of Printrbot.

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As we enter our fourth year, we will continue moving forward in innovation and iteration of our programs and our learning.

We will add new and engaging topics to our Member Courses so that we can continue toward the goal of long term impact and career readiness of our youth. This will include advanced courses in Raspberry Pi, Internet of Things, Web Development, and more in addition to the development of pathways in our courses for Design, Development, Fabrication, Electronics, and Communications.

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We will be working more closely with Federal Hill Prep Elementary School, where we will be providing feedback on their curriculum and project ideas to be implemented in grades 3,4, & 5, and in return, they will give us better insight into how these maker activities are working in a formal classroom setting to aid in our creation of additional resources for classroom educators.

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In the coming year, we are excited that our FabSLAM program is moving to a national stage. Competitions will be hosted this spring in Pittsburgh and Idaho, in addition to Baltimore. This was the first program that Steph and I worked on when we joined DHF and we couldn’t be happier to see our efforts grow into something larger than just what we do here.

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And one more thing….

Tonight, on our 3rd Anniversary we are proud to announce the next component of our Center of Excellence program, Digital Harbor Foundation’s Blueprint. This website will be a comprehensive resource for educators to build their own innovative making environment. This resource will be packed with details on how to get your program started and continue the work with equipment reviews, plans on how to build your own maker space furniture, and project guides. We’ve learned so many lessons in our building our space and our programs. We want people to stand on our shoulders and make new mistakes to push us all forward. We strongly believe, you can’t buy a Makerspace, you have to make one and we want to help people do that.

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I want to thank all of you for joining us tonight and supporting our youth. You have been amazing champions of DHF and the work that we are doing in the city that we love so much.

Our board and sponsors have been incredibly supportive as I have transitioned into my new role as Interim Executive Director. I can’t thank you enough for your guidance and for welcoming me into these large shoes that I have to fill.

To our amazing DHF team, thank you for everything you do day in and day out for our youth; caring for them, building relationships with them, teaching them new things, and making them better people. We couldn’t have gotten this far in such a short period of time without all of your passion and commitment. I look forward to continuing our work together and standing up here in another year to reflect back on the progress we have made.

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Announcing 3D Assistance

3D Assistance is a new program co-created by a former DHF youth and now staff member, Darius McCoy, and Director of Technology, Shawn Grimes. The purpose of the program is to leverage the 3D printing skills that Darius and other youth have acquired at DHF to help educators and other community members who own 3D printers with troubleshooting and repair services.

3D Assistance working on a printer

3D Assistance was piloted as an internal project within the walls of DHF repairing our fleet of 3D printers used by the youth on an almost daily basis. Darius selected a few youth to work with him and he worked alongside a couple staff mentors to train the team on how to troubleshoot common issues and make repairs.

3D Assistance Helping Out

After training the youth and giving them some time to gain experience, we expanded the program to offer support to our 3D Printing for Educators workshop attendees. The 3D Assistance team would float around the room helping the educators troubleshoot their own issues and teaching them common solutions. As the teachers left the workshops, they felt more confident because they had learned to fix common problems themselves and they also knew who they could reach out to if there was something they couldn’t figure out.

“I was frustrated by the number of schools I visited that said they have a 3D printer but it is never used because they *think* it is broken and no one knows how to fix it. It was clear that there was an opportunity to help the community by making some of our in-house expertise available to others.” — Shawn Grimes, Director of Technology

3D Assistance has been answering questions over email and repairing printers that are dropped off to the tech center. They have also been developing processes and creating support documentation for common issues and building the skills needed for customer support relations. Recently, they have even begun to handle the sale and inventory our 3D printers.

“Printrbot not only endorses this program, we are proud of these young people and adults using their skills to help others! A community network of users and experts quickly builds confidence in users. We recommend you take advantage of this resource. ” — Brook Drumm, CEO/Founder of Printrbot

3D Assistance is currently a 3 member youth team with additional staff support but will grow to meet demand. They currently service our 15+ 3D printers at DHF and support the more than 95 educators who have been through our 3D Printing for Educators workshops. The team also serves as inspiration for other youth who might be interested in joining the team as their skills progress.

“Having the 3D assistance team available has been a lifesaver for me. Seemingly always available, willing to help with a smile, and excellent at what they do, they have saved our printing program multiple times. From extrusion issues to broken motors, they not only help fix your problem, but educate you along the way, so we can tackle similar problems ourselves in the future. Couldn’t ask for a more professional and knowledgable team. Five stars!” — Scott Dellosso, Teacher, Perryville Middle School

For more information on 3D Assistance, you can visit:

3D Assistance Helping Out


Make Magazine: DigiFab Shootout 2015

I am always excited to receive Make magazine in my mailbox but the issue this month was especially exciting for me. In the past, I have equated the feeling of the arrival of Make magazine in my mailbox to Steve Martin waiting for the phone book to arrive in the movie “The Jerk”. Steve’s character starts yelling “The new phone book is here! The new phone book is here!” and he hurriedly thumbs through one to find his name in print for the first time and exclaims “I’m somebody!”.

3D Printing for Educators (August 2016)

This month’s issue, the Digital Fabrication issue includes not one, but two machine reviews by me. I was invited out by Make’s 3D Printing Editor, Matt Stultz to participate in the DigiFab Shootout, an intensive weekend long testing frenzy of all things digital fabrication (3D Printing, CNC, Laser Cutters, and Vinyl Cutters).

I remember remarking at how many people I recognized in last year’s version and thinking “wow, I know a lot of really cool people!” This year’s cast was another group of digital fabrication subject matter experts and as I looked around the room on our first night of testing, it felt a bit surreal. It was an amazing honor to have been included on the team and to have my expertise recognized by people that I look up to.

Make Testing



We worked until midnight almost every night and were up early to get back to testing. There was a wide variety of machines to test and quite a few in each category. This was the first time that Make was testing a range of digital fabrication tools instead of just 3D printers so were working on a very tight timeline. During the testing, it was also very important that we took very detailed notes because once we left the testing space, we had about two weeks to write our review.

Dremel Testing

I was definitely the new guy on the team and I was determined to prove to the whole team that I deserved to be there and that they could count on me to get things done. It was important to me to represent DHF as a place of talented makers who can hold their own among some of the best makers in the world (yep, one guy came all the way from France to be part of the testing team).

Nomad CNC Testing


With the arrival of my issue, I was anxious to see where the printers fell in the rankings. You see, the testers provided anonymous samples to another team that analyzed the results without knowing which machine they came from so that there was as little bias as possible. We were even encouraged to change the color of filament for as many prints as possible so that even that wasn’t a clue.

I am not surprised to find Printrbot winning so many awards and it reaffirms all the recommendations I make for them. Are there better printers out there? Yes, I’m still drooling for an Ultimaker. But there is no better printer at that price point in my opinion (or even much higher). The return on your investment is high and the machines are very hackable but also just work. There are still going to be hiccups, but I find the hiccups much more tolerable at that price point. Hiccups still happen with more expensive printers too (sometimes even more) and when you are spending $1,000+, it gets really frustrating especially because they are generally more expensive to fix and repair.

Printrbot Play

Being on the DigiFab Shootout team was an amazing experience and it was so valuable to be surrounded by all that talent and expertise. We worked very hard that weekend and we had a lot of fun doing it. The team at Make did a great job putting this all together and a hat tip goes out to Matt Stultz for his effort herding all of us cats.

My mind is already reeling on which of our DHF youth will be the first to be published in the magazine, and there are more than a few candidates.

Adding Cool Patterns to 3D Prints

In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to apply hydrographic film to your 3D prints.

Hydrographics and 3D Prints

Hydrographics is a process where water is used to transfer graphics onto 3 dimensional objects. Perfect for 3D prints. There are a lot of places to get hydrographic film but I got mine from: and don’t forget the spray activator.

First gather your supplies. You will need:

  • a bucket or tank wide enough and deep enough to dip your print into.
  • a mask or respirator for painting
  • at least one glove for dipping
  • scissors
  • the spray activator
  • the hydrographic film
  • your 3D print


  1. Cut your film so that it will cover your print
  2. I like to glue a small handle on the bottom of my print that I can hold onto when dipping. I just use some scraps that I have lying around.
  3. Fill your tank with water.
  4. Place the hydrographic film down on top of the water with the glossy side of the film toward the water.
  5. Wait about 2 to 3 minutes. The film will wrinkle and then stretch back out. You need this to happen before you spray the activator.
  6. Now shake the activator can really good and give the top of the film a light spray.
  7. You have about 10 seconds after you’ve sprayed the film to dip your object.
  8. Dip your object slowly to allow the graphic film to wrap around your object. I then give the object a little twist to disconnect it from the film.
  9. Remove your print and allow it to dry overnight.

Thank You To Our Veterans

We are pleased to partner with The Mission Continues, an organization that empowers veterans to serve their country in new ways. Our Mission Continues fellow is Paul “AmmoCan” Silva who is serving as a tech specialist with us.  Paul has a wealth of knowledge about web development and WordPress that he has been using to provide insight and direction on our WebSLAM program. He has been creating new content and resources about web development for our youth and staff. In addition to his Tech Specialist duties, Paul has also been volunteering to help with our youth programs including helping out last night at our Family Make Night.

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We are very thankful to have Paul be a member of the DHF team and thank him and all of our veterans for their brave service to our country.