DHF Youth Profile: Sierra Seabrease

When Sierra Seabrease first enrolled in programs at DHF in the fall of 2013, she wasn’t interested in pursuing a career in tech. “I wanted to be a traveling photographer for National Geographic,” said Sierra, “I thought tech jobs were boring desk jobs with Microsoft Office. My mom sort of pushed me into it.”

sseabrease-photographer

The group of youth that started with Sierra that fall comprised DHF’s first Maker Foundations cohort. There were sixteen youth in the cohort, only three of which were female. “Me, Steph, and Amber [DHF’s Director of Education and Operations Manager, respectively] wanted to try to increase female retention in programs and sat down to brainstorm different ideas,” Sierra said, “I knew that I had stayed as long as I did because I’d formed a bond with Steph and wanted to find opportunities for other girls to collaborate with staff.” These preliminary meetings led to the formation of the Makerettes, a group of female youth and staff at DHF who meet twice monthly to collaborate on a variety of different projects.

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“I fell off one summer because I was going through some transitional changes in my life and it was hard to come in and do something without knowing what to do,” said Sierra. The Makerettes were a support system that guided Sierra and other girls as they explored different projects. Many of the projects Sierra created have become long-term installations at DHF.

“My final project in Maker Foundations was the Jukebox Piano,” said Sierra, “It’s a piano hacked with Raspberry Pi and MaKey MaKeys to play a song from a selection according to what key is pressed.” The Jukebox Piano was selected for the White House Science Fair in 2014. “It was a huge achievement for me,” said Sierra, “because it was the first time I was getting recognized for the work I was doing.”

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When Sierra became a Member at DHF, she started working on other projects with CNC machine and 3D printing photographs. She also built a photobooth and created an egg bot – a robot that draws on small round objects such as ping pong balls, light bulbs, and eggs. Her jukebox piano, too, went through several different iterations.

“Now, in my internship at Fearless Solutions, I’m doing a lot of software testing and coding,” said Sierra, “We made a map for Hubzones around the world with the small business administration. Hubzones are disaster areas or economic stress areas – if you’re in a hubzone, the government can give you money. I’ve been testing the software with another intern and am learning Ruby to test on my own.”

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This fall, Sierra has begun her freshman year at the University of Maryland where she plans to study mechanical engineering. “My mom says that when I was younger I used to build stuff out of nothing,” said Sierra, “I would make structures out of cardboard and straws and call them UFOs. Now I can build things as a career and I wouldn’t have known that without the support I had at DHF.”

Read more about Sierra in this feature of her work in POLITICO Magazine: How a Young Woman’s DIY Jukebox Caught the Eye of the White House

Celebrating International Day of the Girl Child at DHF

Women today are often faced with the challenge of being largely underrepresented in the tech world, but at DHF, in contrast, women represent around 40% of participants in programs semester to semester. In an effort to give girls a platform in STEM, the young women of DHF partnered with Wide Angle Youth Media at the end of August to create a short film for the United Nations’ International Day of the Girl Child initiative that showcases young women of different ages and demographics making in collaboration.

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On October 10th, the short film was released at the Digital Harbor Foundation in our first ever video premiere event. Members of the audience included families of the young women who starred in the film and community members such as Brooke Lierman, Maryland State Delegate representing District 46, who spoke on the importance of persistence, especially for young women. Said Lierman, “the next best thing to trying and winning is trying and failing.”

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The film screening, which also began DHF’s social media campaign for female youth’s representation in makerspaces and tech spaces, features DHF youth Miranda Hull, Jordyn Bocklage, Elizabeth Blake, Madison Bannerman, and Aeirss Prince, Anna Miller, Samantha Nistico, and Alexis Leggette. It shows the girls engaging in activities, such as problem solving, programming, laser cutting, and soldering, and features an encouraging message to girls – although only 24% of employees in math, science, technology, and engineering are women, young women can change this statistic by working together and rejecting the stereotypes that their minds aren’t wired for math and science.

Before and after the screening, two panels of DHF’s actresses answered questions posed to them about the process of creating the film and their experiences as young women in tech. When asked how to get more girls involved in tech, Aeirss, who narrates the short film, said “I would encourage girls to just go out and do it.” She also shared her story of being the only female participant in her school’s robotics club. Miranda had a similar experience of being one of the few females involved in her school’s Science Olympiad program.

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“The innovative and creative scene is male dominated,” Miranda said, “Women are underrepresented, but we will eventually dominate the scene.”

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Anna, age 10, closed out our panels with advice for getting more girls involved in STEM fields: “Tell girls when they’re doing a good job, listen to girls, and as girls help each other out, share ideas, and see what we can make.”

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?
Check out DHF Blueprint!

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!”

Baltimore Youth Participate in Inaugural Youth Hackathon at DHF

In February, DHF youth member, Bella, approached our Youth Steering Committee with an idea to have a Youth Hackathon. The hackathon would be organized and hosted by the Youth Steering Committee and open to youth in the Baltimore area ages 12 to 18. The idea of the hackathon would be to create a space for youth the experience the environment of a hackathon alongside their peers.

Over the next seven months, the Youth Steering Committee split into groups to organize the hackathon – Harbor Hacks – a task that involved securing sponsors, creating a budget and ordering prizes, and recruitment of hackers, coaches, and judges.

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Members of the Youth Steering Committee who organized Harbor Hacks

All their planning came together the weekend of August 11th. Forty youth split into ten groups to begin work on a variety of hardware and software projects. We were excited to have a large representation of female participants (46%!!) and youth new to DHF (36%). Aside from their project work throughout the weekend, the youth also participated in soldering workshops with the SparkFun Weevil Eye Kits and programming workshops with Micro:bits, both items that each youth received as part of their swag bags.

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Jonathan shows youth how to use to the Micro:bit

The criteria for judging included difficulty and challenge, communication, functionality, presentation, and innovation in two categories: hardware and software. We had a talented group of judges including Ellie Mitchell (Maryland Out of School Time Network), Marty McGuire (web developer & Baltimore Maker), Jason Hardebeck (The Foundery), and Vakul More (Baltimore Mayor’s Office of Information Technology). Their job was definitely not an easy one!

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Judges checking out Immanuel & Roman’s Battle Bot

All of the projects were great, but ultimately, the judges selected the winners: the winners of the HARDWARE prize were Jean Carlos Zayas and Kaire Williams for their creation of a BB8 robot and the winners of the SOFTWARE prize were Maya Gaylord, Miranda Hull, Carrie Couch, and Liza Molotska for their interactive scratch game, Samventures. The judges expressed being most impressed with the winners’ clear vision and intention to continue the efforts of their teams beyond the hackathon.

The youth in attendance at the hackathon also selected a HACKERS CHOICE winner – Dorian Smith and Ian Smith were selected for their creation of a website through which food suppliers and producers could donate surplus food items to people and organizations in need.

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Although the youth produced creative and innovative projects, many participants surveyed at the end of the hackathon said that their favorite part of the weekend was meeting new people and working together as a team. When asked what youth would tell their peers about Harbor Hacks, one participant said:

“I would tell other youth that if you go [to the hackathon] you will have the best time of your life.”
To see more from the weekend, check out our Harbor Hacks 2017 Album on Flickr.

Thank you, again, to our generous sponsors for Harbor Hacks 2017!

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big-huge-games-logo     smartlogic-logo

Another Successful Summer in the Books

It’s hard to believe that we are reaching the conclusion of another busy summer at DHF. This summer we had 3 cycles of Maker Camp for Mid-High students and Elementary students and 3 cycles of Member camps. These camps ran concurrently with our YouthWorks program and many of the youth involved in YouthWorks helped facilitate programming for the camps. The summer concluded with DHF’s inaugural youth hackathon, Harbor Hacks.

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This summer we unveiled two new programming courses: Programming Minecraft with Python and Creative Programming with JavaScript. Programming Minecraft offered youth a chance to hack the Minecraft environment using code and Creative Programming facilitated youth creation of an online Javascript sketchbook using the p5 web editor. Both programming languages are highly desirable in the workplace and require great attention to detail. Nevertheless, our staff were very impressed by the coding projects the youth in these courses were able to craft. Intro to 3D Printing, Arduino, and VectorFab courses were also offered to Mid-High youth. Youth created puppets and marionettes as their capstone projects for the Intro to 3D Printing course, servo greeters in the Arduino course, and mazes in the VectorFab course. Our Mini Makers explored simple machines by creating automatas and learned about gravity, the rotation of the earth, and friction while building their own paint pendulums.

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This summer’s YouthWorks cohort was the largest DHF has seen with 20 youth working as Project Planners, Space Specialists, Cultivation Specialists, Program Assistants in the MegaLab and NanoLab, 3D Assistants, and Documentation Assistants. Their marks can be seen around the space through projects such as the lasercut Bike Parking and Office signs, the pea planter in the courtyard, and the self-watering planters growing squash in the space beside DHF. Program Assistants also helped staff come up with projects for courses such as a JavaScript programmed loading screen and a Python programmed timer displayed on the Minecraft playing screen that counts up to 5 minutes. Said one youth employee, “my favorite part about being at DHF this summer was being able to work with the people around me.”

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We wrapped up the summer with the Harbor Hacks youth hackathon proposed by DHF member, Bella Palumbi. The hackathon was attended by 40 youth, 14 of which were non-regular program participants. The event was a perfect cap to the summer with the productivity of the past three months channeled into 3 days of innovative brainstorming, hacking, and presentation.

DHF Youth Organize A Youth Hackathon

We are excited to announce that this year our youth are bringing a hackathon like no other to Digital Harbor Foundation. This hackathon, officially titled Harbor Hacks, is a hackathon organized by youth for youth. For more information and to register visit: http://harborhacks.org

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Harbor Hacks, the Back Story

After participating in several local hackathons, one DHF youth, Bella, noticed that something was missing from these events. Where were all the young makers?

Bella thought that many youth may not be participating in community hackathons because they might not know what to expect at a hackathon. She remembered back to her first hackathon and how her Mom had to keep encouraging her to attend because she was so nervous, she even wanted to back out briefly during the walk to the space. Now, Bella participates in numerous hackathons (and has won a few!) all over Baltimore and came up with an idea to create a hackathon just for youth. This would give young people new to the idea or concept of a hackathon a safe place to experience a hackathon that was designed just for them.

In February, Bella presented her idea for a Youth Hackathon to the Youth Steering Committee at DHF. Our youth split into different committees for the event and went to work planning. Their hard work will be a reality next weekend August 11th – 13th at DHF when the inaugural Harbor Hacks Youth Hackathon takes place.

Register Now for Harbor Hacks 2017
 

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Who Can Participate?

Any youth between the ages of 12 – 18 who like to solve problems, create new inventions, or dream big! Hurry, registration ends August 7th.

We are also looking for a few adult tech coaches to help teams out throughout the weekend, so if you think you might be a good fit, get a coach ticket.

What does it cost?

Registration for students is Pay-What-You-Can and includes a weekend of fun, a t-shirt, meals and snacks all weekend, and some awesome giveaways!

Are there prizes?

Yes! Awesome tech prizes are waiting for the teams or individuals who impress the judges.

Register Now for Harbor Hacks 2017
 

We hope you will be able to join us for a fun weekend!

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.

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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:

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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.