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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