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


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


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!

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!

Join us for FabSLAM 2016

Today is the day! We are excited to announce our 5th cycle of FabSLAM! We are kicking off FabSLAM 2016 today with the announcement of our challenge theme and open registration for youth teams.


To celebrate our regional expansion of FabSLAM, we wanted a challenge theme that would highlight this new aspect of FabSLAM…

This cycle’s challenge theme is CITIES!

For this challenge theme, teams should identify a problem in your city that could be addressed using 3D printing and digital fabrication.

More information:

  • Use digital fabrication methods (e.g. 3D printing) to create a solution to the problem you have identified
  • Identify a space in your city that could be reimagined / improved and design and fabricate a model of the new space  OR
  • Design a product that would solve a need of an identified space: e.g. rain gutter guard, a more accessible door handle,etc.


We welcome teams of youth (with an adult coach) 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.

What is FabSLAM?

FabSLAM is a multi-week, team-based, digital fabrication competition where youth learn and practice design, iteration, and rapid prototyping skills primarily focused on 3D Design and 3D Printing. A challenge theme is presented and each team works to develop a product that fits the theme and meets any accompanying requirements. Each team works with a Coach to help guide the team through the challenge and aid in documentation.

FabSLAM culminates in a FabSLAM Showcase where teams will present their products to a panel of judges and a public audience for review and feedback.

To learn more,

Check Us Out at NAA Convention

Our Directors, Shawn + Steph Grimes are excited to be attending and presenting at the National Afterschool Association Convention in Orlando, FL next week!


We will be presenting two talks on Tuesday March 22nd during the convention. If you’re attending the conference, come join us for our sessions!


Bringing the Maker Movement to Your Program

The Maker Movement is gaining STEAM and it is empowering youth to be productive without sacrificing creativity. Learn more about what a Maker is and how the Maker Movement can be easily integrated in nearly any program.

  • Tuesday, March 22nd
  • 1:45 – 3:00pm
  • Room: Naples 3


3D Printing: What You Need to Know

There is a lot of excitement around 3D printers and what they can do. This session will go beyond the marketing hype and share real experiences (good and bad) from two people who have been using 3D printers in a learning environment for a number of years. Come learn what they can actually do for your program, and what they can’t!

  • Tuesday, March 22nd
  • 3:15 – 4:30pm
  • Room: Sarasota 1


We hope to see you at the convention!

Spreading Making on Digital Learning Day 2016


Last week, during Digital Learning Day 2016 we worked with the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) to present an online maker session to classrooms across the state. It was an awesome event and we all hope we can collaborate in this way again! There were 9 total sites, including DHF, who participated in this online session and engaged their students in making Art Bots right alongside us. MSDE coordinated the event through their online WebX portal so all sites were able to login and watch the live session we were hosting in person at the Tech Center.


One of our youth Members, Claire Smith, led the activity on-site here with Ms. Lannigan’s 5th grade class from Federal Hill Prep Elementary School. They were all enthusiastic and attentive participants and made some of the most creative and unique Art Bots we have ever seen! Claire not only led the youth who were present here through the activity, but she also provided all of the instruction and guidance for the sites who were participating online.

We began by issuing the students a challenge to build a robot that draws using an electric toothbrush as the motor. Students then took a few minutes to sketch their ideas and think about a prototype of their design.


The online format allowed for youth from each site to share what they made with the whole group and show their process via video and audio to help other youth who were participating. So after some sketching and ideating, a few youth from various sites volunteered to share their designs and talk about their ideas via the webcam to everyone else before we started building.


The best part of this activity is the actual building part where you get to experiment with movement techniques and placement of your markers or drawing tools as you build and test your robot. We discussed ways that our designs might need to change, based on our testing, and how that is part of the iterative process (and what the iterative process is!). Then, everyone had a great time adding personality and character to their Art Bots using wiggly eyes, pipe cleaners, and other craft materials.


Finally, (and this is our favorite part) we invited everyone at our site to bring all of their Art Bots to the “Art Bot Rally”! This is just a large piece of paper spread out on the floor where we can put all of the Art Bots together and see how they interact and what type of art they create as a whole group. Of course, we encouraged each participating site to do this step as well because it is the most fun!


Before wrapping up, Claire led all of the sites in a discussion about the process,how our constructions were different from our designs, what we would do differently next time, and what we all learned. The DHF team really enjoyed being a part of Digital Learning Day this year, especially in this way! It was a really innovative format of a workshop for us to be a part of and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Thank you to everyone at MSDE who made this possible, the sites who participated across MD, and a special thanks to Federal Hill Prep and Ms. Lannigan’s class for being eager and willing participants in our live session!

For more information and highlights from this event, you can check out our Flickr page with more photos: Digital Learning Day 2016 Flickr or these hashtags and posts on Twitter: #DLDay2016, #mdDLDay, @md_digilearning.

Come Celebrate our Anniversary


Join Us for our 3rd Anniversary Showcase

As the holiday season is in full-swing, we are looking just a bit ahead to our 3rd Anniversary Celebration! January 2016 will mark the 3rd anniversary of the Tech Center Grand Opening, a milestone that is hard to believe is upon us!

To celebrate the occasion we will be hosting our 3rd Anniversary Showcase on Thursday January 14th, 2016. During the event our youth will be sharing their new learning, demonstrating new skills, and showcasing projects from our fall programs including 3D printing, Minecraft, design thinking, prototyping, electronics, and more! This showcase is a great way to meet our youth and see their work in action.

We will also be announcing some new initiatives we have planned for the coming year and highlighting our work over this last year for both the Tech Center and our Center of Excellence. This is a perfect opportunity to check in on us to see what we have been doing and hear, first-hand, what we have up our sleeves!

We invite all of you to join us for this evening of innovation and celebration! Please RSVP here: RSVP for 3rd Anniversary Showcase

Sierra Inspires Girl Scouts

A few weeks ago, one of our youth ambassadors, Sierra Seabrease, was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Dream, Design, Do! Women in STEAM Festival hosted by Girl Scouts of Central Maryland. The event took place during the MD STEM Festival, a statewide, week-long festival which organized and supported a high number of events focused on promoting STEM to youth and families.


Sierra was asked to share her experiences with technology and the work she has done as part of our programs. Sierra delivered a short, but inspiring talk to a room full of young ladies as a kick off to the entire day of activities and workshops. She shared about her focal projects, including the Digital Jukebox Piano, which was included as part of the 2015 White House Science Fair, and gave advice to the girls to about pursuing their interests in STEM and made recommendations on how to do so.

We are so proud of all that Sierra has accomplished and are grateful that other organizations are interested in her work and perspective!

You can read more about the event in these places:



Jonathan Presents at Ignite Education 2015


I recently had the privilege to speak at the third annual City Neighbors Foundation Ignite Education event and I’m excited to share my experience!

Ignite Talks are a public speaking format developed by Brady Forrest and Bre Pettis in 2006. Each talk is exactly five minutes long and 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds. The slides advance whether or not the speaker is ready for them to advance; there is no ability to pause the slides once the presentation starts. The goal is for the talk to be rapid pace and to keep the topic moving forward. The tagline for the official Ignite Talks is “Enlighten us, but make it quick” and this is a great summary of the spirit of the event.


Ignite Education Baltimore is a local, education based spin-off from this larger series and it is hosted by City Neighbors Foundation each year. The overarching topic for this year’s Ignite Education event was “education and social justice in Baltimore,” and all the proposed talks had to relate to this issue in one way or another. The City Neighbors Foundation stated that one of the main goals was to get the audience talking and inspired about this larger topic, and that each talk should ideally be conversational and spark ideas and foster dialogue both during and after the event.


I submitted my proposal as soon as I found out about the event because I was interested in the challenging Ignite format and I considered it a great way to share my thoughts and experiences with the education community in Baltimore.  I thought that my talk would fit well with the topic and knew this event would be valuable public speaking practice and allow me to further refine my ability to think quickly. The driving factor for my submission was that I wanted to meet other educators and invite a discussion for my theme and highlight my passion for youth empowerment.


My talk explored how the integration of making and the Hacker Mindset in education in recent years has resulted in increased opportunity and a progression away from a consumer culture in education toward a producer culture where youth have a hand in their education and knowledge development. As these changes have gained momentum there have been big shifts on a large scale, but I wanted to dive in and dissect how this integration plays out on an individual level between teacher and student.

This was the overall goal of my talk and I integrated in two core concepts from Bruce Lee’s martial art philosophy Jeet Kune Do: the idea of being like water, embracing fluidity to change forms, and the importance of being willing to absorb that which is useful, regardless of the source. This was the driving force for my personal movement away from an ego-driven mindset in my youth education background to a more empowerment-driven mindset where I was willing to learn from youth and elevate them as experts. I related my personal experiences and how these guiding philosophical points that I borrowed from Bruce Lee have helped me change my approach to education and learning, and I relayed how working at Digital Harbor Foundation has shaped my growth as an educator. Here is a video of my talk that Jen took:

I greatly enjoyed the feeling of being able to deliver my talk in a clear and concise way while meeting the requirements of the Ignite format, but what I enjoyed most about the event was hearing the other Ignite talks. I came away with lots of insight and heard some amazing anecdotes. It was also great to recognize that there are many other educators with similar goals and approaches regarding youth empowerment and reimagining education. I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to speak at this event and am thankful to the City Neighbors Foundation for giving me the chance to share my experiences!

Thanking our Key Supporters


What better way to celebrate Giving Tuesday than by hosting an event to thank all of those who have supported us in some way? On December 1st we hosted our annual Key Supporters event in the form of a breakfast and networking opportunity.  Each year we host a Key Supporters Breakfast to mark the anniversary of the date we first received keys to the South Baltimore Rec Center to begin converting the space into the DHF Tech Center. The purpose of this event is to express gratitude and appreciation to all the people and organizations who have helped to support our mission over the last year and it is always a heartwarming opportunity to take pause and reflect on the work we have done and what we have all accomplished together over the last year.


This year, one of the things we asked attendees to participate in as part of this event was a discussion about ways that we can continue to serve our community from their point of view. We also asked them to contribute advice, suggestions, and thoughts on how to move this work into part of a national conversation. We received a lot of great ideas and actionable requests as part of this discussion and it was a meaningful opportunity to hear what our key supporters are looking for as we move forward into our 4th year of operations.

key support collage

Each year, we issue a thank you note to each of our supporters in addition to a keepsake keychain that someone on staff has made. In past years, this was a simple 3D printed anchor logo keychain and a more complicated 3D printed key. This year, our staff worked to create these awesome lasercut and laser engraved keychains representing ‘3D Danny’ – a character created by our Community Manager, Melissa Huch, that has been used on much of our program branding this year. We were all really pleased with how these small tokens of appreciation turned out and were excited to give them to our community members!


We’d like to extend another giant THANK YOU to our 2015 Key Supporters for their guidance, collaboration, time, resources, and overall support!

TinkerTour in Baltimore



We were honored and excited to be chosen as one of the stops along Tinkercad‘s TinkerTour in September! A few months back, we came across a tweet from Tinkercad stating that they were looking for places between DC and New York to visit as part of their East Coast tour leading up to Maker Faire. We rallied an impromptu, late-night Twitter campaign to Tinkercad so they might consider making Baltimore one of their stops along the tour (if you helped us, thank you!) and it worked!


We are avid users of Tinkercad in our after school programs, Maker Camp, and educator workshops so we were thrilled that they selected us and we were getting the chance to host them at DHF for an Advanced Tinkercad Workshop. On September 22nd Andy Taylor, Community Manager for Tinkercad, joined 32 youth, educators, and DHF staff at the Tech Center to teach us how to design a flashlight using some advanced features in Tinkercad. Andy shared some of the iterations of his flashlight design and then guided us through creating our own flashlights. We used calipers to measure the LEDs we were using to get precise measurements for our casing, learned about boolean operations to combine shapes to build our structures, and used multiple workplanes in Tinkercad to aid in correct placement and precision design. I think the tip we were most excited about was the keyboard shortcuts Andy shared with us to make our work in Tinkercad more effective and seamless.


It was an awesome evening and we are grateful to have been included in the TinkerTour! Thank you to Tinkercad, Andy, workshop participants, and everyone who sent a tweet to get their attention!

Read More about the TinkerTour: