Interactive Game Insight: Football Physics

The best way to answer the question “What is an interactive gaming experience?” is to look at a project! This is a game created by one of our youth in our Interactive Game Design Member course, and his game is a perfect expression of the skills covered in the Interactive Games for Educators workshop.

We are offering this workshop because of the powerful impact that teaching game design can have in the classroom. Youth will develop the foundations of computer programming through a medium that is fun and accessible for them while creating a product that they’ll have complete ownership over. By integrating game design into the classroom, educators are able to engage youth to learn new skills through an exciting format: the video game. An added bonus is that through the creation process, youth will shift from being consumers of games to producers of exciting content!

The first aspect of the project we’re going to look at are the sprites. All of the characters, backgrounds, and objects were created by the youth for this project.

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He decided to make a sports game that tests his knowledge of physics, as he had to determine how to program the arcs and physics of passing a football from the player character to the non-player characters.

The “brain” of this project was created using Scratch, a free web-based visual game engine developed by the MIT Media Lab. These projects help build planning skills for youth, as they need to determine what behavior and mechanics they have to develop in order to bring their vision to life. Once this crucial phase is complete, youth then use Scratch for their coding. The visual nature of Scratch provides an accessible experience for youth and enables them to develop and explore the fundamentals of programming in a fun, engaging way. Here is a screenshot of some of the code used in this featured project:

IGforED Scratch Example

The blocks in Scratch are chunks of code that can be manipulated and combined logically into scripts which form the basis of the game’s function and programming. Scratch blocks are broken into categories that are representative of core programming concepts, such as Events, Control, and Operators. Scratchers can then manipulate these blocks to form chunks of code that build into their game mechanics. Scratch still requires an understanding of programmatic thinking, especially variable use and conditional logic (if->then statements).

The next step is to integrate physical interactivity into the project! Once the core of the game is created in Scratch, the Makey Makey (another invention from the MIT Media Lab) is added to act as a gateway between conductive objects and the computer. The integration of these components is typically done as a game controller, but youth have lots of freedom to build this however they envision. This is a step that can be built into the design process and planning phase of the project. For this particular project, the youth designer decided to create a physical controller that matched the theme of his game. As the game is a football game that tests his knowledge of physics, he decided that the controller should also fit this theme and made a throwable football controller!

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The controller’s main structure is crafted from aluminum foil, a conductive material. He also had to make a landing pad for the football so that it would complete the circuit once the “pass” is complete. This physical integration is a perfect opportunity for youth to creatively test their problem solving and design skills, as there are occasionally quirks and challenges that arise when working with physical components. However, since the youth have ownership over their projects there often is a higher degree of perseverance and determination to stick with their interactive game despite any difficulties.

One of the strengths of integrating an interactive gaming experience into the classroom is that it provides youth with a creative platform for designing unique products that combine problem solving, iteration, and critical thinking.

We wanted to develop a workshop for educators to build their capacity in the skills utilized in creating interactive gaming experiences with youth.

Educators that attend the Interactive Games for Educators workshop will leave with an Interactive Games Starter Kit as well as access to additional “Going Further” lessons and resources that build on the base skills covered in the workshop. Now is a fantastic time to integrate Game Design into the classroom as it is a industry that is rising in popularity with several possible career paths and deep educational potential.

Learn more or register for this workshop today!

 

 

Bring Your Class on a DHF Field Trip

 

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Have you heard? DHF is now operating in the early morning hours too! Our 3D Printing Field Trips are off to a great start. So far this season, we have welcomed in groups of upper elementary students and a few middle school groups. The youth have all been awesome and have had so much fun!

During field trips, youth are introduced to a 3D design program and guided through how to use that program to create their own designs for printing. They use this tool to design their very own personalized keychains that they can take home with them.

Youth also learn about how 3D printers work and how they are being used in various industries such as fashion, architecture, and the medical field. This presentation is rich with information and real world examples to increase knowledge and interest in 3D printing for field trip participants.

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Field trips are a two-hour experience intended for groups no larger than 25. We prefer the youth to be fourth grade and above, but are open to exploring options for younger children. The youth should be comfortable using a computer and able to work somewhat independently.

Thanks to generous donors, we are able to offer a limited number of field trip opportunities free of charge to Baltimore-area public schools. If you are a Baltimore-area public educator interested in scheduling a field trip, act now because spots fill up quickly!

Don’t delay – schedule your field trip today!

 

 

Build Your Own 3D Scanning Computer

 

In this post, I’m going to tell you about the hardware parts needed to build an affordable 3D scanning computer that you can use with the Xbox Kinect.

This is a follow up blog post for people really dedicated to 3D scanning. If you are just starting out with 3D scanning, you may want to check out these resources first:

 

Software

Skanect is a piece of software that is available to Windows (32 and 64 bit), as well as Mac users. Skanect has a pro version that is $129, but also has a free version which allows us to create our 3D file, and export it. The free version is for non-commercial use only and limits the quality of your scans. Start with the free version and upgrade later if needed. Both versions are available here

Now, without further ado, onto the hardware!

Hardware

This is what our scanning computer setup looks like at the Tech Center:

Specs:

Component Price Point
Case Cooler Master HAF Stacker 915R Mini-ITX Mid Tower $64.99
Operating System Windows 7 N/A
Motherboard Z87N-WIFI mini-ITX-Mainboard $189.99
Processor Intel Core i3-4130 CPU @ 3.40 GHZ (4 CPUs), ~3.4GHz $140
Memory 4GB RAM $30
Hard-Drive 500GB Western Digital Hard Drive $42.99
Graphics Card NVIDIA GeForce GT 640 2GB Video Memory $89.99
Power Supply Thermaltake TR2 600W 240-Pin Power Supply TR-600 $39.99

 

Our estimated Total Cost: ~$597.94

 

Case: Cooler Master Cooler Master HAF Stacker 915R Mini-ITX Mod Tower Computer Case

  • Why this Product: Just in case you find yourself needing a tower, the Master Cooler HAF Stacker Mini-ITX is a great mid sized tower, mainly because of it’s size. It fits perfectly on our worktable, and does not get in the way.
  • Substitutes: If you choose to go with a different Motherboard, make sure you get the appropriate tower to pair.

OS: Windows 7

  • Why this Product: Windows 7 is a very popular operating system that supports a lot of the applications we run on our machine, such as Laser Cutter software.
  • Substitutes:  Mac OS X

MotherBoard: Z87N-WIFI mini-ITX-Mainboard

  • Why this Product: Brand names aside, any mini-ITX mainboard with graphics card support should suffice. mini-ITX boards generally have zero to two expansion slots, which makes them cheap. This product is great if you’re on a tight budget.
  • Substitutes: Any mini-ITX mainboard with graphics card support will work.

Processor: Intel Core i3-4130 CPU @ 3.40 GHZ (4 CPUs), ~3.4GHz

  • Why this Product: This CPU gives you a lot of bang for your buck in relation to CPU Mark in relation to the price point. cpubenchmark.com has a table of over 20,000 CPUs, their updated price points, and their speeds. Looking on the site we are able to see the cpu mark of a variety of CPUs. The CPU Mark represents a processor’s peak performance relative to other CPUs.

CPUVALUE  CPUMARK

(Taken from http://bit.ly/1MX0UWi)

  • Substitutes: Varies on your budget, Intel Core i5-2500K @3.30 and up.

Memory: 4GB RAM

  • Why this Product: With Skanect requiring a minimum of 2GB RAM, having a bit more RAM for cushion to handle all of our processes is nice.
  • Substitutes: You can never go wrong with more RAM! Just make sure if you are going with a different motherboard, that your board supports your RAM!

Power Supply: Thermaltake TR2 600W 240-Pin Power Supply TR-600

  • Why this Product: You have to power a motherboard somehow!
  • Substitutes: It all depends on the amount of power your motherboard needs.

All in all, building your own 3D scanner computer is a fun task, and will allow for you and your youth to learn more about the inner workings of computers. This computer has been our go to for 3D scanning, and has allowed us to scan all of our staff members here at DHF. We were then able to take the scanned files, export them, edit them, and print them out on our own 3D printers. You DO NOT need to build your own computer to do 3D scanning, this is simply a slightly more advanced DIY project. This process is great for illustrating how digital fabrication works, from the ground up, as well as making personalized 3D figures.

 

3D Printing Landscapes

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If you’re an geography enthusiast or looking for a cool project this might be the project for you!

Github user, JThatch, created a web application that generates landscapes into 3d models. The application is called Terrain2STL; it’s pretty easy to use!

If you’d like to try this, follow these simple steps:

  1. Open up Terrain2STL in a new tab; the creator uses Google Maps to search around for landscapes.
  2. Click and drag around the map to find a selected area or you can input coordinates.
    1. *Tip*  Rocky terrains works best.
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  3. Once, you find an area you like, click the ‘Center to View’ button to make the red box appear.
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  4. Then, you want to increase the box size by dragging the slider towards the right and then drag the to red box to where you want it.
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  5. Once you’ve done that, you can almost ready to print. I’d increase the Base Height to 2 or 4.
  6. After that click ‘Create STL File’ and then click download.

 

There’s also a Moon2STL if you’d like to print pieces of the Moon!

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Could IoT Have Saved My Plant?

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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: https://data.sparkfun.com/streams/mK62xWK0d1SzMWqDj19D/).

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.

3D Printing at Northumberland Christian School

“3D printing is great fun. Even though everyone has heard about 3D printing before, it does not prepare you for the feeling of accomplishment you feel when it creates the object in real life that you created virtually. It has taught me a lot about simple modeling and about how real products are made.” – Luke D. 11th

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When we found out we were selected as a Perpetual Innovation Fund recipient with the Digital Harbor Foundation initiative we were blown away. Opportunities like this don’t usually reach small Christian schools. The surrounding community is small and the overall industry in our area doesn’t scream out innovation. The great thing for us, Digital Harbor looked past the barriers and the stigmas, and gave us a chance. To be honest, it has changed the face of creativity in so many students.

To begin the school year, we began offering 3d design and print classes to 10th-12th grade students. Being we had just one Printrbot Simple, we had to keep the classes small. With a group of 4-5 students working on laptops in our science lab/3d printing space, the idea started to come to life. Our students quickly took to the simple lessons of Tinkercad and within two weeks, we were ready for our first challenge. The first challenge was a kitchen challenge. Students were asked to create something that could be used in the kitchen. This would also be our first fundraiser towards the PI Fund. The way we set it up, students could vote on their favorite design by donating their spare change. The contest was also set up so that the winning design would get a portion of the funds. The winning design was created by Juliette K (a new student this year). She created a double-decker dish, which serves the purpose of holding your cherries or seeds, and has a bowl underneath for your pits or shells.

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“My school’s 3D printer gives an amazing venue for student creativity. It’s really cool to use a program that turns my ideas into high-definition reality. From designing cookie cutters to making accessories to inventing classroom tools, 3D printing is one of my favorite activities at school.” -Juliette K. 10th

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Our next idea was to involve the community. We have a great community here at NCS. Many parents are alumni, and the tight knit community really gives way to some cool opportunities. We decided to do our first family make night to introduce everyone to 3d printing, but also add in the cookie cutter concept. With some student helpers, we ran two computers lab and had a huge turn-out. We had over 50 parents and kids, ranging from kindergarten through high school. The feedback we got was tremendous. Parents and students were amazed at what they could create in such a short time. We spent the next two weeks blasting out about thirty-five cookie cutters in time for Thanksgiving break.

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Following the success of the Family Make Night, we did a student contest with cookie cutters. Any student in the school could submit a cookie cutter design for the contest. From the submitted designs, a few were selected as winners. The winning designs were then offered to the entire school community as potential Christmas gifts. The money generated from the sales went into the PI Fund and the winning designs also got a portion of the money raised. The amount of orders were got was overwhelming. We started printing round the clock and even had to use some extra printers at a local youth center. We raised over $300 dollars and were able to give away $50 to the student designers.

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“3d printing at NCS is a great outlet for me to express creativity. It’s a good environment to just relax, have fun, and learn at the same time.” – Hugh H. 12th

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Currently we have added a second printer here at the school. Because of the success of using our Printrbot Simple, the school agreed to buy a Printrbot Plus. We now have two printers running, and have started using the new printer to design needed items for the school. We have just begun a lettering project involving ProtoPasta’s Carbon Fiber filament. The new printer has also allowed the class size to be increased, and will open the doors for more students next school year.

We are also in the middle of a design challenge involving the use of pencils… More to come from us soon!

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Ian Snyder is a science teacher and 3D printing coach at Northumberland Christian School. He also runs a makerspace at The Refuge. You can follow him on Twitter @ateachr or catch some shots on Instagram at mriansnyder.

 

Thank You, CodeKit!

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Wow! We cannot thank Bryan Jones enough!  He’s the founder of CodeKit and he’s kindly donated licenses of CodeKit to the Tech Center. Not just one or two, but forty! CodeKit is a package manager application that helps to build websites faster and compiles all of the cutting edge languages. It also keeps everything in one place, up to date, and optimizes your images.

I’ve been using CodeKit for the past two weeks as a trial and when it ran out I was extremely frustrated. It’s been providing me with ease thus allowing me to focus more on creating than compiling. Having everything in one place is keeping me very organized which is key when working on a project. You don’t want things everywhere because it’ll be harder to find when you need it.

This donation will allow us to provide a needed resource for our future youth to use in their experiences learning web development. We can have more kids involved in web development and have them working even faster than before. Also, we will be able to teach them the importance of project management and organization. This is so exciting and I can’t wait for our youth to start using it!

 

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!

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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!

New Workshop: Interactive Games for Educators

Digital Harbor Foundation is offering an exciting new workshop, Interactive Games for Educators. Interactive Game Design is a rapidly developing field that exists in the intersection of physical components and computer programming, where designers shape and construct new methods of gaming. In this workshop, educators will learn how to program basic game mechanics that integrate physical components.

We are offering this workshop because of the powerful impact that teaching game design can have in the classroom. Game design is an engaging multidisciplinary platform for youth and is a field with several possible career pathways. Youth will develop the foundations of computer programming in a medium that is fun and accessible for them.

MiniMakersScratch

Educators attending the workshop will learn how to use Scratch, a free web-based visual game engine developed by the MIT Media Lab as well as the Makey Makey, another invention from the MIT Media Lab. The Makey Makey enables youth to bring physical interactivity to their games by acting as a gateway between conductive objects and the computer. Attending educators will develop the confidence to be able to help youth unleash their creative potential in a medium that actively incorporates problem solving, critical thinking, iteration, and the design process.

Learn more or register for this workshop

One of the strengths of Scratch is that it is a highly accessible platform for teaching youth the core concepts necessary to embark on a computer programming pathway. Additionally, since Game Design is a field that incorporates several skill sets such as business, art, programming, and storytelling, incorporating Game Design into the classroom exposes youth to fields that they may not even have considered exploring. For example, a youth who may not demonstrate interest in Language Arts may excel at storytelling in a game narrative.

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One of the ultimate reasons for integrating these elements into the classroom is to create more future coders. The programming principles and mechanics that this workshop covers can be the first step for educators interested in setting their youth for a future programming pathway.

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Educators will leave with an Interactive Games Starter Kit as well as access to additional “Going Further” lessons and resources that build on the base skills covered in the workshop. Now is a fantastic time to integrate Game Design into the classroom as it is a medium that is rising in popularity with several possible career paths and deep educational potential.

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Learn more or register for this workshop today!

New Workshop: IoT for Educators

We are very excited to announce our newest educator workshop offering: IoT for Educators! But wait, what is IoT? IoT stands for Internet of Things and the Internet of Things means connected sensors and actuators to the Internet so that you can collect data about the world around you and interact with it. This data can then be visualized or used in a multitude of ways to gather useful information.

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IoT has been hailed as the next frontier in emerging technology and we are beginning to see these devices everywhere – Nest thermostats that can be controlled via your phone are increasingly popular IoT devices, as well as Philips Hue light bulbs whose colors can be changed by your phone, and so much more.

We wanted to create a workshop for educators to teach them how to use electronic devices to collect data within their learning environment to collect real-world information that can be used by students. Instead of using fake data about some stranger’s shoe size in a math problem – now you will be able to collect data about classroom temperature and use that information for analysis.

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In this workshop, educators will learn how to program connected devices to monitor and interact with the world around them. The workshop will include training and materials to support step-by-step projects that allow youth to interact with and monitor their environment while collecting real-world data.

The workshop includes a kit of technology devices and coordinating materials as well as software tools and recommendations and educational support.

Learn more about the workshop and sign up

Over the next few weeks we will be sharing more ideas and inspiration for IoT projects, so be sure to check back!