Scratch Game Jam Recap

Digital Harbor Foundation hosted a Scratch Game Jam on Friday October 30 and Saturday October 31. The event was open to all current Maker Foundations youth and Members, and I’m excited to announce that we had 17 youth attend!

One of the best parts about the Game Jam was the combination of youth, as we had quite a range of game development skills. The focus was primarily on using Scratch, a free web-based introductory game engine/platform that is excellent for learning programming fundamentals as well as game mechanics. Scratch is the platform that we use in Maker Foundations, and I’m pleased to write that several of our Maker Foundations youth were confident enough to participate in the Game Jam with just one week of Scratch instruction and practice!


The Game Jam was modeled as a hackathon with youth working on a new project during the event. When everyone arrived on Friday, Jean Carlos and I provided a brief overview of the schedule of events and handed out some suggested roles for a collaborative game studio as well as a guideline of some things to consider including in each project. We made sure to keep the actual event open ended with lots of room for creativity and exploration while also encouraging the youth to form development studios with shared roles and responsibilities.


One of my favorite parts about the whole event was that Maker Foundations youth and Members formed teams together!  The blending of Scratch and game development skill levels resulted in a richer and more creative experience for all involved. Throughout the event we constantly heard youth encouraging each other and offering tips and tricks to solve problems. Since the event was hosted in the MegaLab with the tables set up similarly to the arrangement during the Baltimore Hackathon, open collaboration and sharing was encouraged throughout. Youth often took breaks to walk around and play each other’s games, offering positive feedback and sharing insights.


Two of our attending Members have done significant game development work in Scratch and decided to use the focused time of the Game Jam to level up their Unity development skills. Unity is a free professional grade game engine that is quickly becoming the industry standard platform, and it was great to see two of our youth working through a game together with the aim of creating a playable demo while focusing on solidifying their knowledge of game mechanics and development. Having these two working on a game in Unity was a fantastic motivator for the youth developing in Scratch, as that is one of the possible game development pathways that we encourage youth to take.


We finished the event with a youth showcase where all the participants shared their projects, reflected on their development process, and demonstrated the game with a quick play-through. Many of the youth were sad to go when the event concluded, and we heard several participants mention that the one thing they would change about the Game Jam is that it should run longer next time!


Here is a link to the Scratch Game Jam 2015 Studio so that you can play all the projects from the weekend: Game Jam Fall 2015.

DIY Documentation Station

One of my tasks is to help document new projects at DHF.  My typical process has been to convince Steph to help me by taking photos while I work or using a tripod and a remote.  The tripod and remote is less than ideal because I have to frame the shot, start the timer and then run back to my seat to assume my pose.  I usually end up with a lot of blurry photos of me and my face looks unfriendly in the photos because I’m stressed about setting up the shot.  I finally decided to build myself a documentation station to help me create project tutorials and to also serve as a document camera during our educator workshops.  It turned out to be incredibly easy, practical, versatile and cheap! You can use it with a DSLR, a point and shoot camera, a tablet or phone, or even a USB webcam.

DIY Documentation Station IMG_5185 IMG_5187


Build Time:

30 minutes

Skills Needed:

  • If you use a saw, the ability to use a saw
    • If you use one of the safer PVC pipe cutting tools, it’s not as dangerous
  • Ability to safely use an exacto knife or scissors for cutting foam core


  • PVC Cutter or saw
  • Exacto knife or scissors or box cutter
  • Drill with a  3/8″ or 1/4″ bit


  • 3/4″ PVC (about 10′ feet)
  • 1″ PVC (less than 1′ foot)
  • 6x 3/4” Elbow Joints
  • 6x 3/4” T Joints
  • 2x 1” T Joints
  • Foam Core (you can get this from Amazon but it would be better to get it from a local craft or office supply store)
  • 3/8″ x 1.5″ bolt OR 1/4″ x 1.5″ bolt for smaller cameras
  • Ball head mount (optional)
  • Tripod mount for iPad and tablets (only needed if you are using an iPhone or tablet)

Step-By-Step Guide:

  1. Decide which camera you would like to use with your documentation station.
    • If you are going to use an iPad, iPhone, or small point and shoot camera only:
      1. You don’t need a ball head mount but I recommend it.  It gives you more flexibility directing your camera’s shots. If you use a ball head mount, you will want the 3/8″ x 1.5″ bolt.
      2. If you don’t use a ball head mount, then you can use the 1/4″ x 1.5″ bolt and the Tripod mount for iPad and Tablets.
    • If you are going to use a DSLR:
      1. You definitely need a ball head mount and the 3/8″ x 1.5″ bolt
  2. Cut your 3/4″ PVC pipe as follows:
    • 2x 24” length of 3/4” PVC (This turned out to be a little high after some use, if I were to do it again, I would make them 18″ instead)

    • 3x 22” length of 3/4” PVC

    • 8x 10” length of 3/4” PVC

    • 2x 4” length of 3/4” PVC

    • 1x 4” length of 1” PVC

  3. Assemble your base with the 3/4″ PVC pieces as follows:
  4. Assemble the 1″ PVC pieces as follows and drill a 3/8″ hole (you can do a 1/4″ hole for point and shoot cameras or if you don’t want to use a tripod head) in the PVC:
  5. Assemble the top assembly of the station as follows (the 1″ pieces should slide freely over the 3/4″ PVC):
  6. Combine the two assemblies:
  7. Cover the bottom with foam core poster board or another rigid material.
  8. Now you can use the hole to mount a tripod head and camera for documenting:

Quick Tip: Place bulletin board paper over the foam core to add more contrast or just to cover up dirt.

Making For Educators Resource Port:

If you enjoyed this project, I have many more that we are adding to our Making for Educators Resource Port. With a subscription to our resource port, you get a constantly updated and growing collection of resources covering all that we’ve discovered about making through extensive experimentation and iteration in our youth focused makerspace program. This Resource Port includes 15 projects (and growing), guides, and supporting articles to help you setup and maintain your own youth makerspace.


LittleBits Hacking Resources

Here are some resources to get you started with your LittleBits hacking:

Color Code

  • POWER = Blue

  • INPUT = Pink

  • OUTPUT = Green

  • WIRES = Orange

Order Matters

  • POWER first
  • INPUTS only affect OUTPUTS after them

Announcing the First Winners of the DHF Perpetual Innovation Fund Prize!

We are excited to announce the first winners of the DHF Perpetual Innovation Fund Prize, an initiative we  launched in January 2014 to provide a free 3D printer and training to educators who plan to start a 3D printing youth enterprise at their school. Each educator-led youth enterprise that receives funding commits to paying forward a portion of the profits from the 3D printed objects they sell, so that another youth enterprise can also benefit!

3D Printed Objects

The winners include 9 entrepreneurial educators from the greater Baltimore region, Northumberland Pennsylvania as well as the entire San Rafael School District in California, which is committing to train multiple educators in 3D Printing technology:

  1. Andrew Pham, Benjamin Franklin High School (Baltimore, MD)
  2. Benjamin Johnson, Maree Garnett Farring Elementary/Middle School (Baltimore, MD)
  3. Brian Hoffman, Roland Park Elementary/Middle School (Baltimore MD)
  4. Cindy Marcoline, Windsor Hills Elementary/Middle School (Baltimore MD)
  5. Elisabeth Gambino, Academy of College and Career Exploration High School (Baltimore, MD)
  6. Ian Snyder, Northumberland Christian School (Northumberland, PA)
  7. Jason Peinert, Leith Walk Elementary/Middle School (Baltimore MD)
  8. Lynn Patterson, The Academies at Frederick Douglass High School (Baltimore, MD)
  9. Ryan Hoge, Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts (Dundalk, MD)
  10. The San Rafael School District (San Rafael, CA)

We received applications from across the country – from rural New York to California –  and these winners stood out as strong passionate applicants who are teaching 21st century job skills to students!

In addition, we are also very excited to announce that Scott Dellosso of Perryville Middle School, the first educator to receive funding from the Perpetual Innovation Fund in a pilot program, had already paid-forward the entirety of his Perpetual Innovation Fund Investment! We literally believe that 3D printers can pay for themselves, and are excited to see youth enterprises like Perryville already putting that belief into action!

The Perpetual Innovation Fund is made possible thanks to the R.W. Deutsch Foundation and their seed support.


Applications are now open for the second round of the Perpetual Innovation Fund Prize, which will be open until May 15, 2015.

Know an educator and youth team that would be a great fit? Please visit this link to apply