Stories on leadership, maker education, and innovation 


How to build Paper Stomp Rockets

Stomp Rocket Launcher

Building paper stomp rockets can be a fun way to engage students and your kids in learning about experimentation, designing by iteration, and aerodynamics.  Let me put extra emphasis on fun!!  My kids have really loved this build.    In anticipation for a local arts, technology, and maker festival in Macon, GA, I wanted prepare a small project that would help engage my kids and other young makers.   We first discovered building paper stomp rockets at the Atlanta Mini Maker Faire.   We were instantly hooked!!  As an added benefit, it’s pretty inexpensive and easy to build.

Here’s the instructions we followed to construct our platform.  We made a few modifications since we had extra parts in our garage.

Here’s a few more designs for your reference:

Here’s another design from .

We can’t wait to share this project with our friends .  If you’re in the Macon, GA area, make sure to join us at the Make End festival.

Middle Georgia Makers and Georgia makerspaces will be exhibiting their projects, art, and crafts on November 14th to 15th at Tattnall Square Park in Macon, GA.   The festival seeks to inspire the next generation of creative tech professionals, creative artists and showcase the economic strengths of the region.

Make end


Join the Spark Macon Maker Space Community on Facebook


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Learning To Code

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5 Fun Ways to Learn Python

python  This interactive tutorial provides a fun way to get started with python programming and many other languages.   People learn best when you see a new idea and immediately apply it.  Code academy was designed with this learning pattern in mind.  You are coached to immediately apply every new programming concept in an online code edit.  This book provides a disciplined and thoughtful content for learning to code in python.   Check it out!

Invent with Python by Al Sweigart: The book provides a gentle introduction to programming and using Python for simple 2D games.   The book uses PyGame for the game framework. : This is another free book that I used when learning how to program in python.   It’s probably more appropriate for experienced programmers.  So… you’ve heard about this $35 computer called the Raspberry PI.  But what can you do with it?   Check out this magazine online for free from the Raspberry Pi Foundation.   It’s very well put together and shares tons of fun project ideas.  Makers young and old will find the content engaging and fun.




Join us at SparkMacon MakerSpace for
“Python Programming (Beginners to Experts)”

Are you curious about learning to code? Looking to get more out of your Raspberry Pi or create a game? The python programming language is one of the most productive, powerful, and fun languages you can learn. It can be used for web programming, robot control, and making games. It’s great for beginners and experienced programmers too. In this workshop, Tanya Do will teach you the basics you need to move forward with the python platform.

This session is scheduled for
11/21 from 9:30am to 11:30am.

Cost is $15.

Please register here:

Tanya is a good a friend.  I know you’ll have a fun time learning with her!


Photo credit:


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Reflecting on NASA Coding for Teachers workshop

Joey Allen breaking down a Scratch game from Mercer Creative Camps

Joey Allen breaking down a Scratch game from Mercer Creative Camps

Over the weekend, we had the opportunity to present a coding for teachers workshop at the NASA Regional Educator Resource Center (RERC) at the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins, GA and had a blast!  Our team had a wonderful time coaching teachers on using, Scratch, and maker tools in the classroom.  To the Museum of Aviation, thank you for giving me the opportunity to share this workshop with this passionate and fun community of teachers.

In designing this workshop, I wanted the teachers to have fun and play, learn the basic ideas of puzzle based programming and make connections between common core standards and code.   To help celebrate some of the benefits of making and tinkering in the classroom, I included a few elements of physical computing and digital fabrication.




During the workshop retrospective, the teachers shared the following positive elements of the workshop.

  • The teachers enjoyed getting to play games and tinker. In the second half of the workshop, we did some detailed tutorials on   The teachers enjoyed getting to see Scratch basics, how to use loudness as a code trigger, and how to use the web cam to interact with sprites.   Inspired by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager from, teachers had the opportunity to play with Scratch, Makey Makey, Arduino, Servo’s, Lego Wedo, and Khan Academy.   The workshop turned into a big party once we broke out Scratch and the Makey Makey’s .   We had lots of laughs and silly cat sounds!
  • The teachers appreciated having the space to play with the technology. I tried to design the workshop so that most of the learning occurred through hands on experiences.  Some teachers wished they had more time during their normal teaching week to do this kind of tinkering.
  • To our mentors/coaches for the weekend, please know that you have my thanks! I couldn’t have done it without you!  I just want to give shout outs to my friends Monica Kearse who teaches CS at Veterans High School, Garrett Armstrong from SparkMacon MakerSpace, Joey Allen from Mercer University and Mercer Creative Computer Camps, and my brother Francis.  The teachers appreciated all of your mindfulness and support.
  • I appreciate that Joey Allen shared some games that his students created during the Mercer Creative Camps. I think all of us were impressed by the complexity and fun factor of the games.    Allen also showcased the power of open source software.   We took some time to review the code for one of the games.   He did a great job helping the teachers draw insights from the code the students had created and breaking it down.
  • I found it interesting to hear the connections teachers created from this coding experience to common core standards: problem solving, critical thinking, coordinate systems, motion, cause and effect, simple machines, creative storytelling, and learning how to write to document solutions.   Here’s a related post from Edutopia.

Here’s some of the tools and resource links shared during the workshop.



Community and personal learning network opportunities

Georgia Makerspaces

I’m excited to learn how these powerful ideas will inspire and motivate students.  Feel free to share stories below in comments.

Make sure to join us at Make-End, Middle Georgia’s first Maker festival!  In addition to the augmented reality sandbox, we plan to provide opportunities to experience Scratch, Arduino and Makey, Makey at the SparkMacon booth.

If you’re interested in holding a coding for teachers workshop, feel free to drop me a line at Michael@InspiredToEducate.NET .   We would be excited to connect with you and serve your teaching community.

Scratch - Teaching kids to code

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Presenting the AR Sandtable at MakerFaire Atlanta

Published on October 10, 2015 by in technology

Using rice and computing to learn about topography

An augmented reality sandtable is a playful technology for introducing kids to concepts of topo maps and fluid dynamics.  It’s also ridiculously fun!  Thanks to the time and effort of makers from SparkMacon makerspace, our team built our own implementation of the AR sandtable and showcased it at Atlanta Makerfaire 2015.  We had an amazing time building it and sharing it with families across Atlanta.

So… what does it look like?  Here’s a few videos.

The original AR sandbox was created through collaborative research of the following organizations.

  • UC Davis’ W.M. Keck Center for Active Visualization in the Earth Sciences (KeckCAVES)
  • UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center
  • Lawrence Hall of Science
  • ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center

In Sept of 2013, my family got to see a similar augmented reality exhibit at the Boston Science Museum.  My kids spent hours at this exhibit and loved the experience.  You can check out our post here about MIT’s Tangible Media lab work.   From a technology perspective, the sandbox is filled with rice or sand enabling the kids to build mountains, lakes, rivers, and castles.   A projector positioned above the sandbox renders a colorized map featuring topo map lines based on the height of the sand.   Next to the projector, a XBox 360 Kinect senses the height and depth of the sand or rice.   It has always been a dream to present at a MakerFaire and build this project.  It was great to see this dream come true with my friends from SparkMacon.  It was a wonderful community building experience for our members too.   

My son’s favorite feature of the sandbox is the water simulation.  By hovering your hand over a spot, the software executes a “rain” feature under your hand.   The simulated water obeys the laws of physics that you would expect as water flows down the side of a mountain.   The total experience feels like a dynamic piece of art.  The experience was well received at MakerFaire.   Our makers were awarded a “Maker of Merit” badge for our exhibit by MakerFaire.   I know that our team enjoyed answering questions on how we built the structure, how it works, playing in the sandbox, and talking about how we might extend the work.    

This experience would not be possible without our family of makers.  

  • Garrett Armstrong – We had a few challenges early in development getting Linux installed on our workstation.  I appreciate the hours of time Garrett spent debugging our hardware setup and getting the NVidia video card working.
  • Robert Betzel – Thank you for being our master carpenter on this build.   His table size enabled a good number of families to enjoy the sandbox at one time.   It was also modular so that it was easy to setup and teardown!  We also want to thank Infinity Network Solutions who funded this build.
  • Stephen Finney, Glen Stone, Robert Reese, Nadia Osman, Brent Lanford  – Thanks for all the support in setting up the software, helping to build the system, and volunteering to present it at Atlanta MakerFaire.
  • I also want to give a special shout out to Garrett Sisk from Marion Systems.  He did a great job telling the story of the impact of 3D printing and the ways it can help people.   We’re thankful for his time and support.   We love his product in our makerspace.  Interested in purchasing a quality 3D printer for your makerspace or educational institution?  Make sure to check out   

From a software perspective, the AR sandbox is built with a few open source C++ frameworks on a modern Linux platform.

  • Vrui VR Toolkit (GNU license)
  • Kinect 3D video processing framework(GNU license)

UC Davis has posted very complete project instructions, open source tools and background at the following link:

All in all, we had an amazing time at Atlanta Makerfaire 2015.   I have posted some links, videos, and pictures below.   If you’re interested in seeing the AR sandbox and other amazing maker projects in Macon, GA, make sure to save the date for Make-End!!

Learn more .

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5 Tools for Robot building, Android and JavaScript



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Real Impact Center of Macon: Changing Lives Through STEM education


Real Impact Center of Macon, an organization dedicated to helping young ladies gain exposure and proficiency in STEM skills, offers a number of summer camp experiences and fun/engaging workshops through out the year.   I have had the pleasure of getting to know the Real Impact team and students through SparkMacon makerspace.    Our organizations believe that exposing young makers to powerful STEM skills and ideas and supporting them in their growth can change their lives.    I am continually inspired by the work of Real Impact Center.   They help remind me why we love supporting maker education in our makerspace.

Starting in May 2015, SparkMacon and Real Impact launched Project Renaissance, a pilot scholarship program designed to support students in their creativity and grow their skills as makers. In this one year program, students attend monthly workshops to become proficient in the following areas: coding, 3d modeling, 3d printing, laser cutting, electronics, arduino, robotics, video editing, and costume making. In the final months of the program, students will be challenged to design their own project utilizing their favorite aspects of the makerspace and then present that project to the maker community at one of our First Friday Open Make events. To help students and teachers achieve their project goals, all students and teachers receive full membership to SparkMacon makerspace giving them access to all of our educational programs, software, and tools.  This scholarship program is made possible through the generous support of the Georgia Technology Authority (GTA) and the Middle Georgia Regional Commission.

Real Impact 3d printing

Corey teaches students about using the 3D printer.



First robotics program



Libby shares the joy of cosplay with Real Impact students


I have valued the opportunity to teach a few of the workshops including getting started with coding using Minecraft, TinkerCAD 3D modeling, and 3D printing.  It has been fun to see how the girls have grown through these monthly workshops.

As mentioned before, our team is inspired by the efforts Real Impact and their team of volunteers.   If you check out their website, you’ll see that they offer an impressive schedule of programming for their students.   Some of their events range from weekend skill building workshops, demo sessions, summer camps, and more.   Real Impact has also been hosting a FIRST robotics league club at SparkMacon.   After talking to my friend Cathy, one of their volunteers,  I have to say that I’m moved by the amount of time, effort, and love that goes into executing all of the events of Real Impact.   Geneva West, the parents, and the team work very hard to serve their students.

From the last time I talked with them, they can probably use more volunteers to support their FIRST robotics program.   Please consider volunteering for this awesome program.   You can contact Real Impact here:

Check out their Facebook page here:

If you’re interested in making a financial contribution to Real Impact Center, I know they will appreciate it.   Check out the following link:

Real Impact Center… Thanks for the difference that you make in Macon!




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What Everybody Ought to Know About Make-End: Macon’s Maker Festival


Make-end is an art and technology festival sponsored by College Hill Alliance showcasing the talents of artists, clothing makers, computer programmers, costume designers, crafters, DIYers, engineers, entrepreneurs, furniture designers, gadget makers, game designers, graphic designers, metalworkers, robot creators, scientists, technologists, and woodworkers.

Middle Georgia Makers across the region will be exhibiting their products, services, and crafts on November 14th to 15th at Tattnall Square Park in Macon, GA.   The festival seeks to inspire the next generation of creative tech professionals, creative artists and showcase the economic strengths of the region.

My wife Sarah and I had the opportunity to take the family to our first maker festival in 2013. It was amazing.   The kids loved shooting smoke rings into the air, shooting off paper rockets, building crafts at the STEAM truck, making glop, and seeing toys created by 3D printers. On Georgia Tech’s beautiful campus, you could notice quadcopters and R/C aircraft dancing in the sky. The boys LOVED all the robots. They especially enjoyed catching Frisbee’s from the robots built by the FIRST robotics teams in Georgia. I was very impressed with the young people and mentors in the festival.  I think the festival inspired many future engineers!

I know that many of our readers care about growing the next generation of creatives like I do.   Hope to see you there with your friends and family.   It’s going to be a great time!

Learn more at

If you’ve never attended a maker festival, check the following links from Maker Faire.


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Learning to Control Robots with Your Raspberry Pi

Physical computing / robotics has become a fun and potent force in the world of technology.   There’s something magical about writing software that moves stuff in the real world.   I love that my brother in another city can chase my kids remotely using our Raspberry Pi robot I built.

In the past week, I got my hands on a new Raspberry Pi 2.  This inexpensive Linux computer gives you the ability to interface with electronics, python tools and stuff to learn to code.   Over the weekend, I decided to upgrade my CoderBot design to the Raspberry Pi 2.   In moving the robot control program over to the Raspberry Pi 2, I found out that I needed to re-write some python code to control my robot.  This process wasn’t trivial and I needed a good coach.


Fortunately, I found a great set of Raspberry PI video tutorials by Paul Mcwhorter.   Make sure to check out his blog at .   Paul recorded these video tutorials on Raspberry PI to serve the high school students he teaches.   He covers everything from setting up your Raspberry Pi for the first time, learning Linux to using the GPIO python API.  For my project, I needed to learn how to control servos using the Raspberry Pi.

Make sure to check out to review Paul’s complete list of Raspberry Pi lessons.   He also offers content on Arduino and other micro-controllers.   So far, I have found his coaching complete and informative.   As he’s teaching you to use the GPIO API to interface with electronics, I really appreciate how he connected an oscilloscope to help you visualize the patterns of voltage levels.   Check out Paul’s links below.

I hope you find these resources helpful.

What kind of stuff are you building with your Raspberry Pi?  Leave a comment below!


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10 Tools You’ll Love at SparkMacon Makerspace

Spark Macon

SparkMacon is a community space equipped with the tools and grass-roots education required to convert your idea into a reality. We blend the best of art & technology. In this post, I wanted to give you a taste of the types of tools our makerspace can offer to makers of all ages.

Our Community: We’re very proud of our community. Many of our members go out of their way to coach, mentor, and teach the tools and their skills. Why? Because they love what they do and want to share that joy with others.

3D printing: Got an idea for a product? With our 3D printing equipment, you can create a prototype!

3D Modeling Software: With the high interest in 3D printing, it becomes important to know how to create 3D models. Our community will be offering additional workshops to train you in 3D modeling software that works for you. TinkerCAD is one of my favorite tools for beginners.

Laser Cutter: Laser cutting and engraving is such a fun technology. In the following video, you can how to use the laser cutter to create 3D structures. Great tool for artists and robot builders!!

Wood working space
Wood working space

Adobe Creative Cloud: Thanks to the generous support of Adobe, our space offers our members full access to the Adobe Creative Cloud. These are amazing tools for digital artists and creatives.

Robot building: We’re currently building out workshops to help you create your own DIY robot for tinkering and learning.

Electronics: The Arduino has become a popular open source electronics tool for prototyping products. If you’re interested in trying out Raspberry Pi’s, wearables, and other electronics tools, you have to visit our electronics lab.

Korg Kross: For our music creatives, we offer software and equipment for basic music recording and audio recording. When we first opened SparkMacon, it was REALLY fun learing our Korg Kross. We really need to have a SparkMacon Jam session soon!

HP Sprout

Make sure to visit to learn about our training workshops. There’s a maker and artist in all of us! We hope to support you in your creativity! Learn more at

I want to thank all of our members and partner communities. We’re very thankful for you, your support, and helping to grow our community by sharing your craft. We would be nothing without our community.

Hope you have a great week!

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