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Celebrating Community Learning at SparkMacon MakerSpace

Christmas Ornament Making

On our blog InspiredToEducate.NET, we have reflected on the benefits of learning by making.   It has been fun putting project based learning ideas into action at our new makerspace.   Our team has been given the opportunity to implement project based learning experiences in community meetups.   Our team has completed some informal reflection upon community events so far with the hopes of improving our guest experience.  I wanted to share a few celebrations and ideas we’re considering to make things better.

What’s going well?

  • We are very excited that we’re attracting a variety of makers.    For background, our “open make” night is scheduled the first friday of every month and open to the public.   This event gives our makerspace the opportunity to serve the public at large.  During our first events, our makers have included arduino builders, coders, boot painters, cosplay crafters, artists, lego fans, musicians, and wood workers.   It was neat to see young makers working right beside the adults.

  • One of our key dreams for SparkMacon is that we inspire the next generation of engineers, scientists and artists.  It has been cool to see families bring their kids to the events.   Inspired by the Maker Kids Makerspace and ClubHouse Augusta, our team has been working to make sure young makers feel at home.   The kids seem to enjoy the 3D modeling activities with TinkerCAD and building stuff with Lego Wedo.   During our last open make night, we experimented with building Minecraft worlds using TinkerCAD and MCEdit.
  • I’m really pleased that my wife enjoyed getting to meet other maker families in Macon.   I know that I appreciate getting to make new friends too.  It does give me a feeling of satisfaction knowing that we’re helping to grow positive relationships through these events.   Who knows what the impact of these relationships will be five years from now?
  • It has been cool to see students teaching students.   One of the older kids that attended the open make nights has been showing the younger students how he accomplished certain things in TinkerCAD.   I also caught him showing off his “hour of code” games to his young friends.   I hope we can grow this trend in our young makers programs.  I’m looking forward to seeing our students helping other students to learn and grow.
  • The people who have tried the “hour of code” materials from code.org have really enjoyed themselves.   I got to see one of our young makers enjoying the process of building flappy birds.   Since our first open make night, I have been told that this young man has been asking more questions about learning to code.   (Way cool!!)   We’ve had a few adults show interest in the material too.  I’m looking forward to seeing us do more “learn to code” events in January.
  • Our leadership team at SparkMacon could not pull off these events alone.   It takes a lot of effort to properly market, organize, plan execute, setup and teardown events.  In our early stages, I’m thankful for our SparkMacon members who have volunteered their precious time and effort to make the space functional and welcoming to our community.

In a future blog post, I will try to reflect upon how we plan to improve our community events.

 

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Logo Programming Goes 3D

OpenJSCAD

As a kid, one of my first programming languages was the Logo.  It’s a really simple language that ran on Apple IIe’s that enables you to draw with code. Logo uses the metaphor of a turtle. The kid programmer can instruct the turtle to drop paint behind it, turn by an angle, and move forward. This simple programming environment was invented by Seymour Papert, a pioneer in helping kids to love math by learning programming.  Check out our blog post on Seymour Papert here.

To help celebrate the “Hour of Code” movement this week, I wanted to share a simple program that implements the Logo turtle metaphor in OpenJSCAD.   OpenJSCad is an open source tool enabling JavaScript programmers to create 3D models using JavaScript.   To learn more about this tool, check out our blog post here.   I hope this program can be used to engage young programmers in middle school and makers.  I think it’s also useful for artists and people who like to tinker. Since OpenJSCad can produce STL files, young programmers and makers can 3D print their creations or use the model files for Minecraft building.

The turtle class encapsulates the idea of the Logo turtle. The turtle exists in 3D space with an X,Y,Z coordinate. The turtle faces in a direction specified in degrees. When you call the “draw” method and provide a distance factor, the turtle moves forward dropping a line behind it. The “move” method shifts the turtle forward by a distance factor. Using the “turn” method, the programmer can change the direction of movement by an angle.  The programmer can set the Z-axis of the turtle.  This enables the turtle to produce 3D objects.

The main turtle class is shown below.   It should be included at the top of all OpenJSCAD code samples in this blog post.

var STARTX = 0;
var STARTY = 0;
var WIDTH = 600;
var HEIGHT = 600;

var Turtle = function()
{
this.X = STARTX;
this.Y = STARTY;
this.Z = 0;
this.Direction = 0;
this.list = [];

//==============================

this.DrawLine = function(x1,y1,x2,y2)
{
var obj = cylinder({start: [x1,y1,this.Z], end: [x2,y2,this.Z], r1: 1, r2: 1, fn: 4});
this.list.push(obj);
}

//==============================

 

this.Clear = function()
{
this.list = [];
}

//==============================

this.Draw = function(fltDistance)
{
// store current location
var currentX = this.X;
var currentY = this.Y;

// calculate new location
var deltaX = fltDistance * Math.cos(this.Direction);
var deltaY = fltDistance * Math.sin(this.Direction);
var newX = currentX + deltaX;
var newY = currentY + deltaY;

// draw line between the two
this.DrawLine(currentX,currentY,newX,newY);

this.X = newX;
this.Y = newY;
}

//==============================

this.Move = function(fltDistance)
{
// store current location
var currentX = this.X;
var currentY = this.Y;

// calculate new location
var deltaX = fltDistance * Math.cos(this.Direction);
var deltaY = fltDistance * Math.sin(this.Direction);
var newX = currentX + deltaX;
var newY = currentY + deltaY;

this.X = newX;
this.Y = newY;
}

//==============================

this.Turn = function(angle)
{
var delta = (Math.PI * 2.0 * angle) / 360.0;
this.Direction += delta;
}

//==============================

this.GetObjects = function()
{
return this.list;
}

}

So.. Let’s take you through some sample programs that you can write:

Hello Square!

For all code samples to follow, copy the “turtle” class shown previously into the OpenJSCad editor.
In the following code, we create a turtle instance. By calling “t.Draw(25)”, the turtle draws a line for 25 units. In the next line, we turn the turtle 90 degrees. We repeat the drawing and turning 3 more times to complete the drawing of a square. The turtle object stores all the drawing objects in a list. These drawing commands need to be returned at the end of the “main” function so that OpenJSCAD can process them.  That’s it!

Logo art 0

// Turtle class should be pasted below this line…..

//Sample 1 starts here….

function main()

{

var t = new Turtle();

t.Draw(25);
t.Turn(90);
t.Draw(25);
t.Turn(90);
t.Draw(25);
t.Turn(90);
t.Draw(25);
t.Turn(90);

return t.GetObjects();

}

In the following code, we adjust our program to include a loop. Logo systems make really interesting patterns when you don’t turn by 90 degrees and you do lots of looping. As you can see, the result is kind of artful.  You can probably print this and put it on your Christmas tree! :)

Logo art 1

// Turtle class should be pasted below this line…..

//Sample 2 starts here….

function main()

{
var t = new Turtle();

for(i=0; i<50; i++){
t.Draw(25);
t.Turn(100);
}

return t.GetObjects();
}

In our final sample, we set the Z factor of the turtle. The Z factor enables the turtle to move up and down in 3D space. Here’s the result.

Logo art 2

// Turtle class should be pasted below this line…..

 

//Sample 3 starts here….

function main() {

var t = new Turtle();

var k =30;
var z;

for(z=0; z<20; z++)
{
for(j=0; j<30; j++)
{
t.Draw(k);
t.Turn(131);
t.Z = z*2;
}
}

return t.GetObjects();
}

As I was writing this blog post, one of my kids asked me to move one of my Logo sculptures into Minecraft. Using TinkerCAD and MCEdit, we downloaded the model from OpenJSCAD and imported it into Minecraft.  In this Logo program, I enabled the turtle to randomly move around at right angles while moving upward.

Minecraft Logo piece

 

 

OpenJSCAD turns JavaScript programming into a way of making cool 3D art.

 

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Open Make Night at SparkMacon – Dec 5th

 

OpenMakeNight

Join us Dec 5th from 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm.    You’re welcome to design and make anything!  We’ll also offer a workshop on building winter wonder lands using Minecraft and TinkerCAD.com, a music jam session, and a DIY Christmas ornament workspace. Hope to see you there!

 

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“Educator with a Maker Mindset” by @jackiegerstein

Lego Mindstorm Building

“When a kid builds a model rocket, or a kite, or a birdhouse, she not only picks up math, physics, and chemistry along the way, she also develops her creativity, resourcefulness, planning abilities, curiosity, and engagement with the world around her.”

Dale Dougherty – Founder of Make Magazine / Maker Faires

Jackie Goldstein during the k12online conference shared a wonderful talk on the mindset for Maker education.   The “Maker education” community seeks to encourage students to be creative, curious, and foster a love of self directed learning that helps students grow their skills.  In this post, I’m not going to claim that “maker education” is the perfect teaching paradigm.   I do believe that Jackie Goldstein provides thoughtful principles that any parent or educator can use to help prepare learners for a future where creativity and adaptability are essential skills.

This talk is very timely.  Thanks to the support of many community leaders, technology professionals, and artists in Macon, GA, we have finally opened Macon’s first MakerSpace: SparkMacon.  We held our very first “Open Make Night” on Nov 7th.   During this event, my friends Cheryl Long, Brent Lanford, Jessie Betzel, Stephen Finney, and I facilitated maker activities ranging from 3D modeling, weapons of mini destruction, a hackathon, Arduino hacking, Lego Wedo, and Makey Makey projects to help the community understand the ethos of maker culture.   I especially want to thank Cheryl Long from the Museum of Aviation for sharing her time and expertise in STEAM education with our community.   We had a great time together!  It felt like a dream come true!

As we continue to grow the culture of SparkMacon MakerSpace, we want to design a great learning culture for our makers (young and old.)  I really appreciate Jackie’s teaching since we’re in the process of designing our workshops and education culture.

In motivating this talk, Jackie encourages us to consider the profound context of learning in 2014.   The web has created a context of information abundance for our learners.   The web has also encouraged a profound culture of sharing and openness. If I need a 3D model of a plant cell, you can probably can find it on thingaverse.com.   I’m still amazed by the variety of software you can find on sourceforge.net .   Thanks to decreased costs in technology, digital fabrication, robotics, and computer programming are become very accessible.

Jackie encourages teachers to consider taking on a special mindset to help our students be creative, be self directed, and be curious.  Here are few statements and questions that I enjoyed from her talk.

  • Build community first: Jackie encourages educators to start by building community among the learners.  There’s a lot of learning that can occur in a peer-to-peer manner.  Are we inspiring students to be kind, concerned, passionate, and compassionate?
  • Are you the lead learner?  Are we teaching students how to learn and critically evaluate information?
  • Student as Teacher: It’s common for learners to consume learning materials.  Do our students also produce learning material for others?
  • Who is working the hardest in a learning environment?  The student or the teacher?  Is learning centered dependent only on the instruction of the teacher?
  • An Environment Designed for Learning: “Does the physical setting of your classroom reflect an information rich, connected, participatory and creative culture?”  “Do you setup the conditions for learners to be great?”
  • PLN’s for students: Do we encourage our students to build a personalized learning network?
  • What is possible? Traditionally, education focuses on “what is.”   Do we encourage learners to explore what is possible?
  • Focus on process of learning: Jackie encourages us to focus on the process of learning and making.   It’s less important to have a perfect and flawless final outcome.  How do we create a culture where learners can learn from failure in a positive manner?
  • Are we encouraging authentic assessments of work? For technology projects, the work either works or it doesn’t.   You also might consider using peer reviews as a way to generate feedback for the learner.

Thanks Jackie for sharing this great workshop.  It definitely gave me many ideas to consider.

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Top 10 Posts on Maker Education

 

Peter and his car

Books

Makerspace Playbook – Maker Education Initiative [free ebook]

Invent To Learn: Making and Tinkering and Engineering in the Classroom by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Dr. Gary Stager

 

 
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Impact of Seymour Papert on Learning, Engagement, and Creativity

kidsWithRobots

In our digital economy, it becomes important that our children learn to create, to love learning, to have integrity, to foster critical thinking, and to be active citizens.   It’s become commonly understood that our current culture for our US school system doesn’t always foster these key qualities.    I wanted to introduce you to Seymour Papert who has presented potential solutions to making sure creativity, curiosity, and personalized learning become central parts of our learning culture.  In reading some of his work, Seymour Papert challenges us to focus on improving the ways kids learn.   He deemphasizes the craft of providing explicit instruction to students.   In his career, he promoted the insight that students learn most profoundly when challenged to make constructs linked to the learning subject.

On a personal level, I find Seymour Papert’s ideas profound because I really didn’t like math in school.   It’s a wonder that I ever got a degree in computer science.  I credit my personal success to my parents, wonderful teachers and their caring support.  I also believe that my desire to write video games fueled my motivation for learning.   Learning about vectors in calculus is profoundly more interesting when you figure out that you can use those ideas in making 3D video games.  Learning about logic is the cure for insomnia.   The ideas of logic come alive when you’re challenged to design the brain of a computer creature in a game.

In the following TED Talk, Dr. Gary Stager, author of the book “Invent to Learn”, outlines some of the major contributions Seymour Papert shared with our community.   To prepare for this blog post, I also reviewed a speech Papert presented entitled “Constructionism vs. Instructionism.”   I have tried to outline some of the key considerations given by Papert as we form a new vision for our schools that foster creativity, curiosity, and personalized learning.

Epathy in schools:  Dr. Stager celebrates Papert’s spirit of epathy in schools.   Kids learn differently.  To the 21st century school, he challenges schools to find ways to leverage the strength of a child’s learning style by giving students options and environments for learning.   Project based learning and flipped classroom trends echo this idea.

Engagement through knowledge application: Papert remarked that we love to learn ideas that have relevance and utility.  Situational cognition notes that we tend to learn concepts more profoundly when we can immediately apply the new concept.   In Papert’s theory of constructionism, he challenges us to create environments and situations where children learn to construct their own knowledge by positively constructing physical things. He also felt that computers provided a platform for students to construct and experience their ideas.

Robots for Learning: Lego Mindstorms is named after the book “Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas” by Seymour Papert.  Papert recognized early that robotics technology can be a platform for students to experience and learn math.   While math can be dry, children tend to be curious about robots.

Promoting contexts for learning:  Papert sought to bring math education to life.   He proposed the creation of a “MathLand”, a set of environments and contexts enabling students to experience and experiment with math.    In his mind, he wanted to see kids program the computer.   He didn’t want computers programming our kids.   This idea also shows up in Papert’s invention of the LOGO, one of the first programming languages for kids.   It seems like virtual environments like OpenSim and Minecraft have the potential to become a MathLand for students.

In Papert’s view, math and computer science should be invisible.   Let’s say you see a poet writing in a park.  You interrupt his writing process to ask him “what are you doing?”   He is probably not going to talk about his pen and paper.   The poet is more likely to share the ideas from the poem.   Papert saw that math and computer science are tools to empower the creativity and genius present in every person.   He challenged our community to place emphasis on growing the craft of thinking, crafting and growing that creative potential.

We’ll close this post with this enduring quote from Dr. Papert:

“I didn’t show you these examples because I think you should copy them, because I think this is what the future will be like. These are just little steps. I’d like you to be part of inventing a future. Nobody knows how computers will be used in 10 or 20 or 30 year’s time. What we do know is that they’ll be everywhere, as much as pencils. Everybody will have them all the time.”

The goal is to foster the learning potential of the student person.   How do we use math and computers as a means of empowerment?  Not an end.

 

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Open Make Night at SparkMacon – Nov 7th

Open Make Night at SparkMacon

 

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Humans Need Not Apply [video]

Published on October 18, 2014 by in stem, technology

johnny5 - the dreamer robot

Imagine a world where large classes of people lose their jobs by no fault of their own.   How would we adapt? A friend of mine shared a thought provoking video entitled “Humans Need Not Apply.”   CGP Grey argues that humanity needs to get ready because technology and automation present a threat to many types of jobs.

When I worked toward my masters degree in computer science,  I became especially interested in research on machine learning.   In this field of computer science, we study various theories of emulating human learning, pattern recognition, and simulated creativity.   After watching this video, I find myself wanting to consider the worse case scenario.   What would happen if general purpose robots and automation succeeded in making large classes of people unemployable in their current work?  This fearful worse case scenario hinges on the success of “general purpose robots”  and advances in machine learning technology.   On the machine learning front,  we still struggle with understanding the basics of human creativity?   One of my favorite AI thinkers, Marvin Minski from MIT, argues that artificial intelligence researchers have not given sufficient research attention to the following questions: (1) How do we detect and recognize beauty.   (2) How do we emulate art and creativity of humans?  Computers can’t even emulate the pattern recognition / cognitive learning power of infants.   Additionally, current machine learning techniques tend to focus on emulating particular modes of human thinking.  (i.e. pattern recognition, search, making plans, looking for winning moves, etc.)      It will be a long before we create the higher order algorithms that faithfully emulate our capacity for general purpose thought and switching between modes and knowledge representation.

This, however, is not the point of “Humans Need Not Apply.”   In 2014, we live in a world where automation and technology continue to take over work once done by people.   People are becoming “unemployable by no fault of their own.”   This is happening today.  (not in a galaxy far far away).    It’s happening now!    I want to encourage conversation on this topic.  I would enjoy hearing your thoughts on the arguments of this video.  Here are a few questions to consider:

1) There is already a large and growing gap between the rich and poor.   As a just society, what responsibilities do we have to help people adapt to a economy strongly dominated by technology?  How do we help the poor?  How do we help the elderly?

2) Have you seen certain industries or areas of government that resist adoption of automation even if reduced costs can be achieved?

3) Since high scale automation and general purpose robots exist and will continue to get better, is there a way to plan your career so that you have robots working for you?

4) What types of jobs will be created as computers get better at learning?  What types of jobs will be created as general purpose robots become more common?

5)  Humanity has faced situations where we needed to adapt due to automation or out sourcing.   What lessons can we learn from history?

6) Since technology and automation will greatly impact our future economy, how do we encourage our children and students to be creative, curious and adaptable?

7) Let’s consider the best possible scenario… What is the best thing that could happen if we can create smart robots that do “mundane” or “high risk” human labor?  What is the greatest positive impact of large scale automation?  How do we ensure that this positive impact becomes a reality?

 

Looking forward to hearing your comments!!

 

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10 Benefits of Supporting SparkMacon MakerSpace Today!

SparkMacon Front Door

 

Support SparkMacon: Our MakerSpace for Macon, GA by giving to our IndieGogo funding campaign. http://igg.me/at/sparkmaconDonations big and small are greatly appreciated. We’re very thankful for the generosity of our community.

 

On behalf of the SparkMacon team, we want to express our heartfelt gratitude to the SparkMacon members who have helped us raise $7225.00 on our IndieGogo fund raising campaign.   The support from the Macon community has been awesome!!

If you have not had the opportunity to contribute to our IndieGogo campaign, please consider the following benefits SparkMacon MakerSpace will have on your creativity, your business, and the community.  We want to help you grow as a maker!  We believe in the growth of Macon.

1) Open Make Nights: During First Friday’s, SparkMacon will be open to the community for free for “Open Make Nights”! Our members will introduce visitors to the community, tools or equipment and help you make something too! We’ll offer FREE training on high demand maker skills. We will host open make nights every First Friday from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

2) $40,000 in tools and equipment: With standard membership, you get exclusive access to $40,000 in the latest creative tools and equipment.

On the tech side, you’ll have access to our industrial grade 3D printers, laser cutter/engraver, music /audio recording equipment, Mac and PC lab equipped with the latest creative software.
For our artisans, we have a robust wood working space, jewelry tools, art supplies, and more!

3) Become a member today! If we reach our goal of $10,000 in the next 6 days on our IndieGogo campaign, all SparkMacon members get an extra month of membership for free. If you pre-purchased a 1 month membership, we’ll give you 2 months of membership.

Donation Level Perk Membership Cost Per Month Savings using IndieGogo Discounts
$50.00 2 months of membership $25.00 $30.00
$100 4 months of membership $25.00 $60.00
$400 13 months of membership $30.77 $120.00

4) Your Event in SparkMacon: Your club or organization can host public meetings events in our meeting space for free. Your events needs to be sponsored by two existing keyed members and approved by the leadership board. That’s it!!

5) SparkMacon Maker Showcase: Showcase your art, technology, club, or company at the grand opening in early December. It’s going to be an amazing party and opportunity to connect with the top technology professionals and our creative community.

6) Maker and Business Education: With membership, you get access to training workshops around 3D printing, laser engraving, woodworking, graphic design, robotics and others that will cover tools and resources inside the space. You also get exclusive access to workshops from the Macon Arts Alliance Amplify program. These workshops will include topics around marketing, rocking your Etsy store, social media, business planning, funding, online business and others.

7) Memberships make GREAT gifts! SparkMacon memberships make great gifts for a friends and family. Top Middle Georgia companies are showing their appreciation of their top performing employees with SparkMacon memberships.

8) We love our corporate sponsors: We enjoy celebrating our corporate sponsors through our website, email and social media channels.

9) Supporting the next generation of creative STEM professionals: Our SparkMacon mentors will support the young makers and their families with coaching, tools training, and resources to help them bring their maker creations to life in a project based learning experience. We believe it’s important to inspire the next generation of makers to love learning and help them be creative and curious.

10) Supporting Your Job Growth: Our community has already attracted some of the most talented artists, media professionals and technology professionals in Macon. We love to support local job seekers, makers, technology employers, and local start-ups. It’s a great time to a Macon Maker… and Macon Made!!

 

 

Support SparkMacon: Our MakerSpace for Macon, GA by giving to our IndieGogo funding campaign. http://igg.me/at/sparkmaconDonations big and small are greatly appreciated. We’re very thankful for the generosity of our community.

 

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Why Does the Makers Movement Matter?

Robots Under God: A Project from Atlanta Mini Maker Faire 2013

As I woke up to attend the Atlanta Makerfaire 2014, I started to reflect upon why I personally get excited about growing the SparkMacon MakerSpace community. Why is building a makerspace community important? Why is growing a community of art and technology creatives worthy of investment and time?

Highlights from Atlanta Maker Faire 2014

Growing Innovative Culture and People: I personally believe that the organizations that will make the biggest impact in the world are creative organizations.   In the past few years, I started to become an anthropologist of innovation. I’m naturally curious about how communities organize themselves so that they maximize their impact and creative output. (i.e. Google, Apple, Pixar, Ideo, etc.)  What do these communities believe and value? What motivates them? How do they lead and communicate? Helping to grow SparkMacon’s community has been such a wonderful opportunity to explore these questions with other Middle Georgia leaders. By working hard and putting people first, we are trying to find answers to these questions. We have such a wonderful and generous team.

I believe the Makers movement is a game changer. In the context of education, I hope that we can inspire students to just love learning. The Maker education movement has challenged our communities to give students freedom to explore their own creativity and process of discovery. It’s amazing to see a child’s creative capacity if they are given the creative freedom, tools, and supportive coaching. On the business front, it’s amazing that we now live in a world where an ideas can be sketched on a computer. (i.e. an app, a 3D design, a song, art, etc) Over the next few years, we will continue to see that it’s possible to take the “bits” of your idea and convert them into a prototype or something that can be sold. (“atoms”) Check out our blog post here for more details on this trend.  I’m excited that I was able to take a Google Cardboard prototype that I created using TinkerCAD and turn it into a working minimum viable product.  The sketching process took one or two hours.  The 3D printing process took 5 to 6 hours.  In a world where digital fabrication technologies enable us to prototype new products in days, how do we teach our students and communities to become great product designers?  How do we empower their creativity and capacity for innovation?

Google Cardboard

Being creative and tinkering with my kids: While I enjoy technology, I love my family. I’m very thankful to my mom and dad for fostering my personal creativity through music. These creative experiences have given my life joy, richness, depth, and way to serve others though music.  I will always cherish my experiences as a choir director.   I think I’ve taken this ethos into my career as a software developer and my path as an aspiring maker. It’s wonderful to be able to be able to share the joy of making and tinkering with my kids and my wife. I love hearing my kids say “that’s cool!!” when they discover a cool robot, play with lego’s or make something awesome on their own. It’s the best feeling in the world.

Please consider finding and supporting a Makerspace or MakerFaire in your area.   It’s a worthy community effort.   It’s not just about technology or art.  It’s about making the world a better place.

All the best!

 

Support SparkMacon: Our MakerSpace for Macon, GA by giving to our IndieGogo funding campaign. http://igg.me/at/sparkmacon .

Even small contributions are helpful. We’re very thankful for the generosity of our readers.
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