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My Google Cardboard Prototype

Google Cardboard

 

Google Cardboard is a virtual reality technology building upon the capabilities of an Android Device.   In a previous blog post, I discussed the exciting potential of this technology in education, art, and engineering.   With help from a local Macon Maker, I was able to print my first prototype of the Google Cardboard.   It was very fun to build this prototype in a few hours with TinkerCad.   I never imagined that I’d be making a cool physical object with a browser based application.

If you’re interested in tinkering or experimenting this model, visit the following link at TinkerCad.   If you use this model, please drop me a line and let me know!

https://tinkercad.com/things/6EN9IbUAoOf

I think it’s awesome that Google has fostered a whole community of makers to improve their Google Cardboard technology.   Check out the community progress here:  https://plus.google.com/communities/111524380182206513071

I want to thank Jeremy Barker for helping me print this first prototype.   He’s a very talented and knowledgeable maker specializing in 3D scanning and digital fabrication in Macon, GA.   He was very kind to give me and a few young makers a tour of his rapid prototyping lab.    The kids were amazed by the 3D printers and scanners.   It was exciting to hear him share his dream to build a 3D scanning / digital fab business.    Like all start-ups, getting initial funding is a challenge.   So…Please consider checking out his “GoFundMe” page.   I think it’s a cool business idea.

 

 

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Beyond the Obvious by @PhilMckinney [Review]

Network of Ideas

Are you a leader, entrepreneur, or researcher looking for a system for making your organization more innovative?  In our economy, creativity has become critical skill.   In a music context, the artists that continue to re-invent themselves find ways to remain relevant, fresh, and attractive to the market.   Organizations take huge risks when they don’t reflect on their product or service offerings and look for new ways to serve.   (When was the last time you used Kodak?  How about AOL?)

Our book club at work just finished “Beyond the Obvious” by Phil McKinney, a book helping organizations create a disciplined culture of innovation.   Mr. McKinney was a director for innovation at HP. In this book, he shares his systems, plans, and soft skills required to organize innovation team and create new products and services.   He has a wealth of experience from other technology companies he has directed too.   In my view, I found this book very pragmatic and thoughtful to helping us focus our innovation activities.

Key points from “Beyond the Obvious”:

  • Questions Matter: The questions that we ask determine the quality of ideas we receive from our teams.   The book is designed to help organizations find “Killer Innovations.”    While most organizations focus on incremental innovations, Mr. McKinney coaches leaders to ask bolder questions to discover ideas that are desired by the market and remarkable.  What are the assumptions of your organization or processes?  What if you changed the assumptions about who you serve and how you serve them? “What are the criteria our customers use when selecting our product or service?”  You can find more “Killer questions” from Phil’s Twitter feed and website.
  • Management of Ideas:  You have a system for managing your money in your business or family.   In a similar way, Phil coaches organizations to create systems for managing ideas.  The book reviews a gated funding model to help your team and leadership manage risk thoughtfully.  He argues that ideas with remarkable execution define innovative companies.  Phil introduces readers to his “FIRE” method: focus, ideation, ranking, execution.
    • Focus – He encourages leaders to use bold questions to challenge and focus the attention of the organization.   This phase can also be informed by market research.  On a personal level, you also might consider your passions too.  He also challenges organizations to REALLY know who you serve.
    • Ideation – It’s important for organizations to find a system for documenting their ideas.   If you have ideas stuck in emails or meeting memo’s, it will be hard to move those ideas forward.    You also want ideas to mingle and combine.   In this phase, you want to encourage your team to combine ideas together to create new concepts.   This is especially potent when ideas combine from different divisions or functional groups.  The following TED talk speaks to this concept too.

    • Ranking – You might have hundreds of ideas.   How do you find the top 5% or 10%?   He challenges organizations to use gamification, voting, and other mechanisms to help you discover your best ideas and focus on those concepts.
    • Execution - Phil challenges individuals and organizations to move and execute their ideas.   In this perspective, he challenges organizations to build prototypes, perform limited launches, and get feedback from users.   If you start finding successes with these small prototypes and limited launches, then start selling the product and service and measure the impact thoughtful.   This is a very similar concept to “build, measure, learn” concept from Lean Startup by Eric Ries.
  •  In the closing chapters of the book, he provides a clear plan for running innovation workshops with your team.   His six golden rules for innovation workshops include the following: (1) Setting the focus, (2) Assigning 2 “Killer Questions, (3) Encourage research, (4) Don’t filter ideas, (5) Schedule time for idea generation, and (6) ranking ideas.

I think OpenIdeo is a solid example of Phil’s FIRE system in action.   If you’re looking for fresh ideas on civic entrepreneurship, this is a great website.   Notice how the website encourages focus through questions, ideation, and ranking.

If you’re serious about creating a culture of innovation, I would highly recommend Phil McKinney, “Beyond and the Obvious”, and his podcasts.    They are not easy teachings.   I, however, think they are ideas that will make a difference.

 

How do you keep yourself innovative and creative?

 

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Georgia Kid’s STEM Day at the Museum of Aviation

Kids STEM DAY

To help inspire the next generation of scientists and technology professionals, the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins organized the Georgia Kids STEM Day on 8/16/2014. It was a pleasure to see the museum education team and volunteers across middle Georgia come together to help kids from 2nd to 5th grade experience the fun and excitement of science, technology, engineering, creativity, and math.

I had the opportunity to attend the event this past weekend as a volunteer. The event attracted over 100 students.  I think everyone had a fun time tinkering, building, and experimenting. In one workshop, students engineered model rockets from paper, straws, and tape. It was neat to see their excitement launching their rockets into the sky. In another room, students learned lessons about electronics using Snap Circuits. In yet another space, students had the opportunity to tinker with robotics using Cubelets.

Thanks to the Museum of Aviation team for putting this event together.  It was so much fun!  You can learn more about this story at 13WMAZ  and Macon.com.

Our SparkMacon MakerSpace community was excited to support the Georgia Kids STEM Day. As a newly formed community, this was our first community service event. We had a blast! Two of my friends from Mercer Engineering Research Center helped kids invent cool musical art and crafts using MakeyMakey.

Mentors

The PiBot was a big hit with the young makers at the event. We loaded the robot with an obstacle avoidance program and let the kids “bounce” the robot across the conference area. For the curious students, one of our team members helped the kids make basic code changes to the Arduino robot. We were surprised to find a few 5th graders who felt very comfortable with editing and uploading C code. (I wasn’t doing C at 10 years old!)

PiBot

To help the kids get into 3D modeling and computer programming, we introduced the kids to ScriptCraft, TinkerCad, and 123D Sculpt.  Minecraft is always a hit with kids. Kids were empowered to build anything they could imagine. To enhance the building process, the kids were introduced to a few JavaScript commands to help automate large building tasks. One command automates the process of building a rectangular space of blocks. To learn more about ScriptCraft and Minecraft in Education, check out our review here.

ScriptCraft

Some of the students who visited us especially enjoyed blowing things up with “TNT” blocks. With this in mind, I taught them a few variations on JavaScript commands that would enable them to automate the distribution of “TNT” in the space. I never imagined that blowing things up could help motivate kids to code.  I think they learned about chain reactions from the activity too.

The Museum of Aviation provides a wealth of STEM events to kids, home schooling communities, and teachers through the year. Make sure to check out their website to learn more about their events, lesson plans and teaching resources (http://www.moaeducation.com )  To our community from Brent Lanford, Robert Betzel, Stephen Finney, Tanya, and Melissa, Thanks for volunteering and helping to inspire the kids.

 

 

Museum of Aviation 1

C-130 at Sunrise

 

 

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3D Modeling with 123D Sculpt

123D Sculpt

For tinkers, artists, and students interested in 3D modeling, I wanted to share my review of 123D Sculpt by @AutoDesk.   At the time of this writing, you can only find this app on the iOS app store.   I find that I gravitate toward using my desktop computer for 3D modeling since the keyboard and mouse make me feel more productive and precise.   I, however, think that 123D Sculpt utilizes the user interface of the IPAD and touch well.  In the real world, you might start a sculpture with a lump of clay and mold it into a shape.   123D Sculpt enables you to start with a digital “lump of clay” and mold it into forms that you design.      Check out the video below to see how it works.

My favorite features…

  • Symmetry: I appreciate the symmetry feature in the tool.   123D Sculpt works well when you are creating something organic looking.  In nature, symmetry is everywhere!  The symmetry feature enables you to mold and paint one half of the object.   Your changes will be mirrored on the other side of the object.
  • Downloading model files: If you publish your 3D model to the community, you can download the model files for printing.   To learn more about this procedure, please refer to the following link.   In a future paid edition, I would imagine that AutoDesk will probably enable you to download your model without publishing to the community.
  • Kid friendly: I have let my kids make stuff with 123D sculpt.  Sometimes, they just like to move around the 3D model and color it.   Other times the kids surprise me with their own creations like space ships, dinosaurs, etc.
  • Textures: You can really improve a 3D model through textures.   The tool comes with a library of textures for eyes, fur, feathers, hair, faces, skin, and more.   You can also create your own textures using your photos.

I would like to see this app come to Android devices as well.   I think I would gladly pay for this app if it enabled me to export my 3D models without using the “community share” feature.

All in all, I think this is a fun way to introduce 3D modeling to makers.   Whether you’re young or old, you’ll find this tool engaging.  I can imagine this tool being used in video game design and 3d printing projects.

 

What sort of 3D Modeling do you enjoy doing?  What tools are you excited about?

 

 

 

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SparkMacon: Our MakerSpace for Macon

Spark Macon

SparkMacon is a community innovation space equipped with the tools, equipment, and grass-roots education required to convert your idea into a reality.   Think of it as a gym membership to exercise your creativity, hands and brain.   Our community will serve artisans, technology creatives, and creative tinkers with access to tools and equipment, training, and support for entrepreneurs.  In our vision, the space will be equipped with a wood / metal working shop, electronic lab tools and supplies, a laser cutter, engraver, music recording lab, and a professional grade 3D printer giving Macon makers access to tools that would be cost prohibitive to own yourself.  Join the Spark Macon project: the movement to build the community and space for grass-roots innovation and art in Macon, GA.   Together, we will blend the best of art and technology innovation.

What benefits will SparkMacon bring to the community?

Fostering a Maker City: Why should Silicon Valley have all the fun?   We believe that Middle Georgia has the vision and talent to become a center of excellence in art and technology.   We look forward to the day that members of our SparkMacon community assume leadership roles in our local economy and start new small businesses.   Our SparkMacon community will provide the equipment, tools, and grass-roots training that you need to convert your idea into a reality.   SparkMacon will provide hands-on learning opportunities in 3D modeling, marketing, arts, shop skills, running your business, and training for the tools in the space.  We believe that our space will help attract top technology talent to Macon, GA.  Many of these classes and meet-ups will be led by SparkMacon community members.

Young Makers Program: At SparkMacon, we believe it’s important to help our students be prepared for the economy of the future.   This economy will demand that our citizens be innovative, creative and use technology effectively.  In our young makers program, we will challenge students to envision and design their own projects.   It could be a game, a toy, a mobile app, art, a website or anything they can imagine.   Our maker mentors will support the students with coaching, tools training, and resources to help them bring their designs to life in a project based learning experience.   We hope to inspire the next generation of makers to love learning and help them be creative and curious.

Growing the Creative Economy: Creativity is contagious.  In the SparkMacon community, we encourage artists and artisans to support each other in their crafts.  We believe that cross-discipline sharing between artists and technologists will inspire a bold movement of innovation in Macon.   Funding and marketing are top concerns to all artists, technology makers, and business owners.   Our community will need to grow a culture of leadership and entrepreneurship through education and social meet-ups.   All great ideas are the result of extensive focus, ideation, prototyping, measurement and learning from wins and failures.   Our space will provide the culture, space, and tools so that you can build, measure, and learn quickly.

What does a MakerSpace look like?

We are very thankful to Greg Richardson for helping us plan out key aspects of our MakerSpace.   Mr. Richardson is a founder of 7 Hills MakerSpace in Rome, GA.   I have included a video tour from HackADay.com of 7 Hills MakerSpace to help us collectively envision the potential of SparkMacon MakerSpace.

What is the status of Maker Space?

It has been a great pleasure to serve on the community board for SparkMacon to help get the space and community started.

  • We are thankful to the Georgia Technology Authority and Bill Price for sponsoring a $54,000 grant to help kickstart our efforts.
  • Robert Betzel and Brent Lanford have established the LLC that will be operating and sustaining the SparkMacon MakerSpace efforts.
  • Our leadership team is currently reviewing two potential locations for space in down town Macon.
  • To help raise additional money to support our space and ensure that our space is ADA compliant, we have started recording an IndieGogo crowd funding campaign.     Keep watching InspiredToEducate.NET and SparkMacon.com for news and updates.
  • Over the past four months, I have had the privilege to work with the Middle Georgia Regional CommissionInfinity Network SolutionsCollege Hill AllianceMacon Arts AllianceTAG Middle Georgia, and Mercer Google Developer group on a community project to help grow our maker community and build a shared creative space in Macon, GA.   All of our team members have grown and learned so much through our collaborations. 

The direction and focus of the SparkMacon MakersSpace will be directed by our community of members.   The success of the SparkMacon MakerSpace rests with our community.   We’re currently thinking through decisions on tools to purchase, classes to offer to serve makers, and how to organize the space.    If you’re interested in being a part of that discussion, please join our Facebook group and follow us on Twitter.   We would also love your thoughts on classes you would enjoy taking to support your business and your craft.

Spark Macon Draft Floor Plan

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Georgia Kids’ STEM Day 2014

Kids' STEM Day

 

You can also find the registration form at this link.

To learn more about the education resources at the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins, GA, please visit the following links:

 

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Trends You Need To Know from #OSCON 2014

OSCON

The culture of open source continues to make an impact beyond software and programming. The ethos of open source has helped fuel the makers movement.   In the open source convention(#OSCON 2014), speakers reviewed the impact of open source in government, education, manufacturing, and making.  The OSCON event is one of the most popular forums reviewing the best of open culture.

It has been cool to see technology conferences including educational tracks.   As a community of technology professionals, we know that we need to inspire and engage young makers.   We need to find ways to make science, technology, engineering, art, and math exciting, relevant, and meaningful.   I think it’s so cool that OSCON included content to help kids get started with computer programming.  The first keynote from the conference was given by a young maker.  (see video below)   To learn more about the educational track of OSCON Kids Day, check out this discussion from FLOSS weekly.

I hope you enjoy these stories from OSCON 2014.

 

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Should You Use an Object Relational Mapper in your App?

 

When you write applications that communicate with a relational database, your design needs to solve a fundamental problem.   In most cases, we create systems using relational databases.  (i.e. MySQL, Oracle, MSSQL, etc.)   Similarly, we probably write our web or smart client applications using an object oriented programming language like C#, Java, Ruby, JavaScript, or Python.   The data access layer that you write needs to connect the relational database world with the world of “objects/methods/properties.”   In this post, I will review some of the benefits and challenges of using an object relational mapper, common set of tools and framework patterns to solve this mapping problem.

openBarterModel

In my professional experience, I have found ORM’s helpful.   The problem of converting database rows into objects is not a very interesting task.   I personally enjoy focusing my attention on the business logic, game logic, or control logic code.

Benefits of an ORM:

1)      Most ORM tools provide a method of mapping database table to your application objects.   For some ORM’s, the database tables are generated from application objects that you define.  You can also find ORM’s that create application objects based on database tables. (Many ORM frameworks support both styles)

2)      As mentioned before, an ORM creates a way for you to access your database tables using application classes that you didn’t have to write by hand.   Some frameworks automate the process of creating your classes from database structure.   If you’re coding in a static language like C# and Java, your compiler can help you manage data model changes in your application over time.

3)      Some have noted that ORM’s help reduce defects in the data access layer. Why? Since the mapping process between database tables and application classes has been code generated or automated, a human being can inject fewer mistakes.

4)      I really admire the Ruby Active Record technology.  In their ORM technology, they have created a cool system for changing the database model and the application model.The “Ruby on Rails” migrations feature giving developers a clean system for making edits to production or test code branches.

How do I find an ORM for my language?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_object-relational_mapping_software

What are some reasons to not use an ORM?

ORM’s will not work for every project.

1)      If your current code base has complex hand coded SQL in the data access layer, it may be hard to introduce an ORM into that culture.   It really depends on the situation.   If you’re starting a new module, you might consider testing an ORM in the bounds of that module.

2)      ORM’s have a bad reputation for configuration bloat.  An ORM has to solve the fundamental problem of mapping your database tables to your application objects. Some ORM’s are very verbose.  (I tend to avoid these)   ORM’s that use conventions are often concise.    I encourage you to write small apps to test if an ORM is the correct choice for your team.

3)      I’m a big fan of loose coupling.   When I design systems, I want to make sure I can test my business objects in isolation of data access.As you consider a specific ORM,  consider how much tight coupling the tool introduces between your business logic code and the data access layer.

I hope I have given you a balanced review of the benefits and costs of using ORM’s as you start your career.    Here are a few links that I used to research this post.   I hope you find them helpful.  I have also included a link to OpenBarter, an open source barter system written in C# using Entity Framework.  Entity framework is one popular ORM option for the Microsoft .NET framework.

 

We love to hear from our readers.   What are your thoughts?  Are you working on any fun software development projects?

 

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Art and Tech Hacking Using Arduino – Meet up on July 29th

Published on July 19, 2014 by in Uncategorized

arduino

Massimo Banzi has started a movement. He invented a computer technology to teach his student artists and designers how to create simple electronics and prototype products in weeks. (not months) The Arduino has helped make electronics tinkering accessible to creatives young and old with a broad range of skill levels.   Since Banzi decided to share his innovation as open source, he has introduced a revolution in DIY electronics hacking. This technology has been celebrated by artists and technology professionals. Check out his story below:

Abstract: Massimo Banzi helped invent the Arduino, a tiny, easy-to-use open-source microcontroller that’s inspired thousands of people around the world to make the coolest things they can imagine — from toys to satellite gear. Because, as he says, “You don’t need anyone’s permission to make something great.”

If you’re interested in art and wearable tech, you might enjoy checking out the work of Becky Stern from Adafruit.   She has a really interesting job at Adafruit helping to review and promote textile materials and wearable Arduinos that can be used in costuming, fashion, or fun personal projects.   I discovered her through a recent edition of Make magazine.

Interested in learning more?

Join Mercer Google Developer Group for a fun evening of coffee, fellowship, and Arduino hacking. We’ll do a quick overview of the technology and various applications. We will be bring out Arduino devices so that you can tinker and experiment. I’ll probably bring out the Arduino robot too. (I finally got the distance sensor working!)

We hope to see you there!

Do you have any favorite Arduino projects or kits? Share a link below!

 

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Stepping Outside the Mainstream

Peter and his car

Today is the first day of school for our boys (I know, early right?!). It has been quite the journey leading to this day and I spent some time reflecting on it last night as I laid out clothes and carefully packed lunchboxes. As both a student and a teacher, the first day of school is one of my favorites. It signifies new beginnings and the opportunity to learn new and exciting things. I’ve always loved school in general and I hope my children will have a similar love of learning. That said, when our older son started kindergarten last year I did not expect it to be such an emotional roller coaster.

Instead of enjoying his first year of formal education, I felt like we barely survived it. He is a bright, energetic little boy who happens to have a July birthday. I had no idea what a disadvantage this would be for him. He did fine on the kindergarten admissions test, but he was the smallest kid in his class and he just did not have the emotional maturity that his teachers expected him to have. Over the course of the year we were bombarded with notes home about how he couldn’t sit still and focus on his tasks. Honestly, we felt that we received more negative comments than positive. We felt like complete failures as parents. We felt helpless.

Our public school district is one of the best in the region. This was one of the best primary schools in the county and his teacher was an award winning teacher, yet, it seemed like something was going terribly wrong. More and more, it felt like we were trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Despite all of this, our son never seemed to lose his enthusiasm for learning. One of our biggest fears was that he would learn to hate school. We knew that we would have to make a change.

Our family made the decision to pull out of the public school and switch to a Montessori school. Since students in the primary classroom starts at 3 years old, both of our boys will be going there. It was a long discernment process. I don’t think it is the right decision for every family(or even one that many have the luxury to make), but we feel like it is right for us. Montessori educational principles encourage creativity and independence. This is in contrast to what we experienced at the public school which felt very much like the “factory mindset” that Seth Goden speaks about (see his talk on education here). At the new school there is an emphasis on personal development and self-reliance, rather than on standards and tests. I feel like each student is treated as an individual rather than a member of a cohort.

It makes me a little sad that we are giving up on public education, but at the same time I think that it is important for us to step outside the mainstream. This is going to be an interesting year for us and I look forward to sharing some our experiences with our readers. Just another perspective among many :-)

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