Connecting Community Service to Makerspaces and Developer Communities

Team Open Barter

In November 2017, I had the honor of speaking at DevFest Florida, a community organized developer conference focusing on Google technology. I had an amazing time at this conference. You can check out my reflections on this experience at Readers of InspiredToEducate.NET know that we’re passionate about helping students to love learning through making, tinkering, and engineering. For me, I encountered a talk that impacted me regarding the intersection of community service and maker education. I do believe in Daniel Pink‘s argument that we’re very motivated or driven in situations where we have autonomy,  are growing in mastery, and acting with purpose. The projects that I’ll discuss in this post connect strongly to mastery and purpose motivations. This talk encouraged me to reflect on why I enjoy helping people to learn to code and the culture of a maker space.

Etienne Caron-Petit-Pas shared an amazing story of using mixed reality and maker technologies to create a positive social impact in this community. In OSMOS academy that he helps organize, I appreciated that their community focuses on building stuff that can help enrich people’s lives. It’s not just about the maker tech. For example, their current project focused on building playful VR experiences to support and distract kids who are going through medical procedures in a hospital. Some of the other projects they have attempted feel like citizen science efforts. This talk touches technology ranging from Google Daydream, augmented reality, Android Things and more.

In general, we’ve explored the idea that maker education connects students to the experience of project based learning. Under this paradigm, students engage in learning through the construction of projects or physical stuff. Learning is not centered around a teacher as the center of knowledge. Maker education learning experience always ask students to personalize the learning experience by asking the student: what do you want to make? All other lessons connect into project direction set by the student.

Along a similar theme, I recently encountered a cool podcast interviewing the founder of, Quincy Larson. Quincy Larson worked in a traditional k-12 school working as a teacher. Along the way, he became interested in giving his fellow teachers more time by automating administrative computer tasks and creating systems for automatic grading. Through this experience, he became interested in learning to program professionally. After connecting with local makerspaces/hackathons, local meetups, and doing thousand of hours of study of MOOCs, he returned to his “teacher hat” and realized that many others might want to go on this journey too. He helped organize to help other “campers” leverage resources and coaching he had gained. I’m very impressed with the scale of curriculum, community and effort to create local meetups in cities near you. While it’s easy to find YouTube videos or Mooc content to learn stuff, their teaching team acknowledges that learning as a local tribe in your local coffee shop or makerspace really helps to drive the learning forward. It’s very easy to get demotivated when you don’t have mentors or fellow students to go on the journey with you.

I do want to give a shout out to “The Change Log” podcast that shared this conversation.  I haven’t been listening to them long, but I enjoy their content. connects with the idea of community service learning by engaging real non-profits with real IT needs with their students. It’s a really neat “win-win” situation. The non-profit gets a cost effective solution. The students have a great learning experience addressing a local need while growing their web development skills.

On a personal level, I have enjoyed seeing students(young and old) become engaged with their path of learning through hackathons, makerspaces, and developer community. Why does community service learning matter? This feels like a unique flavor of project based learning since grass root connected learners work together to learn while making a difference in their community. The world needs more of this kind of innovation in education and community service.

Related blog posts

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10 AFrame.IO Resources For Your WebVR Project

AFrame Logo

I’m a big fan of the work of the AFrame.IO community.  Thank you to Mozilla, Diego Marcos, Kevin Ngo, and Don McCurdy for their influence and effort to build a fun and productive platform for building WebVR experiences.   For some of my amigos from DevFestFlorida 2017, I’ve collected a few Github repositories and resources to support you in building AFrame experiences.

Thanks to the efforts of many GDG leaders and Traversoft, you can check out my talk at DevFestFL in the following video.  I had a great time connecting with other local web developers and sharing the WebVR love.    Hope you enjoy the talk.  And I hope you find the following links helpful.

Talk Abstract: In the next few years, augmented reality and virtual reality will continue to provide innovations in gaming, education, and training. Other applications might include helping you tour your next vacation resort or explore a future architecture design. Thanks to open web standards like WebVR, web developers can leverage their existing skills in JavaScript and HTML to create delightful VR experiences. During this session, we will explore, an open source project supported by Mozilla enabling you to craft VR experiences using JavaScript and a growing ecosystem of web components.
Kevin’s collection of A-Frame components and scenes.
Awesome WebVR from Don McCurdy
JavaScript toolkit for interior apps
Infinite background environments for your A-Frame VR scene in just one file.
Interactive workshop and lessons for learning A-Frame and WebVR.
Aframe component for using html as a texture, powered by html2canvas
L-System/LSystem component for A-Frame to draw 3D turtle graphics. Using Lindenmayer as backend.
Official registry of cool AFrame stuff
A set of A-Frame components for quickly creating rooms connected by doors.
Components for A-Frame physics integration, built on CANNON.js.
I’ve collected a small collection of demo apps to explore some of the core ideas of AFrame.


If you live in Central Florida or Orlando, consider checking out our local chapter of Google developer Group.  We enjoy building a fun creative community of developers, sharing ideas, code, and supporting each other in the craft of software.  Learn more about our community here:


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Good Times at Orlando Maker Faire 2017

Really enjoyed touring Makerfaire Orlando this year. Thank you to all the organizers, volunteers, and maker spaces who made the event possible. I know it takes so much effort to organize and coordinate an inspiring event like this. I hope to unpack a few more stories from MakerFaire in future blog posts. I know that GDG Central Florida and my family had a great time!!


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Learning To Code

Science Education

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Central Florida Google Developer Group @ Orlando Maker Faire – Orlando 21

Atlanta Maker Faire 2016

Hey, Orlando Google Developers! Central Florida Google Developer Group wants to invite you for a fun road trip to Orlando Maker Faire on Oct 21st! Maker Faire is a gathering of fascinating, curious people who enjoy learning and who love sharing what they can do. From engineers to artists to scientists to crafters, Maker Faire is a venue to for these “makers” to show hobbies, experiments, projects. MakerFaire events are called the greatest “show and tell” on the planet.

We believe that the road trip to Orlando MakerFaire will have the following impacts for our community: 1. It helps inspire our GDG tribe. 2. We want to expose GDG members to innovative ideas, tools, business concepts, and art that we leverage in the community. 4. It’s going to be REALLY fun!

Let us know that you’re interested in being a part of this meetup. We’ll kick-off with breakfast at 9:00am.

Get details and register for the event on our page.



Related Blog Posts for Developers

If you’re in the Florida area, I would like to invite you to the DevFest Florida 2017.  All the Google developer groups in Florida have combined forces to throw an awesome developer party and learning conference.   Join us for a great weekend of networking, learning, and hacking! Learn more at

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Bot Draw : Logo like framework for building VR experiences

Sample AFrame experience

Welcome to Bot Draw!(aka Project Dark Bat)

Looking for a fun way to practice your JavaScript skills and build cool VR experiences? InspiredToEducate.NET designed this code sample to enable you to play with very simple ideas in JavaScript. This sample uses a JavaScript framework called AFrame to build 3D content in your browser or mobile phone browser. The display engine supports major VR platforms including Google Cardboard, Vive, and Oculus. (Thank you AFrame community!)

In Bot Draw, you command a small bot who can travel in 3D space. The robot can place boxes, spheres, images, and other 3D shapes. This tool borrows ideas from popular code education tools like Logo,, ScriptCraft by Walter Higgins.

You can review a sample scene here:

You can use the keys WASD to move around the scene.

You can edit and study the code here:!/dark-bat

If you make something cool, please let us know!

Hope you find this fun and helpful!


File Overview

  • views/index.html – This file contains HTML and JavaScript for the VR scene. To learn more about AFrame related content, please refer to AFrame.IO. Feel free to remix this glitch sample and start tinkering!!
  • public/demo.js – This file provides other demo functions using bot draw.
  • public/bot_aframe – Interested in enhancing the “Bot” code? This is the file for you!

Bot Draw methods

In order to draw, you start by creating an instance of the bot. The bot object has additional methods for drawing, turning, or moving.

Moving and turning:

  • moveUp(steps) – Move the bot upward a few steps
  • forward(steps) – Move bot forward a few steps
  • moveLeft(steps) – Move bot left
  • moveRight(steps) – Move bot right
  • setAngle(degrees) – Set angle of direction for the robot. Enter direction in degrees
  • getAngle() – Get current angle for the robot.
  • turn(angle) – Turn the robot a few degrees.

Drawing stuff:

  • drawBoxAt(width,height,depth,x,y,z) – Draw box at a particular location.
  • drawBox(width,height,depth) – Draw box at current robot location.
  • drawSphere(radius) – Draw sphere at current robot location.
  • drawSphereAt(radius,x,y,z) – Draw sphere at particular location
  • drawCone(radius,height)
  • drawCylinder(radius,height)
  • drawImageAt(strPath,width, height, x,y,z) – Draw image at particular location. The path should be a fully qualified path to a valid web image.
  • drawImage(strPath,width,height) – Draw image at bot location. The path should be a fully qualified path to a valid web image.

Remember locations, Return to locations

  • saveLocation(locationName) – Store bot location and give it a name.
  • moveToLocation(locationName) – Return to location by name

Change colors:

bot.drawColor = “red”


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AFrame: Building WebVR experiences with HTML and JavaScript

Sample AFrame experience

Hey, makers and web developers! Looking for a fun weekend coding challenge? In this post, I wanted to introduce you to a simple tool called A-Frame for building VR experiences using HTML and JavaScript.  Originally sponsored by the Mozilla foundation, A-frame enables you to quickly build WebVR scenes, panoramas, games, or data visualizations.  With very basic HTML skills, you can build delightful VR experiences.  I believe you’ll find the declarative or tag based coding style very approachable.  For advanced developers, you can drop to the JavaScript and ThreeJS abstraction layers to customize the experiences in more detail.

Don’t have an expensive VR rig? No problem!  AFrame supports platforms as simple as desktops, mobile phones or Google Cardboard.  I find it impressive that the AFrame platform supports advanced rigs like Vive and Rift.    I’m looking forward to seeing support for Microsoft Mixed Reality too.

Here’s a quick “hello world” experience for you to test drive.

Projects Built with AFrame

How can you get started with AFrame today?

Make sure to check out the impressive community of plugins on the AFrame registry

If you’re in the Florida area, I would like to invite you to the DevFest Florida 2017.  All the Google developer groups in Florida have combined forces to throw an awesome developer party and learning conference.   Join us for a great weekend of networking, learning, and hacking! Learn more at




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Maker uses Arduino to enable his Wife To Hear Again

Scott Walker's Bone Conduction listening device.
During our last Arduino meetup at SparkMacon makerspace, I had the pleasure of witnessing a most moving talk.  In organizing this conversation, we wanted to discuss why tinkering and engineering with Arduino matters.  It’s helpful to remember that the makers movement  is important because it creates new opportunities to serve and change lives with more accessibility and lower cost.
The Arduino platform has become the heartbeat of maker tools.  In our makerspace, an Arduino powers our 3D printer, laser cutter, several robots, wearables, and drones. On Instructables and Thingiverse, you can find hobbyist and expert makers sharing their designs of fantastic inventions.  I think it’s cool that the Arduino was not designed for the engineering expert.  The creators of Arduino needed to teach microprocessor and electronics design in months.  (not years)   With this in mind, they aspired to create a micro-controller that was very accessible to the novice.   The device needed to scale to more advanced use cases as well like digital fabrication and robotics.   The creators desired to drive down the cost of the microcontroller from hundreds of dollars to tens of dollars.

With this introduction in mind, I’d like to share the story of Scott Walker and his wife.  It’s just amazing.   Scott Walker and I worked together at Mercer Engineering Research Center in our software systems division.  As I have been learning more about the makers movement, Scott Walker has been a wonderful mentor and example of the power of focus.  His focus comes from a singular idea: he loves his wife.  Many years ago, Scott’s wife started losing her capacity to see and hear due to usher’s syndrome.  Close your eyes and imagine your life without sound or sight. Their doctors told them that she would probably never hear again. Long before IoT in the home was hip and cool, Scott started inventing small gadgets and tools to support his wife so that she could remain active, interact with the internet and be aware of situations in their home.
During a dental visit, Scott’s wife noticed that she could hear parts of a conversation while a dental tool was being used.  With some experimentation on the part of the dentist, they confirmed that she could hear parts of the conversation when the tool was being used against her teeth.  Previously, medical professionals had dismissed that idea of using bone conduction to enable her to hear.  Given this experience, Scott started his own research into bone conduction for his wife.
After consulting with a friend from Mercer Engineering Research Center, Scott discovered that Adafruit sold an inexpensive bone conduction sensor that he could integrate with an Arduino board.  With excitement, he ordered the parts and started prototyping and iterating on his design.  Through experiments, they learned that Scott’s wife had an easier time perceiving lower registers over high pitch voices.  Scott programmed the micro-controller to map all incoming sound to lower registers. In later iterations of the device, he added a Bluetooth capability so that he could play music and phone calls from his IPhone into the bone conduction device.  With a great deal of hard work, Scott created a prototype device enabling his wife to perceive nearly 100% of a normal conversation.

In a very moving moment in the talk, Scott talked about his wife’s experience talking on the phone with her son using this bone conduction device.  At this point in life, she had not heard her son’s voice in over 10 years!  This was an emotional and technology game changer for her!  Scott has an amazing heart.  As he shared this story, you can see his eyes fill with tears of joy.  As a skilled software engineer and maker, Scott has built many things.  He’s most proud of the things he’s built to serve his wife.  It’s an outward expression and gift that only he could give.  There’s a unique joy in making game changing accessible technology.  His maker spirit is powered by his determination and focus to serve and love his wife.
Scott closed the talk asking the makers to have persistence in chasing their mastery of maker skills and learning.   He provided an amazing reflection on why the makers movement matters and it’s power to change lives.  Scott Walker is a true maker hero.  I am blessed to have him as a mentor.
If you’re interested in contacting Scott Walker about his bone conduction listening device or his other accessibility tools, feel free to reach out to Scott at
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Real Impact – Women in STEAM Conference 2017

I wanted to give a shoutout to one of my favorite “hands on” learning organizations in Macon: Real Impact Center.   Real impact center focuses on helping to inspire the next generation of young ladies to consider careers as science and technology professionals.  Given that women are underrepresented in STEM career fields, Real Impact has an important mission in exposing girls to STEM careers, giving them ‘hands on’ maker experiences, and helping them see that STEAM careers are cool.   On April 29th, Real Impact organized the “Women in STEAM Conference” in Macon, GA serving more than 250 young ladies with inspiring speakers and hands-on learning experiences.    InspiredToEducate.NET had the honor of presenting a workshop on making electronic music using code.

Stephanie Espy, the author of STEM Gems, shared an empowering message to the ladies on becoming a successful science/technology leader.   Her book interviews 44 female STEM professionals and reviews patterns on their success.   I love books that explore the roots of innovative and creative thinking.   Her book seems to explore patterns of experiences of female STEM leaders like the roles parents play in learning, patterns in play, patterns in teaching, attitudes, and growth mindset.    It was a great keynote!

stem gems1

women in steam conf 2017

Our team had a great time sharing our workshop on Sonic-Pi, making cool electronic music through code.   Sonic-Pi, designed by Sam Aaron, provides a playful environment for writing techno or electronic music using simple coding patterns.   While it’s a great tool to engage students in code education, it’s primary objective is to engage students in exploring music theory.   It’s such a fun learning tool.   During this talk, we had the opportunity to share about the makers movement, our SparkMacon Makerspace, and the fun experiences of building stuff with code.   Given that we were serving girls during our workshop, I had the opportunity to share about the first computer programmer: Ada Lovelace.    Many were surprised to learn that the first computer programmer was a woman.   Additionally, she was one of the first to realize that computers would do more than just crunch math problems.   Hundreds of years ago before electronic computers, she theorized that computers could be used for creative experiences if you could symbolize the creative problem.  Since music theory provides a set of symbols and ideas for defining music, tools for creating music with computers became possible.   If you think about how many creative tasks we accomplish on computers today(creating graphics, music, engineering structures, etc),  this was a profound and visionary concept.

It was fun getting to share this workshop since I love music and building stuff with code.  Music people and coders go through the same emotional challenges when they start.  Both disciplines require practice, problem decomposition, building up of muscle memory, and social skills.  Some of the best programmers I’ve known were music people.   I also want to give a shout out to my friends Joey Allen and Isaiah who coached the workshop with me.   They did a great job inspiring the girls.   In the one hour workshop, almost everyone had the opportunity to sequence some sound samples and put them into a loop.   Some of the more advanced students started building drum patterns,melodies, and longer musical forms.

If you’re interested in learning more about Sonic Pi, check out, my blog post and this free ebook.  Interested in teaching an extended course in Sonic-Pi? check out   It has lesson plans covering 10+ weeks of material.

Special thanks to Real Impact for your leadership in growing the next generation of young makers in Macon, GA!   You are amazing!!  If you’re interested in learning more about Real Impact Center, providing financial support or volunteering, make sure to connect with their website:  .   They have some pretty awesome summer camps this summer!


Sonic Pi Screen



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Making Chord Progressions using Sonic Pi


I have to confess that I love music and code. When I get to share my two favorite things in one package, it gets me excited. In previous blog posts, I had talked about an amazing tool called Sonic-Pi for introducing music theory and computer science. While preparing this blog post, I had forgotten how much I enjoy generative music through code.

For the post today, we’re going to focus on making chord progressions and generating arpeggios. Let’s define a few terms before we dive into code.

  • Chords – In music theory, we define a chord as a named collection of notes.  In western music, there are two major flavors of chords. (Major and minor)  Major chords feel happy.   Minor chords are often used in movie scores to represent darker moments or points of anticipation.  For a more formal discussion of chords, check out this article from Wikipedia.  For the purpose of this blog post, keep in mind that a chord has three notes: the root, third, and fifth.
  • Chord progressions – Chord progressions define a sequence of chords that make up a song.    This sequence of chords represents a major component of the soul or emotional thread of a song.
  • Arpeggios – An arpeggio represents a way to play the notes of a chord over time.

We should note that chord progressions for the western ear follow patterns.   The human ear enjoys hearing chord changes according to the circle shown below.  To keep things simple, you can make small transitions between one area of this circle.   You can execute the following chord progression and your eye will believe that it’s pleasing: G,C,D,C.    If your song moves from a G major chord to a D flat major, your ear will not find this automatically pleasing.  It will probably sound weird.


Circle of fifths

Circle of fifths


With this brief overview of music theory, I wanted to share a small Sonic-Pi program I’m using to enable students to play with chords, chord progressions, and arpeggios. You can inspect the code here.

Let’s break down the major ideas:

In the following code, we configure Sonic-Pi to the tempo of 130 beats per minute(BPM). We also create a Ruby array to hold the list of chords. Sonic-Pi already has a function to generate major and minor chords. We add the chord to the array using a push method.


chord_list = []


We need some way to loop over the chord_list and play each of them. The following code accomplishes this. We place the loop in a thread so that this music idea can exist in parallel with other musical ideas. We configure Sonic-Pi to use the “dtri” synth because it’s cool. The “pick_pattern2” function is something I’ve written to render out our arpeggio.

in_thread do
  use_synth :dtri
  loop do
    for c in chord_list

Let’s define “pick_pattern2”. In the following Ruby function, we’re giving a small collection of code a name. We pass in a chord to be played. In Sonic-Pi, a chord is simply an array of notes. In the first part of the code, we generate 6 notes based on the chord. Element zero represents the root of the chord. Element 1 represents the third. Element 3 represents the fifth. We generate notes 4 to 6 to be one octave above the ones previously mentioned. The rest of the code plays out notes in a timed manner. In general, we’re placing each note a half beat away from each other. The sequence is more artistic than technical.

def pick_pattern2(chord)
  note1 = chord[0]
  note2 = chord[1]
  note3 = chord[2]
  note4 = chord[0] + 12
  note5 = chord[1] + 12
  note6 = chord[2] + 12

There’s a few other functions for generating arpeggios. Feel free to play with them and edit them. If you make something cool, leave us a comment below. I’d love to hear what you’re making!!

Photo credit to Trey Jones.

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7 Free Apps for 3D Design and Building Cool Stuff

Chess graphic

AutoDesk TinkerCAD – This web-based application has become my favorite way to introduce 3D design to makers of all ages.  It comes with accessible tutorials to help you understand the software quickly.  I have used to engage students as early as 3rd grade due to the high usability of this product.   You can quickly export your 3D modeling content for 3D printing or online 3D printing services.   Students LOVE being able to export their work to Minecraft too!  Autodesk just added a “Minecraft” preview feature too!  We also export “obj” files that we can use in Unity 3D.

Shape Shifter – enables you to build artistic 3D structures with just a few clicks.   While this app isn’t your traditional 3D modeling tool, some of the art forms that you can build are impressive.   You might find this application helpful in building a decorative cup holder, vase, or home decor.

Sketchup – This application has become a standard in 3D modeling for home decor and building structures.   Sketchup has content viewers for iOS, Android, and HoloLens. (not free)   This mature 3D building tool comes with a robust set of tutorials and support community.

Blender:  To be honest, I’m still in the process of learning Blender.  According to Wikipedia, Blender is a “professional free and open-source 3D computer graphics software product used for creating animated films, visual effects, art, 3D printed models, interactive 3D applications and video games.”  This open source software supports impressive features including soft body simulation, sculpting, rendering, and an integrated game engine.  While this is one of the most challenging 3D modeling tools to learn, you can leverage a robust community of YouTube tutorials for Blender or the Blender manual.

Onshape: This relatively new 3D modeling tool has become a favorite for adult makers and professionals.   Many of my maker space friends celebrate the robust tutorial system and standard parts collection.  The tool can model the movement of assemblies of 3D parts.  The OnShape team has designed their product to serve distributed professional teams who enjoy working an online cloud solution.  You can learn more about on their YouTube channel.

Sculptris: This application by Pixologic provides an introduction to CG 3D modeling especially for artists.   This product focuses on the “sculpture” metaphor of building 3D content.  It seems very appropriate for building organic 3D structures, animals, or characters.    Learn more at

OpenJSCAD: I came across a tool called that empowers programmers to build 3D models using the popular JavaScript programming language or OpenSCAD language.  It’s pretty fun!   The tool enables you to export your creations to STL format for 3D printing or editing.   Code and build 3D stuff!  It’s that easy!

Keep in mind that this blog post only scratches the surface of free products.  AutoDesk offers free products for hobbyists, students, and educators.

This blog post outlines 20 additional free 3D modeling tools.


We enjoy hearing from you!  Let us know if you make anything cool.  Leave a comment below.


Photo credit: NoxicTonic –



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