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.






Interested in attending this “Coding for Teachers/Parents” workshop?   We’re offering this workshop again!

Topic: Coding for Teachers and Parents
Where: SparkMacon MakerSpace in Macon, GA
When: Feb 20th from 1pm to 5pm
Cost of the class is $25.
Be sure to register today as seats are limited:


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

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 .