Broken Toy to Wifi Controlled Robot #DIY #Arduino #RaspberryPi


Broken toy to Wifi controlled robot

A good friend of mine from our local makerspace enjoys teaching students about electronics by taking stuff a part.   He has a talent for finding free or inexpensive pieces that students enjoy deconstructing.   Through this experience, he has the opportunity to connect the theory of electronics/mechanics to real stuff.   Inspired by this teacher, I decided to try it myself.  My sons bought a broken RC car from Good Will for $2.00.   With the car in pieces, we started playing with the components to see if we could get anything working.   With bread board and batteries, we found that the motors of the RC car were function.   After an evening of hacking using an Arduino, a motor driver, a Raspberry Pi, and Wifi connector, we cobbled together a Raspberry Pi controlled robot.  (see below)  Not bad for $2.00 of source materials.

Your Mission… Should you choice to accept it

So… I’d like to offer a challenge for this month.

1. Find something broken.

2. Take it apart, and figure out how to make something new from it.

3. We’d love to hear your stories of taking something broken and re-purposing it into something beautiful, fun or functional.

Post your entries to Twitter, Instagram, Google+, or Facebook using the hashtag #RepurposedCraft. 

The best entries will experience awesome social media fame and glory.   I’ll make sure to celebrate them on the blog too!  🙂

Thanks for sharing your work!!!




Are you passionate about DIY, tinkering, and crafting?   We would enjoy hearing what you want to make in 2016.  Thanks for taking this quick survey.

Maker Workshop Survey 2016 


Lessons learned from teaching Minecraft coding workshops


In the past few months, I have had the opportunity to lead Minecraft coding workshops using ScriptCraft in our makerspace and a local museum.   Walter Higgins had done an amazing job of creating documentation and tools to help students learn JavaScript while playing with Minecraft.    I wanted to share some reflections on teaching this workshop to support others who might do similar coding dojo’s for young makers.

What went well?

  • Parents + Students = Win! In our most recent classes, we adjusted our space and class invite to welcome parents to learn along with their students.   I enjoyed seeing the parents getting engaged in the material just as much as the student.    For the students that were pair programming with their parents, it looked like they were having a fun time.
  • Adapting to broad age range: In executing this workshop, we served students middle, high school and adult students.   I believe we can do this kind of workshop because of our amazing mentors and the fantastic tools provided from and Khan Academy.   If someone already has experience with block programming, we pushed them to learn hand crafted Javascript.   We also created a detailed class content outline and instructions.   If a student wants to move faster than the class, we empower them to move forward.   I also believe having great mentors in the workshop helps too.  We try to make sure we have a mentor for every 5 students.
  • The following workshop order worked well
    • 1 hour – Hour of code on  This helps the students obtain the core ideas of programming: loops, sequencing, variables, decision making.
    • 1 hour – During this hour, we allow the students to enter a common Scriptcraft server.  The students have the ability to upload javascript files into the server.   We scripted out instructions to help students install Notepad++, NppFTP, Text Mate, or Filezilla FTP.   In the world that we built, we distributed signs with sample ScriptCraft commands.   Some students enjoyed finding these signs and trying out the commands.
  • I really wanted the students to make a concept jump from block programming to JavaScript programming.   To that end, I’ve created a small tool that sketches out ScriptCraftJS mods based on a blockly program.   This seemed to work well.
  • Many student just enjoyed building a Minecraft server.   It was cool to see their excitement in learning that they could build and host a server for their own Minecraft building parties.   In building a Minecraft server, the students had to follow steps a network engineer might do like installing java, putting file in a particular location on the computer, and using the command line.

What can be improved?

  • Learning from server crashes: Sometimes the students think too big!  It’s really fun to see the students test the limits of software.   It’s very common for students to try to make very large blocks of mushrooms or TNT.   The server usually doesn’t handle this scale of work.  So… the students learn a lesson in making sure that their requests of the system are reasonable.
  • Clarity of support scripts: We’re going to continue to increase the clarity of the scripts and lab instructions we’ve created for the class.   For advanced students, they seemed to enjoy working ahead of the class using the instructions.
  • Reviewing sample programs: I think we could have generated more diversity of work if we created a tutorial where the students executed and inspected existing sample programs of a higher complexity.   I hope this would help spark more ideas.   It’s great that I have the sample programs built already!  In DroidScript or Arduino, you can make tons of interesting software by combining code and ideas from well crafted samples.

I do want to give a shout out to my friends who help co-teach this workshop with me.   I really appreciate their time in helping to inspire the next generation of game developers!


tudent learning about loops and variables



Sample programs from our ScriptCraft server




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10 Resources for Building Makerspaces in Schools

Real Impact 3d printing
Girls from Real Impact Center learning about 3D printing at SparkMacon Makerspace
During a teacher meetup through we held last night, we mentioned ways that makerspaces and project based learning directed by student interest can inspire student curiosity, creativity, and personalized learning.     We organized this meetup to listen for ways we can support teachers and students in our area.   I really appreciate the time my wife and our teacher friends spent sharing their experiences in their class rooms across school boundaries.   Teachers are always busy this time of year.  So, we really appreciate their influence and time.  I also want to say thanks to Geneva from Real Impact Center in Macon.  As always.. we appreciate your leadership and time.
During the conversation, we shared the ideas and tools we’re using to design learning experiences in SparkMacon Makerspace.   It was awesome time!  It felt like we had a small “unconference” over coffee.  I put together this post to aggregate some helpful ebooks, guides, and tools for bringing maker education into your class room.  We hope you find these tools helpful in engaging your students.
You also might enjoy the following infographic from   Margaret has awesome ideas and coaching on her blog serving educators. I enjoy following her posts on Twitter.  Make sure to follow her content.
Why MakerEd