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Maker Skills Summer Workshops at SparkMacon

Maker Skills Summer Workshops

Through making and tinkering, students learn using their hands, grow their creativity, and become more curious about their world and testing the limits of what is possible. SparkMacon makerspace has designed a series of workshops to connect you with the essential technology skills of inventing using computer programming, digital fabrication, and robotics.   Through this workshop series, our students will gain exposure to STEAM skills including coding, 3D modeling, 3D printing, laser cutting, and robot building.  

Parents and kids are invited to take this workshop together.  It’s a great family activity!

Student registration for the series includes a complete mBot robotics kit from  It’s a fun kit to build and packed with features.     

Register today for this workshop at .

Series Schedule

Month 1: May 21 – Coding: Programming is a central skill to digital fabrication, robotics, and all subject domains. During this session, students will be given a crash course in computer science, gaining a basic understanding of sequencing, looping, and variables. Resources from, Scratch, and Code Academy will be utilized, which include learning activities that feature characters from Minecraft, Frozen, Angry Birds, and other popular games.

Month 2: June 18 – 3D Modeling:  Our students will learn the basics of 3D modeling objects and designing stuff for a 3D printer.   Skills from this workshop will empower makers to build elements for video game worlds, art, and 3D printed pieces.  We will also provide demonstrations of our 3D printing equipment.


Month 3: July 16 – Laser cutting: Makers will learn the basics of designing for the laser cutter by creating beautiful bookmarks, key chains, or jewelry.  Makers will learn techniques for editing scalable vector graphics for laser cutting jobs using InkScape, a free graphics design tool.   We will also introduce ways to design 3-dimensional work using various tools and cutting patterns.    

Laser cutting samples

Month 4: August 20 – Robotics: Building upon the programming skills introduced early in the program, students will have the opportunity to build robots from scratch using the mBot kit.   Students will love customizing their mBot using puzzle based programming and the easy to assemble construction experience.   Students take home their mbot to continue the tinkering fun at home.


This series will be tons of fun.  Looking forward to seeing you there!


Register today for this workshop at .

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Minetest: a free and open source alternative to #Minecraft


Clever teachers around the world have found ways to adapt the popular open world block-building game Minecraft to teach lessons ranging from computer programming, math, history, and more.   Minecraft is like having an infinite bag of Legos.    Minecraft has empowered players young and old to build amazing environments and inspires a special kind of creativity and playful collaboration.   For me, I’m using games like Minecraft to teach concepts of 3D modeling and computer programming.    

For many schools, if you wanted to introduce Minecraft into a computer lab of 20 students, you would need to spend $540 or more.   If you’re looking for a free alternative, make sure to check out Minetest, an open source open world block building game.  Giving this game a quick review, I’m impressed with the current state of the project.

Learn more at .

Stability and speed: The game is written in C++ so that game executes much faster than Minecraft and seems pretty stable.   For basic world building, the game should work just fine for you and your students.

Multiplayer:  The game enables players to establish servers so that they can build together.  My son and I did some quick tests building stuff together.   He loved running around the world and exploring the mountains and caves.   During  our quick review, we tried the game on Linux and Windows.  It worked pretty well.

Simplicity:  Minetest can’t compete with Minecraft on every feature.  For instance, the game does not support combat mode, mobs, and red stone to name a few.   I have a feeling the features will only get better over time.  From a classroom perspective, combat mode and mobs aren’t particularly helpful features for me.  I appreciate the simplicity of the current project state.

Mods: The software does support an ecosystem of mods.  It’s neat to see how the game has been extended.   If you REALLY want mobs, you can get them back using a mod or software extensions.   Minetest Mods are written in the Lua , an approachable and clean language.   I want to use Minetest with TinkerCAD so that students can experience the joy of designing game worlds.   I’m looking for a mod that would import schematic files created by TinkerCAD.  It would be cool to challenge students to write their own mods!

In researching this article, I found a detailed video review by SmoothScape on MineTest.  You might enjoy reviewing his insights.  



Learning To Code