10 Benefits of Supporting SparkMacon MakerSpace Today!

SparkMacon Front Door


Support SparkMacon: Our MakerSpace for Macon, GA by giving to our IndieGogo funding campaign. http://igg.me/at/sparkmaconDonations big and small are greatly appreciated. We’re very thankful for the generosity of our community.


On behalf of the SparkMacon team, we want to express our heartfelt gratitude to the SparkMacon members who have helped us raise $7225.00 on our IndieGogo fund raising campaign.   The support from the Macon community has been awesome!!

If you have not had the opportunity to contribute to our IndieGogo campaign, please consider the following benefits SparkMacon MakerSpace will have on your creativity, your business, and the community.  We want to help you grow as a maker!  We believe in the growth of Macon.

1) Open Make Nights: During First Friday’s, SparkMacon will be open to the community for free for “Open Make Nights”! Our members will introduce visitors to the community, tools or equipment and help you make something too! We’ll offer FREE training on high demand maker skills. We will host open make nights every First Friday from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

2) $40,000 in tools and equipment: With standard membership, you get exclusive access to $40,000 in the latest creative tools and equipment.

On the tech side, you’ll have access to our industrial grade 3D printers, laser cutter/engraver, music /audio recording equipment, Mac and PC lab equipped with the latest creative software.
For our artisans, we have a robust wood working space, jewelry tools, art supplies, and more!

3) Become a member today! If we reach our goal of $10,000 in the next 6 days on our IndieGogo campaign, all SparkMacon members get an extra month of membership for free. If you pre-purchased a 1 month membership, we’ll give you 2 months of membership.

Donation Level Perk Membership Cost Per Month Savings using IndieGogo Discounts
$50.00 2 months of membership $25.00 $30.00
$100 4 months of membership $25.00 $60.00
$400 13 months of membership $30.77 $120.00

4) Your Event in SparkMacon: Your club or organization can host public meetings events in our meeting space for free. Your events needs to be sponsored by two existing keyed members and approved by the leadership board. That’s it!!

5) SparkMacon Maker Showcase: Showcase your art, technology, club, or company at the grand opening in early December. It’s going to be an amazing party and opportunity to connect with the top technology professionals and our creative community.

6) Maker and Business Education: With membership, you get access to training workshops around 3D printing, laser engraving, woodworking, graphic design, robotics and others that will cover tools and resources inside the space. You also get exclusive access to workshops from the Macon Arts Alliance Amplify program. These workshops will include topics around marketing, rocking your Etsy store, social media, business planning, funding, online business and others.

7) Memberships make GREAT gifts! SparkMacon memberships make great gifts for a friends and family. Top Middle Georgia companies are showing their appreciation of their top performing employees with SparkMacon memberships.

8) We love our corporate sponsors: We enjoy celebrating our corporate sponsors through our website, email and social media channels.

9) Supporting the next generation of creative STEM professionals: Our SparkMacon mentors will support the young makers and their families with coaching, tools training, and resources to help them bring their maker creations to life in a project based learning experience. We believe it’s important to inspire the next generation of makers to love learning and help them be creative and curious.

10) Supporting Your Job Growth: Our community has already attracted some of the most talented artists, media professionals and technology professionals in Macon. We love to support local job seekers, makers, technology employers, and local start-ups. It’s a great time to a Macon Maker… and Macon Made!!



Support SparkMacon: Our MakerSpace for Macon, GA by giving to our IndieGogo funding campaign. http://igg.me/at/sparkmaconDonations big and small are greatly appreciated. We’re very thankful for the generosity of our community.


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SparkMacon MakerSpace CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN HAS LAUNCHED! Contribute now and tell your friends!



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 us as a gym membership to exercise your creativity, hands and brain. We aspire to blend the best of art and technology.

Learn more about our SparkMacon campaign at IndieGogo.com

We aspire to build an authentic community of makers and business leaders.  To help create a thriving culture of innovation in Middle Georgia, we believe that our community should consider adopting the following values.

Most of these value propositions have been adapted from Ideo, a leading innovation consulting firm.

We were very excited to open the SparkMacon MakerSpace doors to our community.    After consultation with other MakerSpaces in the Georgia area, we were strongly advised to seek community feedback on tools and materials that we should consider purchasing for the space.   Likewise, our focus group provided suggestions on education programs they would like to see in SparkMacon.

Thank you again to Molly and Andrew from Georgia Pallet for sharing their pictures from the event!

For everyone who attended our first community meeting on Sept 4th, please know that we’re very thankful for your time, feedback and influence.   We have integrated and organized the focus group data and online survey data.   This data will be influencing our first round of equipment purchases and projects for our MakerSpace.  In the interests of transparency, we wanted to share this data with you, our community!  We have detailed all of the community feedback data at the conclusion of this post.

How can the community help in building the Maker Space?

Please consider volunteering to help build and assemble the MakerSpace.   Please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or on our email list.   We also appreciate you sharing this vision for SparkMacon with your friends and family.    We will be posting volunteer opportunities soon.

  • First Cleanup day: This day will be the general cleaning day to get the space ready to pain.
  • Painting day: This day will focus on paining the stairs and walls of the space.
  • Workbench building.
  • Floor Finishing and Repair.
  • Partition Build: Once the space is “ready” we will be putting up partitions to separate the dirty shop from the rest of the space.  This will also serve to provide a storage space for supplies.

Can the community or my business sponsor equipment?

Yes.  We’re very thankful for any contributions from the community.   If your business is interested in sponsoring equipment or classes for the community space, please let us know.  Please direct your messages to info@sparkmacon.com .

How do I sign up for membership?  How do I contribute to the sustainment of SparkMacon?

Part of receiving the full amount from our initial seed grant from the Georgia Technology Authority (GTA) requires us to be able to show community support through a crowd funding campaign.

Learn more about our SparkMacon campaign at IndieGogo.com

We also know that without your financial support this project will be short lived.  We need members and community support from the start to succeed and that is where you come in.  With your support we hope to provide a home for the next generation of inventors and creators, support creative hobbies, and provide the resources for those individuals who are ready to create now.

While the GTA grant will provide for many of the initial tools and resources the space will need, there are many that it won’t.  Funds from this campaign will go toward expanding our offering to address more needs that the community has outlined in our initial research.

We hope we have provided perks at all levels for all people no matter their interest.  But some of the cool ones are discounted members, workshop attendance, T-Shirts, and invitations to our grand opening and Donor dinner.  Not to mention inclusion on our donor walls inside the space.

Thank You MaconMakers for all of your support and enthusiasm for this community venture.   With your help and our community collaboration, we know that we will be helping Macon citizens succeed in their businesses, create job opportunities, be more creative and innovative.

Questions or comments?   Drop us a line on Facebook, Twitter, or at info@SparkMacon.com .



Projects and Events Requested by Community

  • Young Makers Program
  • Cosplay
  • Support Local Robotics Team
  • Community Message Board
  • Design Mentor
  • Student Organizations
  • Makers Mixers
  • Partner with University Community Service Organizations. Create interesting service learning opportunities for students.

Technology Equipment Requested by Community

  • Legos /  Lego WeDo /Space for young makers to build
  • Digital Fabrication Equipment
    • 3-D printer(8 mentions)
    • 3D Scanner(4 mentions)
    • Laser Cutter(3 mentions)
    • CNC Machine(2 mentions)
    • 3D modeling workstation
  • Electronics
    • Soldering tools/welding(4 mentions)
    • Oscilloscope(2 mentions)
    • Raspberry Pi’s
    • Spectrum Analyzer
    • Frequency Counter
    • Galileo board’s
    • Logic Analysis Tools
    • Electronic parts inventory
    • Printed circuit board making tools
    • Breadboarding
    • Arduinos
  • Media
    • Music Lab/Audio Booth/Recording Studio(7 mentions)
    • Green Screen(2 mentions)
    • Video Presentation Equipment(2 mentions)
    • 3D Motion Capture Device
    • Adobe Creative Suite
    • Computer Stations

  Artisan/Craft Equipment Requested by Community

  • Photography Studio/Dark Room(3 mentions)
  • Metal/Clay Kiln(3 mentions)
  • Pottery wheel(2 mentions)
  • Drill Press(2 mentions)
  • Jewelry tools(2 mentions)
  • Floor Loom(2 mentions)
  • Air Brush
  • Anvil
  • Art Area
  • Art supplies & tools for conventional media artists
  • Band Saw
  • Belt Sander
  • Dishing Hammer & Bowl
  • Dress Forms
  • Embroidery Machine
  • Foam
  • Hammers for Blacksmithing
  • Industrial Sewing Machine
  • Lathe
  • Magnetized Picker Upper
  • Mini Forge
  • Paint Booth
  • Serger/Overlocker
  • Shop Vacs
  • Spinning Wheel
  • Spray Paint Gun
  • Vacuum Press/Form
  • Wood Shop

Education Requested By Community 

Area Class Title Freq
artisan/craft Tool Training: Basic Woodworking Tools 7
artisan/craft Tool Training: Hands On Metalworking Tools 5
artisan/craft Tool Training: Table saw Fundamentals 5
artisan/craft Jewelry I: Introduction to Metalsmithing 4
artisan/craft Tool Training: Rough to Smooth — Using the Miter Saw, Band Saw, Jointer & Planer 4
artisan/craft Photography Master Class 3
artisan/craft Tool Training: Hot Craft Studio Jewelry Shop 3
artisan/craft Tool Training: Router Table Fundamentals 3
artisan/craft Painting Master Class 2
artisan/craft Blacksmithing 1
artisan/craft Brewery Lessons 1
artisan/craft Chain Maille 1
artisan/craft Culinary Arts 1
artisan/craft Fabric Dying 1
artisan/craft Glass working 1
artisan/craft Horticulture 1
artisan/craft Leather Tanning 1
artisan/craft Sewing and Knitting 1
artisan/craft Weaving 1
business Business Consulting for Artists & Makers: Office Hours 7
business Arts Marketing for Artists & Makers: Office Hours 6
business Social Media Marketing 6
business Getting Started with WordPress 4
business Scrum Master Training 1
education Invent To Learn: Bringing Making and Tinkering to the Class Room 5
education Young Makers: Robotics 4
education Young Makers: Game Design 1
technology Introduction to 3D Modeling 13
technology Tool Training: 3D Printer 9
technology Intro to Inkscape for (Laser) Cutting / Laster Cutting 6
technology Circuit Hacking/Circuts 101/Electronic Workshop/Soldering 5
technology Introduction to Arduino 5
technology Introduction to Rasberry Pi 4
technology Programming the Web: HTML5 and JavaScript 4
technology Programming Simple Animations Using HTML, Canvas, and JavaScript 3
technology PC Board Making 1



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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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Trends You Need To Know from #OSCON 2014


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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Thanks to oreillyconf for sharing this photo.

7 Reasons Why The Makers Movement Is Revolutionary

maker artists

7 Reasons Why The Makers Movement Is Revolutionary

Chris Anderson has been watching trends in innovation for years while working with “The Economist” and serving as editor for “Wired” magazine.   In his new book “Makers: The New Industrial Revolution”,  he claims that we have experienced three industrial revolutions.   The first involved physical manufacturing.   Through the power of machines and automation, innovative ideas can become physical products at large scale.   The car started as an idea.   Manufacturing helped make the car available to the community.    He observes that the second revolution is the digital revolution.  Because of the internet, the best innovative thoughts, ideas, and education are now available to us in our smart phones and our browsers.

The Makers and DIY Movements are combining the power of the first and second industrial revolutions.   Here are 7 reasons that young entrepreneurs should consider watching trends related to the makers movement.   The world needs your creativity!   The good news is that you’re not alone!

Manufacturing on your desktop:  Chris argues that we are now in the third industrial revolution.  Why?  The world of manufacturing and the awesomeness of digital have collided.   3D Printers, CNC machines and other related tools enable hackers to test and prototype ideas for physical products.    Lower cost products like the Arduino/Rasberry pi’s enable makers to rapidly prototype electronics in our homes, offices, and schools.

Improve upon existing digital designs: If you’re interested in becoming a maker of toys or art, you can use thingaverse.com to discover existing 3D models and designs for inspiration or re-mixing.   If you’re interested in making flying drones, check out http://diydrones.com/ connecting you with a community of drone loving makers.   These communities openly share and promote designs for new experimental DIY aircraft.    Want to learn how to make the next Facebook.com or social network?   The programming and database technology to help you start is available for free.   In many cases, the education resources are also freely available.

Internet helps you to scale: Let’s say you’ve designed a new piece of art or jewelry using a personal 3D printing technology.   You are ready to mass produce and sell this product on ebay ,etsy or your personal website.   You can now use websites like Shapeways.com or others to transform your digital design into a large scale production.

3D printers help product designers prototype and sell ideas:  In discussing the Pebble watch, Chris Anderson argues that digital fabrication technology helped Pebble to become successful.    The act of prototyping their watch enabled them to share their innovative concept for a watch that integrates with your IPhone with early adopters on Kickstarter.com.    Early adopters loving the prototype rewarded the innovators with over a 10 million dollars in backing funds.  The story of the Pebble watch helps to highlight the power of passionately improving a product idea and asking the community to help fund your dream.

Demand for physical goods will always be high: The demand for digital apps and web services is high.  We live in a material world. (“And I a material girl/boy…”)    The community is excited to discover your art that exists in the physical world.   Entrepreneurs with ideas in medicine or home automation will need help to prototype their electronics and their revolutionary products.   The demand for innovations in our physical world will always be the largest market.

Prototyped and shared is better:  The ethos and culture of the makers movement is equally as important.    Many inspirations and innovations are happening through the act of dreaming, designing, making, validating, and repeating the process.   Sites like YouTube help us to share our innovations and rapidly get feedback from the community.

Learning Resources are inexpensive:  Want to learn more about this revolution?   Check out Instructables.com, an awesome site for exploring DIY products and detailed procedures for making them.   We have collect together additional learning resources on our design page.

Check out this great interview with Chris Anderson on an interview with the Economist.   The motivations shared in this post were taken from this interview.   I hope you enjoy it!

Welcome to the maker and DIY revolution!!   As an entrepreneur, what is a problem that you care about?    What are you passionate about?   What would you make?

Photo taken from http://www.flickr.com/photos/cassidy/506390272/

Related Resources

  1. InventToLearn – Very cool book on makers movement in teaching
  2. Michael’s Free Book Index
  3. 5 reasons to love Khan academy for computer science
  4. 7 ideas for creating a student centered learning environment by Paul Andersen
  5. How to build a social networking site for free using Elgg
  6. Jennifer Pahika challenges us to “code a better government”
  7. How might we improve the way citizens and governments interact?
  8. 10 resources inspiring improvements in education through open innovation



How to Fund Your Cause or Idea with Crowd Funding?


Are you looking for a way to fund your dream project or support your cause?  The act of making a new product, an innovation program or creating a new service can be very exciting.    When planning any venture, leadership has to answer the question:  How do we fund this idea?

It breaks my heart to hear stories of teachers and faculty struggling to serve their students because funding is tight.   A huge barrier to adopting new educational technology is cost.   As we try to prepare our students to become the next generation of leaders, innovators, and teachers, it becomes imperative to provide technology resources to our students.   Access to educational technology and resources is especially challenging in our poorest neighbourhoods.   We do not want to increase divide between the rich and poor because of a lack of tools and resources.   How can we empower the community to help?

To share a personal story, my wife has been researching ways that she can offer an undergraduate research program at her school.   We have been exploring DIY Biology and related web sites, to find ways to establish a research lab at lower cost.    As grant funding becomes more competitive, we have started exploring other research alternatives.

What is Crowd Funding? 

“Crowd funding” is a movement enabling leaders and makers to ask their community to financially support a cause or project.   Don’t non-profit communities already do this?   Why is this new?   I believe the movement of “crowd funding” works well due to the network effects of the Internet.   If an idea is worth sharing, it will be shared!   If a cause addresses a deep need in the community, the community will respond, share and help.

As we have researched this topic, I wanted to share a few insights, links and resources that can help you fund your cause or idea using “crowd funding.”

How to Fund Your Idea with Crowd Funding?

1)  Find ways to add value to your community today:  Are there ways that you can share insight and knowledge with your community today using social media or a blog?   How can you serve your community today with information or practical tips?   There is research showing that having 1000 FaceBook connections that are your “raving fans” increases the probability that you can fund your idea using a crowd funding site.   Building a community around your idea is your first step.  (Refer to “The Art of Community” by Jono Bacon)

2)  Cast your vision and tell your story:  As you design your crowd funding campaign, it’s very important to communicate your story with clarity.   The story should include a brief elevator pitch summarizing your idea.      Whether you are presenting a project or cause, it’s also important to connect your community with the mission and vision driving it.    You may consider reviewing the excellent TED talk by Simon Sinek that provides insights into how great leaders inspire action.

3)  Learn from others:  As we have started the process of researching crowd funding options for Sarah, we have found value in review project ideas that won and lost.    For the Kickstarter community, you can use tools like http://www.kicktraq.com to gain insight into the velocity of various project ideas.   How did the better projects present their story?  If a project did not succeed in funding, what were the lessons learned?

4)  Don’t forget about incentive planning:  Some crowd funding websites require projects to include an incentive program.    When planning the amount that you need to raise for your project, make sure you account for costs related to your incentives.   You need to make sure to forecast the funding of all your incentives in addition to the costs related to funding your project.

5)  Additional reading and inspiration

  1. http://hopemob.org/
  2. Nice executive summary of various crowd funding sites: http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/crowdfunding-sites/
  3. Free Book on running a Kickstarter Project: http://kickstarterguide.com/files/2012/07/A-Kickstarters-Guide.pdf
  4. The untold story behind Kickstarter stats [infographic]
  5. “The Dynamics of Crowdfunding: Determinants of Success and Failure” by Ethan R. Mollick – University of Pennsylvania – Wharton School
We are very thankful to our student collaborators from Mercer University who have helped us study the proposal process.   Collectively, we have done a great deal of research on this topic.   If we can help you in anyway, please let us know.    Please leave a comment below.    We would love to support other innovators in the community.


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Photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/qisur/4351196974/

7 Lessons from Teaching a Kickstarter Class


Kickstarter.com helps creative people and makers bring their projects to market.   If you are going to create something new like a music album, a new video game, or a movie, you need funds to pay for labor and resources.   Kickstarter.com provides a platform to enable creative individuals to share the story about their project and ask the community to help fund it.

In my professional work, we have looked for ways that our software development team can support deeper learning in higher education.   Through collaboration with Mercer University School of Engineering and the Technical communications department, our research center was given the opportunity to help mentor students.   We are very thankful for the professors and leadership of the Technical communications department enabling us to mentor students from the proposal writing classes.   While the students learned various aspects of technical writing, the professors designed their classes in a project based manner.   This was a perfect environment for the challenge we would offer to students.

Our software team had the opportunity to mentor two semesters of students.    We challenged the students to design an educational video game that would delight college students.   The games were designed to maximize fun while helping student gamers to “learn by accident.”   By co-developing the project ideas with students, we hoped to conduct research with them while also funding future internship opportunities for the students.

So… Why should we teach with games?

– We learn by doing. Student learning increases when they can immediately apply their knowledge.
– Games can be a platform for teaching systems thinking (i.e. the Sims, FoldIt! )
– Games can inspire large scale collaboration (i.e. Wold of Warcraft)

Lessons Learned from teaching KickStarter and Game based learning:

–   Learning creativity:  The students who selected the Kickstarter game design challenge utilized thoughtful creativity to draft their educational experiences.    Students explored almost every genre of gaming including social games, casual games, first person shooters, MMO’s, and other virtual environments.   Their subjects ranged from math, personal finance to history.   The imagination from the students was very inspiring.

– Learning the art of persuasion and marketing:   When I learned technical writing in college, I have to confess that it was very dry.  I really enjoyed seeing how the teachers shared the craft of writing with the students through proposal writing.    The students had to learn to share their visions and scope with written and visual clarity.   The project proposals considered needed to address planning concerns of cost, schedule and scope.   By developing a Kickstarter proposal format, the students also learned the craft of engaging the community by sharing a clear vision of why their proposal can benefit education.

Leadership and working as a team:  Drafting a proposal that inspires leaders and the community to care about a cause is very challenging.   The teachers of the class organized the students into project teams.   Through this process, the teams selected leadership and organized the various phases of the project:  letter of intent, requirements drafting, story board drafting, drafting budgets, and video recording.

– Building high level requirements for programmers:  To help keep the students organized in communicating with our software engineering teams, we mentored them in creating user stories for their ideas.    User stories are a light format for documenting software requirements.   Through this process, the students learned to prioritize their requirements and focus their product designs so they have a minimal viable product that is more likely to be funded.

– Estimating budget:  Students worked with a software engineering team to scope and estimate a budget for their project.   Using the user stories/requirements the students created, the software team treated the students as customers.    The programming team offered potential implementation ideas, offered coaching on having a clear elevator pitch, and making sure the students considered all the design elements required for a game.

  • What’s the objective of the game?
  • What are the rules of the game?
  • Why would I play?
  • How does the player receive feedback about progress? (scores, badges, visual space)

– Introduction to game based learning:  I really enjoyed seeing the students share their final presentations.    Game based learning is a relatively new concept in educational technology.    It was exciting to see these undergraduate students propose new ways of teaching using gaming.

– Story telling using video: To conclude the proposal process, some students created draft videos in the “Kickstarter” style.  During this phase, the students drafted their video messages using an outline or story board.

My team and I really enjoyed our opportunity to serve as mentors in this technical communications proposal class.    During the closing presentations, I realized that we had transformed these student teams into teachers.    The students were passionately advocating for their idea that can help enhance student learning and make it more fun.    To be honest, some students were more engaged than others.      I, however, enjoyed the process of mentoring these students in creativity, planning, and communication using our mash-up of Kickstarter and project based learning.

Related Entries:


Game based learning

Game based learning

How might we improve the way citizens and governments interact?

If you read the news paper, it’s impossible to avoid headlines related to big issues facing our culture.   How do we value people and human life?  How do we address poverty?  How do we improve our education system to foster a culture of great teachers?   For our exceptional teachers, how do we celebrate those teachers with a great salary?   How do we stimulate the local economy to create jobs?

As common citizens, it’s easy for us to feel powerless in the face of these big problems.   We often think about government as this “big entity” that we influence by voting, writing letters, and getting involved in local councils.     Like many others from the “code for America” movement, I believe that social media and the internet give citizens a new opportunity to connect with each other and local leaders to create positive change in our neighborhoods.    Social media, however, is only a tool.   It takes great leaders, engaged communities, and a common vision to address some of the big issues facing our culture.  How do we get more of this?

Jennifer Pahlka, one of the founding leaders from Code for America, has an awesome quote about a new vision of government:  “Government is about doing together what we can’t do alone.”   Government isn’t just the people we elect to public office.   Citizens have the potential to connect to each other, self-organize, and form communities of reform.   SeeClickFix.com is an example of an app that can be used by citizens to identify issues in their area and encouraging citizens/government to resolve them.

I wanted to shine a light on an open innovation event sponsored by the Knight Foundation.    I believe the Knight Foundation has a very cool and important mission:  “Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged.”

How might we improve the way citizens and governments interact?

They seem to have a passion for engaging citizens and solving “big problems” in novel ways.  In their current innovation challenge, they are asking citizens to address the following question: “How might we improve the way citizens and governments interact?”   You can learn more about their challenge to government and local citizens by visiting http://www.NewsChallenge.org.

I believe their approach to this challenge is cool since they are executing this challenge using OpenIdeo’s social innovation platform.   This platform has many of my favorite ideas:  online collaboration, gamification, and designing engagement experiences with focused missions.

At the time of the writing, the challenge event has collected 109 innovation ideas.    In the spirit of previous Knight Foundation challenges, they hope to financially support some of the top ideas.

  • What one idea would you want to share?  What’s important to you?
  • From a project based learning perspective, can we use these open innovation challenges to create “mini-challenges” that can be shared with students?
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Photo taken from http://www.flickr.com/photos/jiheffe/3462940215/sizes/o/in/photostream/




Jennifer Pahika challenges us to “code a better government”

Code for America

I have watched the “Code for America” movement with great admiration.   This movement encourages programmers to take a year off to do community service working with government.  I believe that this movement is creating a very special community of technology empowered servant leaders.

The following TED talk by Jennifer Pahika shares the mission of “Code for America” and the impact of the movement.   As we enter this season of voting, it’s important to remember that voting is only one way that we can influence government as Jennifer remarks.   In particular, I believe Jennifer Pahika and the “Code for America” fellows promote 5 killer ideas in this talk!

1) “Government is what we do together that we can’t do alone” — @timoreilly

2) As a community, we should encourage citizens to serve each other for the benefit of all. These acts of service can be big or small. It all matters.

3) Apps can help remind us of the needs in our local community and connect people together. She shared the example of CitizensConnect .

4) Government can become a platform to lead citizens to serve each other.

5) In many cases, the movement is discovering ways to save tax dollars.

Abstract: Can government be run like the Internet, permissionless and open? Coder and activist Jennifer Pahlka believes it can — and that apps, built quickly and cheaply, are a powerful new way to connect citizens to their governments — and their neighbors.

If you’re interested in learning more about this movement, there is a “Code for America” summit is happening this week.   Check out the Twitter Buzz.

In the Macon, GA, I am pretty excited to see the collaborations between my university, the College Hill Alliance, and Code for America.   To learn more, please visit the following article: http://codeforamerica.org/2012-partners/macon/

This movement has also inspired a number of other citizen empowerment movements.   In particular, I would encourage you to visit “Random Hacks of Kindness.

What would you challenge our community of citizens to build to enhance government together?  Share your comments below.

How can a free massively collaborative game potentially help save lives?

Fold IT

As a game developer, I have become convinced that games can have a profound impact in teaching and changing the world.    Why? Games encourage us to take on epic challenges and objectives.    In the act of making a game, designers and developers have the opportunity to craft the rules of the game to encourage collaboration and teach complex problems.    The world has lots of big problems to solve.   A well crafted game encourages the community of players to take up grand quests because the game is challenging and fun.    I believe that games that involve human collaboration can be especially potent since the player does not feel alone in their quest.   Finally, games give us feedback on our progress on the quest.  In some games like Angry Birds, I can celebrate when I get “three stars” on a level.   I can enjoy the epic cheers from my fans as I rock the house in games like Rock Band.   Feedback may appear in the form of a score, badges, celebrations, cheers or coaching from fellow players.   These aspects of games help keep us stay engaged in learning and solving complex problems.

I have been greatly influenced by my reading of Dr. Jane Mcgonigal, writer of “Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.”    I really enjoyed the chapters devoted to using the power of community to explore and solve real world problems.    FoldIt  is a powerful example of the community empowered to perform research about protein folding.  And it’s fun too!  The act of collaborating with a massive number of online players is very engaging.

YouTube Abstract:  Guessing how a protein will fold up based on its DNA sequence is often too difficult for even the most advanced computer programs. Now scientists have created Foldit, an online game that lets human players do the work. Read the original research at: http://go.nature.com/zsfaKP and read more about ‘citizen science’ in this Nature News feature:http://go.nature.com/sfBFPM

5 reasons why FoldIt is awesome!

  • It teaches a complex subject in a simple way.
  • It allows hands on interaction with the subject of protein folding.
  • It connects “text book” theory of protein folding to research in the real world.
  • The game shows the power of massively collaborative online games.
  • The game supports research for curing HIV/AIDS, Cancer, and Alzheimer’s.
So… if you were to ask the community to solve an epic world problem, what would you challenge them to do?  How can a game designer help you?