Exploring Motivation

As a parent, I care deeply about how my kids own their habits of learning. In grade school, I received the gift of violin lessons from age five through high school. Looking back, my capacity for music making has become one of my most cherished life skills. Music is just fun! Music brings people together. In my faith life, music helps our community to pray. In short, I have internalized my motivation to explore music making. Beyond violin, I now play guitar, piano, do music recording, sing and ukulele.

If I’m honest with myself, I can remember the times that practicing violin felt like a chore. I can recall those times that I got in trouble because I did not practice enough. As an adult, I now have an appreciation for the gift of habits and can see the value that music-making has created in my life. When you start learning a complex piece of music, you have to deal with the emotions of feeling “overloaded.” With great mentorship of my parents and teaching, I learned the gift of taking things slow. We explored ways to chop up a piece of music into small phrases and gain competency. To move fast in music-making, you have to start slow and correct.

Reflecting on my music journey, I can see the joy, benefits and value of musicianship clearly now. The eight-year-old Michael did not have that kind of motivation. Over the next few months, I’m hoping to study some stuff around motivation so that I have additional tools to serve my kids in their lifelong journey. In this blog, we commit to the mission of helping students love learning through making, engineering, and exploration. It’s hard to keep my kids motivated on their projects and activities at times. I have a little one taking violin lessons now. It’s a joy to see her grow. And it can feel like a challenge getting her to practice regularly. Every parent has their version of this. How do I get my kids to eat their vegetables?

My wife and I will often tell each other that “they don’t come out saints.” In this phrase, we acknowledge that mentorship and parenting are hard. I also acknowledge that good parenting requires healthy habits from myself. (prayer, reflection, planning, etc.)

In this post, I did some reflection over the following Edutopia post about student motivation. Will probably do more over the next month.

To Increase Student Engagement, Focus on Motivation by Nina Parrish.

The post reflects on the idea that students tend to have more motivation to explore if they have the gift of autonomy. In my favorite book, “Invent to learn”, they foster the idea that students should have the space to select meaningful “hands-on” creative projects. If my kids really want to engineer a skateboard, I should try to cheer them on. In theory, I should also support them as their walk through the related math/construction skills. Secondly, students feel motivated when they feel like they’re gaining ground on their skills. (i.e. growing in mastery) For some kids, it’s hard for them to chop big projects into smaller stories or tasks. I probably should use my Scrum master skills on them to help them decompose problems more. That might be a fun experiment I can do soon. 🙂 Of course, kids feel motivated when they know that you care. That’s a good reminder.

To celebrate my wife a bit, I feel she did a great job inspiring motivation for our oldest son Peter. Peter has shown great curiousity around marine biology for years now. They also have tons of quality time bird watching too. As I write this blog post, we’re picking up Peter from a cool marine science camp down in the Florida keys. ( Pigeion Key ) I appreciate my wife for finding this amazing camp that empowered Peter to explore his natural curiousity. Picking him up, he’s on fire and excited for all the science and creatures he’s explored this week. Go Dr. Rosario!! I’m thankful that he had this life changing experience.

  • As a honest student of becoming a better parent, I would ask for your ideas on inspiring motivation.
  • What did a teacher or mentor do to inspire you?
  • What has worked for your kids? Very open to your inspirations.

Have a great day!

Our Experiments To Improve Our Home Schooling Culture

Hello, friends. As our family tries to adapt to the new normal and the COVID pandemic, I wanted to start reflecting on how our family plans to promote a learning culture. Over the years, InspiredToEducate.NET has taken on the mission of helping students love learning through making, tinkering, and engineering. As working professionals, Sarah and I want to make sure we’re still providing the best learning environment for our kids. Like many other families, we have decided to home school/virtual school our kids due to health risks. To serve other parents struggling with these transitions, I wanted to share some the ideas we’ve researched. Make sure to check out the blog posts at the end of this article.

PRO’s of virtual school + home school approach

  • Personalized learning: In general, Sarah and I find the concept of personalized learning attractive. Every student has different strengths and weaknesses. The asynchronous nature of online learning can provide the student to learn at their own pace. In many cases, lectures will be assigned in recorded in video format. If you don’t understand something, you can always hit the pause button and rewind. Does your student need more context on a topic? Students can jump on YouTube and find a Khan academy video that probably complements the class material.

  • Gaining key career skills: It’s interesting to consider the 21st century career skills our kids will explore with online virtual school. In the spring, I greatly enjoyed seeing my son prepare a pretty awesome history presentation that he shared with his class. He was very intentional about the visual look of the slides. I also admired how he practiced his presentation for clarity. I know he aspires to run his own YouTube channel some day. So, he’s getting some pretty cool practice through this online learning experience. It’s important to reflect upon the long term benefits of the “online” learning modality.

  • Exploring game based learning, simulations and project based learning: Some online teachers have started leaning into the benefits of a flipped classroom model. Under this model, students take in videos/lectures as homework assignments. When the student and teacher have “face to face” time, they can leverage their interactions to clarify knowledge and explore. Some teachers have exploited learning games or hands-on learning projects to deepen knowledge.

Our honest pain points with home schooling/virtual schooling

As our family has moved to online learning out of necessity, I have gained a great respect for families who have decided to home school their kids outside the scope of the pandemic. The self discipline and habits required to make a great learning environment at home do not come naturally. It takes a lot of work.

In our family in the Spring, if we didn’t create a good plan for the week, we could easily miss assignments or support time for our kids. Like many families, Sarah and I both work full time jobs with busy calendars. It’s not trivial to keep a mode of “focused” work in a professional context while supporting our kids. I do want to thank my niece Rosemary for helping us in the Spring. While living with us during the virus outbreak, she has been very helpful supporting our kids in school work and helping them stay focused and organized. Our appreciation for her can not be understated.

As we reflect on our Spring adventures with home schooling/online learning, Sarah and I know we have to up our game plan for the fall. Here’s our plan in progress.

Themes of our learning culture plan

  • Becoming a better Peacher(Parent/Teacher/Project manager): As we think through the fall, I know that Sarah and I will need to schedule regular time to answer questions and times for regular teacher communication. In some of our previous explorations of maker mindset in teaching, we found many good themes that will become helpful. Teaching isn’t always about being the fountain of knowledge and sharing it. Teaching sometimes looks a bit more like project management where we’re teaching students how to break big problems into small problems. We teach students how to ask better questions. We connect students with the key search tools they need to discover their own knowledge. We meet students where they’re at.

  • Family weekly planning: From looking at blogs on virtual schools, it’s common for these schools to provide assignment tracking and organization tools. I think it will be important to find these tools and organize them into a system. I hope that we can take this a step forward though. At my work, we chunk our work into two week cycles or plans. We start each cycle with a meeting called “sprint planning.” This enables us to find the most valuable and easy work we can be doing to help the project move forward and meet deadlines. I think Sarah and I will come up with a family version of this meeting us. We’ll probably use some tools like MindMeister, Google Documents, or Trello to help us stay organized and monitor work.

Here’s a cool video exploring the idea of family weekly planning using Agile ideas …

If you need an agenda for this kind of meeting, check out our post here.

  • Inspect and adapt: We know that we will not make a perfect plan. With that in mind, we plan to have a meeting weekly to see how we’re doing as a family. What’s working well? What are common road blocks? How can we get better? What resources can we leverage outside our family to promote a peaceful, prayerful, healthy and a happy family?

  • Creating zones of focus: Sarah and I have a good degree of schedule flexibility. We’re very fortunate to have this situation. We’re thinking through how we can rigorously leverage our calendars to weave school support into lives while meeting the requirements of our jobs. In brutal honesty, this will be crazy hard.

  • Elements of a good weekly schedule

    • Schedule prayer time
    • Schedule breaks and play time
    • Try to keep a normal work schedule
    • Schedule time for music practice
    • Keep a good backlog of projects/hobby projects
    • Schedule time for socially distance sports or outdoor time
    • Schedule time-box for reading
  • Seek out index of good support/course videos: We already love resources like Khan academy, Coursera, prodigygame.com, and Tynker.com. What other open courseware tools are available to families at low cost? Check out https://www.lifehack.org/articles/money/25-killer-sites-for-free-online-education.html

  • Experiment with time management patterns: Adding Pomodoro to my day: I’m thinking about trying out Pomodoro in my professional work. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique ) In this work pattern, you try to enter a zone of focused work for 25 minutes. After the 25 minutes, you take a break for 5 minutes. In those 5 minutes, it may be possible to do a check-in on kids. We’ll let you know if this works or not.

Interested in project based learning for families? Interested in sharing ideas for helping your kids love learning by making cool stuff? We want to welcome you to our new InspiredToEducate.NET facebook group. In this community, we hope learn and support each other as we promote learning cultures in our families.

Join our community on Creative Learning Projects on Facebook!

Related Posts


  • https://www.baystateparent.com/news/20200416/homeschooling-101-tips-for-parents-adjusting-virtual-learning-with-kids
  • https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/virtual-schools/
  • https://www.connectionsacademy.com/support/resources/article/virtual-school-and-working-parents-ways-to-make-it-work

Thank YOU to all teachers! #edtech #edchat

Hello. In this post, I wanted to share a word of thanks to all teachers and professors. Over the years of being married to a college professor and writing this blog, I continue to grow in respect and appreciation for all teachers. The world has become a hard place. The average student does not just battle with facts, figures, and learning. For many students, they battle with challenges in home life, challenging work situations, and divided attention. Before COVID19, my wife Sarah worked crazy hard to create the best situation possible for her students to thrive. I can see her agonizing over lecture details to make things correct and clear. At times, grading isn’t fun. Work flows into the nights and weekends.

As we enter this epic event of COVID19 and social distancing, I can only imagine the ways that teachers like you have needed to adapt and change to continue to help students become the best version of themselves. Again, I wanted to say thank you!! As a parent of three little ones, it has been a gift to see you adapting to the challenges of teaching online and authentically helping my kids to grow.

Given we’re all huddled up in the same house, Sarah and I have had the opportunity to observe lots of teaching and learning in action. I have enjoyed seeing my kids teachers create open conversation space to help the kids process and talk about their feelings of not attending school in person. We’re social creatures. And my kids miss playing and learning with their friends. The video conferencing helps our kids feel a sense of connection. I have enjoyed seeing the apps, games and “edtech” innovations used to make math, reading, and science fun and engaging. For my older son, I have enjoyed seeing him research his science project and practice new skills of presenting online for the first time. I think my sons have become excited with the idea of having their own YouTube channel some day.

My wife and I have appreciated the way our students have received their schedule and assignments. In some cases, it’s been really nice to have all work due on Sunday at the end of the week. We really like the way our teachers have broken up the scope of work for the week into daily achievable tasks. As Sarah and I try to accomplish our professional work concurrently with running a home classroom, this attention to detail is greatly helpful. We recognize that planning and executing these lessons online is not easy. And again we say thank you.

Sarah and I have often wondered what it would be like to “home school” our kids. Across the nation, many families and teachers have adapted to making our homes into places of learning. If there’s a “bright side” to COVID19, I appreciate the precious opportunity to see my kids learn and grow. I appreciate all your efforts to keep authentically human connections to our students. We recognize that teaching online is more time intensive. Speaking as a parent, please know that we recognize your efforts and thank you.

Blessings to you and your family!!

The Importance of Reading To Foster Empathy

Girl with books

In my view, one of the best educational and community hacks of all times is the library.  Why?  They are organizations devoted to growing minds through books.   Books have the ability to send us to new worlds of adventure, help us consider diverse perspectives, and exercise our imagination.  Today, I wanted to introduce you to one of my best friends from church and expert homeschool teacher, Lisa Twardowski.  She has amazing, thoughtful and talented kids.   We enjoy getting our families together to do maker education projects.   I really appreciated her post on the empathy you learn from books.   Hope you enjoy it.


As I sit sipping my hot tea after I have tucked my children into bed, I ponder the questions they asked during our nightly read aloud.  While the youngest, our daughter, was still brushing her teeth, I began reading, “The Dangerous Book of Heroes” to our boys. They opted for an entry entitled, “The Abolition of Slavery in England”.  As soon as we started the story, the boys said we would need to stop before their sister joined us, but it was too late. She was already in tears in the other room, asking how one person could possibly feel like they had the right to own or sell another person – a human being!?  One of her brothers explained that that is just the way the world is, while the other brother tried to explain that it is not okay and no one should do it.

We all opted to move on to our family read aloud, “Little House on the Prairie”.  Safe, I mistakenly thought. The title of the chapter we were reading, “The Tall Indian”.  In this chapter, Laura describes her mother’s disgust at the Indians who are using the well-worn trail that is near their new home in Missouri.  Pa mentions that if he had known that trail was the Indian highroad, he never would have built his home so close to it. Laura asks question after question about the Indians: why will they have to move west (because the government will make them) and isn’t this their territory (yes, but white men are moving here now).

The topics, so unfamiliar to us today – at least to my young children – were upsetting, thought-provoking, and cause for pause and reflection.  They felt empathic; they have the ability to imagine or share the feelings of another.

Empathy is something that cannot be taught, it must be understood, lived, experienced.  One person cannot live in every situation, so how do we “learn” empathy? TV isn’t working; computer games aren’t working; apps – as great as they are, aren’t getting the job done.  What is a mom or dad to do – our future generation is at stake! Empathy is now one of the Top 10 Skills employers are looking for in their new hires. Why? Because so many of our young people today are not able to put themselves in a situation outside of the one they are living.

So, how do we solve this problem of learning to be empathic?  It’s as simple as words in print: Books. Do you remember those?  A stack of bound paper with words and sometimes pictures printed in ink, some with a funny smell.  It’s the words printed on those pages that are the important part of this story. Sure, now you can read the printed word on a screen, and even get the sounds effects of turning a page – which works just fine too, but it is those words.  It’s the words that tell the stories of lives and journeys and events that the reader can never live, but can experience through those written words. The reader can become familiar with characters, and practices, and locations that they may never get to visit – or that no longer exist except through that written word.

Reading is a big deal these days.  Sometimes we think reading is the magic key that will unlock any door.  And while I am certainly a believer that reading can fix many of our problems, I do think it is VERY important to choose what we, and our children, are reading carefully.  Captain Crazy Cape is not going elicit more than crass humor from our children. Diary of Anyone is probably not worth our time. What goes in will come out – it works in the stomach and the brain.

There are some great book recommendations online – and what you will find after reading enough of those lists is that as that they contain a lot of the same books.  Not all the books are old, but those tend to be the ones most often turned to. Some of the books I have read recently that really stirred me are middle-grade novels, many written in the 1950s.  The following is not a complete list, as I don’t believe such a thing can exist, but any of these books are a good place to begin.

  • Stuart Little
  • Charlotte’s Web
  • Little House on the Prairie Series
  • Sarah, Plain, and Tall
  • The 100 Dresses
  • Number the Stars
  • Heidi
  • Amos Fortune, Free Man
  • The Secret Garden
  • Tuck Everlasting
  • Carry On, Mr. Bowditch
  • Where the Red Fern Grows
  • Island of the Blue Dolphin
  • Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World: The Extrodinary True Story of Shackleton and the Endurance
  • Johnny Tremain
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
  • Men of Iron
  • The Bronze Bow
  • The Giver (Upper Middle School, High School, and Adult)
  • Silas Marner (Upper Middle School, High School, and Adult)
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (High School and Adult)
  • The Hiding Place (a must read for ALL High School students and Adults)

There is no magic fix all in any of these books.  Some are true accounts of the authors’ lives, some are historical fiction, and still, others are fiction outright.  All tell the story of humankind: the hardship and failures, the successes and joys. Each will allow the reader to walk a mile in another person’s shoes.  These stories span historical times, locations, race, and socio-economic classes, but they all deal with characters who struggle with one issue or another, but find hope to continue on.  

Most of these situations are not things we can even offer our children, nor would we want to: to become an orphan, or a slave, or a science experiment.  But they can see life through another’s eyes and learn what it may have been like to have those struggles, and think those thoughts, and possibly make different choices – or at least ponder, “what would I have done?”  To be empathic to another’s struggles and life. To gain the ability to imagine or share in the feelings of another, all from the safety of the sofa.

As LeVar Burton of Reading Rainbow so often reminded us, “But you don’t have to take my word for it…”  

Lisa Twardowski


Other posts from InspiredToEducate.NET

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/yannickcarer

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 GDGCentralFlorida.org. 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 FreeCodeCamp.com, 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 FreeCodeCamp.com 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.

FreeCodeCamp.com 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

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 http://sonic-pi.net/, my blog post and this free ebook.  Interested in teaching an extended course in Sonic-Pi? check out http://www.sonicpiliveandcoding.com/.   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: http://www.realimpactcenter.com/  .   They have some pretty awesome summer camps this summer!


Sonic Pi Screen



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.

Celebrating SparkMacon Makerspace Community in 2016

SparkMacon 3D Print

Happy Holidays everyone!  We wanted to share a few memories and pictures from our community outreach in 2016 and workshops.   We’ve also included pictures from our road trip to Atlanta Maker Faire.  We’re very thankful to our team and community members who continue to grow Macon as a Maker City!

From my perspective, I enjoy seeing new relationships and friendships form through our coworking/makerspace.   Our team also enjoys seeing the growth of our maker businesses, our young makers, and creatives.   It’s a true joy to connect and support our Macon makers.   We want to thank Real Impact and our volunteer teams for their service to coach young makers to grow their creativity.   We also want to thank our team members who lead our start-up community events like Young Entrepreneurs Academy,  .NET users group,Creative Entrepreneur Meetups and other community networking events.

We’re looking forward to growing the Macon Makers movement together in 2017!

Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Onward and upward!

The SparkMacon Team

Tiz the Season To Code a Christmas Song


Hi, friends! Hope that you and your family have a very Merry Christmas. Last week, we celebrated National computer science week. In schools over the world, kids and adults had their first exposure to the fundamentals of computer science: putting commands in order, looping, breaking problems into smaller parts, and decision making.  Make sure to check out the great learning resources at Code.org .

I have to confess that Christmas is one of my favorite seasons because of the music.   Growing up, my parents provided me and my brother a precious gift of teaching us music.  I started playing violin at age five, learned cocktail piano with my mom in high school, and started coaching choirs in college.   Music is in my soul.   Christmas is just a wonderful time to be a music maker.

There’s a really fun tool by Sam Aaron and University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory that teaches music theory and computer science called Sonic Pi.  This tool does an amazing job of helping students understand music theory concepts by building songs with code.   The software uses the Ruby programming language and has brief and fun tutorials to inspire the student to make electronic music while coding.   You can learn more about Sonic Pi in our blog post here.   Sonic Pi runs on Mac, Windows, Linux, and Raspberry Pi.

There’s also a great ebook from our friends at MagPi on Sonic Pi.  MagPi is a great resource for students, makers, and parents who enjoy Raspberry Pi.

Here’s your mission if you choose to accept it

I wanted to offer a coding challenge to students, parents, and makers who follow our blog.  Try coding up a Christmas or Holiday song.   I found that it was a fun exercise since it requires you to think about melody line building, timing, and coding.

To help inspire your imagination, I have coded up the classic song: Silent Night.   Download Sonic Pi, copy the code from here into Sonic Pi, and listen.    There’s a track for the melody and the track for chords.

Hope you enjoy this challenge!  Make sure to share your creations in the comments below!

Silent Night using Sonic Pi / Ruby

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Import 3D Scenes Into Minecraft using MCEdit2 #makered #minecraft #minecraftedu

In our classes for young makers, we discuss how digital fabrication technology will be a game-changer.   In future work, more jobs will involve converting digital content into physical things through technologies like 3D printing, CNC, and other similar technologies.   Students love playing video games and enjoy the opportunity to learn how to make their own game worlds.   At the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins, GA, I had the opportunity to teach a workshop on building amazing game worlds in Minecraft using TinkerCAD.com.   It’s so much fun to share these lessons with students!  After guiding the students through some of the basic operations of TinkerCAD.com, we encourage the students to play and build projects that they care about.   It was cool to see their finished work in Minecraft.   While the students think about “playing and building,” they are actually exposed to many engineering and math skills too.   The students learned how to displace objects in 3D space, rotate objects, scale objects, perform measurement, and many other mathematical ideas.

Some of the students attempted to build a Minecraft roller coaster structure.   In a secondary step, we added Minecraft train tracks and red stone power rails to power our Minecarts.  It turned out great!

Minecraft Roller coaster

One of our students decided to build a huge Minecraft creeper!  A friend of mine from Ampersand Arts in MaconMacon, helped build the huge snow man shown below.

Creeper, snowman, and friends

You can see a car, tie fighter, and rockets built by the students.

Car, Tie Fighter, Rockets

Very proud of the focus and work of our students.  I’m also thankful to my friend Jake who helped coach the class with me.

To support parents, students, and teachers, I wanted to share a few tips to enable you to build stuff like this in Minecraft.

What’s a schematic file?

A schematic file contains 3D model data to transfer content into Minecraft.    You can find schematic data files on web sites like http://www.minecraft-schematics.com/ .   You can also create 3D models and convert them to schematic files using TinkerCAD.com .

How do you import schematic files into Minecraft? 

I wanted to share a quick tutorial video on using MCEdit to import schematic content into Minecraft. Before doing the steps mentioned in this video, make sure to install Minecraft on your computer and create at least one world.

1. Open your web browser and navigate to http://www.mcedit.net/ .
2. Click the “Download” menu option at the top.
3. You will want to download the latest version appropriate for your operating system. In this tutorial, we will download version 2 beta 6 for Windows. (64 bit version)
4. After the install program has been downloaded, execute the program and specify a location to store “mcedit.” For this demo, we will store MCEdit in “c:\games\mcedit.”  Using our file explorer, we will navigate to the MCEdit folder.
5. Open the “mcedit2-win64-2.0.0-beta6” folder.
6. Run MCEdit
7. In the panel on the left, MCEdit lists the minecraft game worlds saved by your current user account. For this demo, we’ll open the world called “demo.”
8. Select “demo”.
9. Click the button “edit.”
10. You can move around this gameworld using “WASD” navigation style.
11. You can change the direction the player is looking by holding the “right” mouse button and dragging the mouse.
12. To import a schematic file, click the “Import/Export > Import”
13. The system will open a file box enabling you to select a schematic. For this demo, we’ll select a small car created by one my students.
14. The XYZ numbers here enable you to adjust the location of the schematic content. In my case, I’ll edit the “y” coordinate to make sure to car connects to the ground.
15. Click the “confirm” button to accept the schematic content into the world.
16. Keep in mind, you’re not done yet. You need to save the session by clicking the “MCEdit” menu followed by “save world.”
17. You’re all done. Close MCEdit.
18. Open up Minecraft to test that your schematic file shows up correctly in your world!


We want to say thank you to the Museum of Aviation of Warner Robins, GA for enabling us to share this workshop.   Make sure to check out their fantastic STEM education workshops here.  We also want to give a shout out to the folks at TinkerCAD.com and MCEdit.NET.   Without their care and craft, we wouldn’t be able to inspire these students as makers of the future.  I really appreciate their work.

Make sure to check out our next workshop!!

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.

Student registration includes a complete mBot robotics kit from Makeblock.cc.


  • Workshop length: 3 hours
  • Cost: $20 + $75(cost of mBot kit)
  • Register for the workshop today!
  • Dates – Dec 3rd from 1pm to 4pm
  • Location – SparkMacon Makerspace – 557 Cherry St, Macon, GA (parking/directions)
  • All ages and experience levels are welcome and the workshops are a great activity for the entire family. Parents and kids can also both attend under the same registration fee!


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