Encouraging Girls to Hack and Make


I first got interested in engineering and technology 30 years ago when I was in 5th grade. My class had four Apple IIe computers, and my teacher taught us to program in Logo and BASIC. This was my first time using technology to create something and I loved it. In 6th grade, my teacher continued teaching me to program and took some of us to what would now be called a hackathon for kids at our local university. When I entered middle school, I chose to take computer programming again since it was something I was already familiar with and I didn’t want to take cooking. These experiences sparked an interest in me to pursue a technology career, and after high school I was on my way to MIT to study electrical engineering.

Unfortunately, my story is not so common for girls from Pacoima, a high-poverty, majority-Latino community in the Northeast San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. While most focus on stats that label my community as disadvantaged and underserved, we do have an advantage when it comes to making. Pacoima is a community of makers. Growing up, I saw both men and women making things like their own furniture from scrap wood, toys for their kids, elaborate dresses for quinceañeras, and hacking and fixing electronic household devices.

After working as a hardware engineer, attending grad school at Harvard, and working in science and engineering education for 10 years, I decided to go back to my community last year and start a program for girls. I wanted to make explicit for girls the connection between making in their community and making with more advanced technology. To do this, I launched the DIY Girls after-school program for 5th grade girls at my former elementary school. The school offered me a dedicated classroom space, which ended up being my own 5th grade classroom! With help from volunteers, friends, and teachers, I converted the classroom into a makerspace, recruited our first cohort of participants, and was ready to get started.


The DIY Girls program is designed to offer experiences that will attract young girls to technology, allow them to express themselves creativity, and give them more confidence in their technical abilities. We aim to have an effect on the girls as they enter adolescence and start to form career interests. We meet with 30 girls twice a week for two hours each session throughout the school year. Through hands-on making activities, girls in our program make real things like their own toys, wearable electronics, and video games. They learn technical skills including soldering, computer programming, basic electronics, and power tool usage. They then apply these skills creatively by designing their own projects and inventions.

We focus on these three areas:

  • Creative Electronics: Girls learn electronics though e-textiles and other creative materials like conductive paint. The goal is for girls to be creative while learning basic electronics. They also learn to solder, strip wire, build circuits on breadboards, and use multimeters.
  • Building and Tinkering: We teach girls to use tools needed to build things. Girls take things apart and learn appropriate ways to use the tools in addition to safety techniques. We aim to instill confidence through this session.
  • Product Design: Girls combine the skills developed throughout the year to design and create their own products. Girls use a 3D printer, MakeyMakey boards, and other materials to create a product. We culminate with a public showcase of the products for families and the community.

DIY Girls has been successful in creating a learning environment where girls can take risks, build confidence, and work on projects that attract them to technology. If a girl gets frustrated one day because her program or project didn’t work, she knows she will have the opportunity to try again when she returns to our space for the next session. Girls love that they’re learning real skills, and teachers and administrators have told us that they notice an increase in self-confidence in them.

We’re excited that the majority of girls want to continue working on making projects in middle school. Unfortunately, their middle schools are offering them technology classes where they learn to open and close windows and type documents. This is devastating for us and the reason we want to continue offering programs for our girls beyond 5th grade. We dream of teaching our girls more advanced skills like programming and creating projects with Arduino and Lilypad Arduino.

In addition to our vision of creating continuity for our girls, we want to expand to new schools. Word of mouth about our program has spread in the community and we get calls from schools that want us to offer the program at their school. This interest and demand inspired us to launch an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds so that we can expand our program and reach more girls! I invite you to learn more about our program, consider supporting us, and send us ideas on new projects for our girls.

Editor’s Note: We met Luz at World Maker Faire New York 2013, where she had travelled across the country to spread the word. Her passion and enthusiasm are contagious and we applaud Luz on her efforts!

The Atmel Education Panel

Atmel Panel

Brian Jepson weighing in on makers in education.

It’s not just Maker Faire here in New York—it’s Maker Week—and there are a huge number of side-events, panels, and hackathons going on around the city. As part of this Atmel hosted a makers in education panel with Reza Kazerounian (Atmel), Massimo Banzi (Arduino), Suzanne Deffree (EDN), Brian Jepson (MAKE), Bob Martin (Atmel), Annmarie Thomas (University of St Thomas) and Quin Etnyre (Qtechknow), and moderated by Windell Oskay (Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories).

When someone asked about makers in education, Brian Jepson said,

A maker will teach you how to pick locks, but they won’t teach you how to break into a bank

which goes right to the heart of the maker culture. Massimo Banzi also made interesting points about the Arduino

….[the Arduino] is less about the power of technology and more about reducing friction

and that he was more proud that he’d got the Arduino into Radio Shack, than he was about the board itself,

The Radio Shack deal was an achievement, not the product.

because that meant it widely available for other people to work with—and then for to make things.

The Brooklyn Robot Foundry’s Creations by Young Makers



Brooklyn Robot Foundry is doing some amazingly whimsical things with robotics and young makers.

We thrive to inspire and motivate kids by teaching them about the fun of building. We love the idea of learning and coming together through making things. We believe in the DIT—do it together— mentality and the importance of building a community around this common goal.

Stop by and check out some of the wonderful robotic creations conjured up by Brooklyn Robot Factory’s fledgling engineers, including this adorable hugging robot at the Young Makers tent in Zone C!


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My Eagle Project: Using Raspberry Pi to Deliver Education to Afghan Schools

Students with computers

An existing lab in a school set up by Trust in Education

As my Eagle Project, I’m using the Raspberry Pi platform to build computers for students at a girls’ school in Afghanistan. We’re raising the money online at Indiegogo, and will be building a special, pre-loaded Linux distribution with educational software. Trust in Education, a non-profit aid group, will be setting up a computer lab with the Pi-based computers. (more…)

Funding School Makerspaces


robot-fundraisingAs part of our Back-to-School series, we are sharing chapters and excerpts from the Makerspace Playbook: School Edition. Today, an excerpt from Chapter 9, Startup: tips for funding your Makerspace. One idea not shared in the playbook that has come up time and again is having a Make Sale, where you sell some of the items made in the Makerspace. Hillel Posner’s students make cutting boards and necklaces in their woodworking class. Casey Shea at Analy High School recoups some of the high cost of buying and maintaining the school’s laser cutter with an annual yearbook-engraving fundraiser. What have you done in your school to raise money to Make? On to our excerpt: Your Makerspace may not need much of a budget to operate, if you have a space you can use for free, tools to borrow, and materials found or donated. For some Makerspaces, the ones with lots of parental involvement, many of the projects are self-funded. But if your Makerspace takes place at a school without as much family support, or if you simply do not have this all in place, you may need to research community or family foundation grants to fill in the gap. It’s possible there could be city or other government agency grants available to get your Makerspace what it needs. Sometimes you can find the funding with a “planning grant.” If you are partnering with a non-profit, get advice from the fundraising staff who may be able to suggest the right foundations to approach. Ask around.
Online tools like Kickstarter and Indiegogo might help you conduct pointed fundraising campaigns towards a specific goal. There are many sites like this – search on “crowdfunding” for more suggestions. While it’s not a Makerspace, we know that the Rhode Island Mini Maker Faire used this tactic to launch a Maker Faire. Maybe it could work for a Makerspace too. You could invite business sponsors to donate and back up the expenses of your Makerspace, just as local sports teams have support from their community businesses. In general, Maker demographics are a desirable audience for businesses (techies and smart families). Remember that the earlier you establish it, the more valuable the sponsorship would be to the business, so don’t procrastinate. Be flexible—you may have to “wheel and deal” a bit to secure sponsors. To get funding, you would identify potential sponsors and devote time and energy approaching them, following up, and then—when they sign on—representing them on your website and other materials. But keep in mind you may not be able to feature their logo too prominently at Maker Faire itself. Check in with your event staff before making any promises to potential funders. Our friend Barry Scott, whom we met while he was the Da Vinci Center of the San Joaquin County Office of Education in Stockton, California, put together a very helpful blog called Grants for Makerspace schools which is full of links and tips, some of which we’ve quoted here:
Makerspace schools need more resources than most educational programs. It’s not as hard as you might think to find supporters. National competitive grants may be offered by private sector foundations, nonprofit organizations, or government agencies. Government grants tend to require more complicated applications, while others, like the ING Unsung Heroes grant may be very brief (three pages maximum). Regional grants are often offered by utility companies and corporations to support families in their communities. These are often less competitive and are usually easy applications to complete. PG&E and Los Alamos National Lab are examples. Non-published grants and gifts to schools are often made by both large national organizations and smaller local companies and agencies. Most large corporations have a foundation or charitable contributions division which can be contacted for potential support. Look at your community’s largest employers as potential supporters. They want to provide community support, improve school programs, and they want schools to produce a bright workforce as much as anyone.

 Barry’s Checklist for Grant Planning & Development

General considerations

Specific considerations

  • Your project demonstrates basic understandings of sciences and content involved.
  • Your grant is based on some things you already do with kids.
  • Your grant is not dependent upon (or an extension of) another grant, if so it must stand on it’s own merit.
  • Your project includes a “kids teaching kids” component.
  • Your students will work with other classes at your site.
  • Your students will work with students at other schools.
  • Your project involves students’ homes or families.
  • Your project has interaction with local businesses.
  • Your project will impact the community.
  • Your project will have a positive effect on your school’s culture.
  • Your project has a long-term vision and may carry on into the next school year.
  • You have “buy in” from your administrator.
  • You’ve consulted any school facilities staff that may need to be involved.
  • Your application is concise, brief, and “paints a picture” of your “finished project”. (less is more!)
  • You have considered ALL of the potential obstacles to completion of your project
  • You’ve allowed at least two peers to review your draft and provide feedback, including one non-science person.
  • You’re composition style is easily comprehensible and you’ve checked the spelling of your document.
  • A detailed budget is provided and all the funds are allocated.
  • Letters of approval and support are provided.
  • Follow the application format carefully, it is your blueprint to success, don’t be repetitive.
  • Project Title is brief and suggestive of the project’s goals or activities.
  • Project Description includes specific goals.
  • You have identified the target audience (this may include more than students).
  • You describe specific student activities including the energy science content studied.
  • Student leadership and service learning/community involvement goals are described.
  • State Content Standards correlations are delineated (this can be at the very end)
  • An Evaluation section explains how you will evaluate the success of your project.
  • An Expansion section describes how your project might be replicated or expanded.

Safety in School Makerspaces


As part of our Back-to-School series, we are sharing chapters and excerpts from the Makerspace Playbook: School Edition. Today, Chapter 4, Safety. No matter how you equip your school Makerspace, it’s likely that if you are doing anything interesting with your students or members there are some risks involved. Be sure to emphasize safety to the users of your Makerspace. Learning how to use a tool isn’t all that helpful unless you also learn all the risks and precautions you have to take in order to come out of your project build with all your eyes, ears, fingers, and limbs intact.
It’s a fine line, though, between informing kids about the potential dangers and scaring them from ever using any interesting tools! While accidents happen when the proper steps aren’t taken, many millions, perhaps billions, of people make with dangerous equipment every day without incident. Our goal is to make safety second nature for kids, so that they feel at ease when they use the tools because they know they have protected themselves and prepared as much as they could before lifting the tool or clicking its power switch. It doesn’t take much to cause permanent disability. The more powerful and more complex the tool, the more damage it can cause, and the faster it can cause it. While we all hope the worst doesn’t happen, you and your students must be aware of the danger and prepare. Consider creating a “Maker mantra” that covers potential risks in your shop, that your Makerspace can chant as you get started with each build session. Perhaps something like:
Protect. Double-check. Aim away. Clamp it. Focus. Never play.

Planning for Safety

Stimulating a culture of safety can dramatically cut down on shop mishaps as members are encouraged members to watch out for the safety of each other and respect the equipment. You can accomplish this by modeling safe behavior in your own actions and in how you set up the space, setting up a strict training regimen, and posting signs and checklists. posner-eqpt-signs Tool-safetytraining-posterMakerspace users of all ages need to be trained in safely operating tools before using them. And they also need reminders. In Hillel Posner’s woodshop in Pittsburg, California, he has a multi-step process for being certified on a machine before the student is able to use it independently. Then he also posts a sign on each machine to explain its ideal application and some key safety guidelines. Cleaning up is not just a measure of respect for the workspace, it also removes hazards. Plan to easily and regularly remove trash and debris. Enforce a strict cleanup policy throughout the workspace. Keep work areas tidy as well by minimizing the number of wires running around. Extension cords quickly become tripping hazards, and power strips also cause trouble on the ground or as they tumble erratically on a desktop. We suggest you provide access to grounded outlets all along the perimeter of the room and/or dropped from the ceiling for each workbench.
Tools need to have enough space to be operated safely and not endanger the operator or other people in the space. People need to concentrate when trying new tools, especially ones that can injure. Make sure there is enough real estate to use a tool safely. Work areas need to be well lit and clean. Ventilation and/or air filtering is required for many tools. The equipment itself needs to be as safe as possible. Tools should be well maintained and not have safety features removed or defeated. This is especially important when using second-hand tools that might not have a perfectly safe heritage. When acquiring new tools consider spending the extra money on models with advanced safety features, such as a SawStop table saw. Make well-stocked first-aid kits visible and easily accessible throughout your space. Post clear and visible warning signs on all equipment and where necessary. Provide personal safety equipment such as goggles, earplugs, gloves, etc. to those who don’t have their own. Accidents may happen. They probably will, and let’s hope they are all minor. Nonetheless, do make sure that there is a legal entity that owns the space so that the effects of a serious injury don’t extend the horror with legal ramifications. If you house the Makerspace at a school, the district’s coverage would likely suffice. If there’s no legal entity, we suggest you form an LLC or a corporation to shield individual members from any liability.

Common Rules

common safety rulesIt seems like every teacher writes their own rules, often adapting someone else’s rules to the idiosyncrasies of his or her own space, and adding more as they go along (and students reveal new rules that need to be written!) Rules work best when they are in your own voice, as you’ll be repeating them often. Common safety rules we’ve seen posted in shops and other making classrooms are listed below (formatted as a one-page document Common Safety Rules, right.) The emergency phone number is 9-1-1 (or describe your emergency procedure here.)
Report all injuries.
  • Do not attempt to remove foreign objects from the eye or body.
  • If chemicals get in the eye(s), wash eye(s) for 15 minutes in an open flow of water before proceeding for medical treatment.
Use protective gear. Dress right.
  • Wear eye protection: safety glasses with side shields, goggles, or face shields at all times, whether working or not!!
  • Do not wear loose-fitting clothing around moving or rotating machinery.
  • Remove ties, jewelry, gloves, etc. especially around moving or rotating machinery.
  • Tie back or cover long hair to keep it away from moving machinery.
  • Wear only shoes that cover the entire foot, no open-toe shoes or sandals.
  • Wear suitable gloves when handling hot objects, glass, or sharp-edged items.
  • Wear appropriate clothing for the job (i.e., do not wear short sleeve shirts or short pants when welding).
  • Safety is your top priority when using the shop. If you are not sure what you are doing, ask.
  • Know all the locations of all first aid, fire, and safety equipment.
  • Never use a tool unless you’ve been trained to use it safely.
  • Never work alone when using power tools. Two persons must be present and be able to see one another.
  • Sign in before using any equipment.
  • Do not work in the shop if tired, or in a hurry.
  • Do not fool around, startle, or distract anyone (not even with a conversation) while either one of you is using a tool.
  • Think through the entire job before starting. Prepare prints or drawings with all dimensions and specifications prior to using machines.
Use tools right.
  • Use tools only as they were designed to be used. (A wrench is not a hammer.)
  • Never use a broken tool.
  • Report any broken tools or machines immediately.
  • Do not remove tools from the room.
  • Never walk away from a tool that is still on.
  • A hard hammer should not be used to strike a hardened tool or any machine part. Use a soft-faced hammer.
  • Operate machines only with all required guards and shields in place.
Clean up.
  • Clean up every time whenever you leave an area, including sweeping the floor.
  • Clean and return all tools to where you got them.
  • Use compressed air sparingly; never aim it at another person or use it to clean hair or clothes.
  • Shut off and unplug machines when cleaning, repairing, or oiling.
  • Never use a rag near moving machinery.
  • Use a brush, hook, or a special tool to remove chips, shavings, etc. from the work area. Never use the hands.
  • Keep fingers clear of the point of operation of machines by using special tools or devices, such as, push sticks, hooks, pliers, etc.
  • Keep the floor around machines clean, dry, and free from trip hazards. Do not allow chips to accumulate.
  • Mop up spills immediately and put a chair or cone over them if they are wet enough to cause someone to slip.

Rules to make by

safeworkshop-gurstelleWilliam Gurstelle wrote a piece called “The Safe Workshop: Rules to make by” for our 2011 Ultimate Workshop and Tool Guide, and we’re including this text below. Your workshop should be a welcoming and friendly place. The key lies in creating a safe and secure environment. Before embarking on a new project, it’s a good idea to take a close look at the working conditions in your shop. If your project area gives you a vaguely nervous feeling, now’s the time to bring things up to date. Don’t delay: inspect, review, and evaluate your space and make whatever changes seem necessary to keep you out of trouble. Don’t know where to start? Here are some ideas from the members of MAKE’s Technical Advisory Board to get you started. Have at it!
  • Obtain a pair of well-fitting, cool polycarb goggles, leather work gloves, and a protective lab coat. Make them attractive and stylish so that wearing safety equipment is fun.
  • Pull back long hair.
  • Secure your work when using hand or power tools. Always use clamps, not your hands, to hold a work piece on a drill press table. If the tool binds, the work will spin dangerously.
  • Aim away from yourself. When cutting with a utility knife, position yourself so that when you slip, the blade doesn’t land in your flesh.
  • Avoid using a table saw when you can. Statistically, it’s easily the most dangerous piece of equipment in the shop.
  • Don’t touch a bare wire, or cut any wire, until you’re sure where the other end goes. When in doubt, measure the potential. This will save you from a possible heart-stopping electrical shock.
  • Always keep a first aid kit in your workshop, and always know where it is. First aid kits can be purchased ready- made, or you can put one together yourself. Essential items include bandages, pads, gauze, scissors, tweezers, and tape.
  • If you work with heavy things — say, timbers or angle iron — or are prone to dropping tools, steel-toed safety shoes are a great investment in long-term foot appearance.
  • Install a smoke detector in your shop and place a fire extinguisher in an easy-to-reach spot. Make sure the extinguisher is rated for all types of fires.
  • Wear a particle mask when appropriate to avoid breathing dust and other particulate pollutants common in workshops. Sawdust from treated wood and some plastics have known health risks.
  • The high-decibel noise generated by power tools such as table saws and circular saws can damage your hearing. Protect your ears by using full-sized, earmuff-style protectors.
  • Wait 12 hours between sketching the plans and starting the construction process. The times people get hurt are usually when they’re excited and in a hurry. Slow down, and work deliberately.

Specific Safety Guidelines

Tools are safe when used responsibly. But even simple hand tools can cause accidental scrapes, cuts, and pinches. Hammers can crush or produce flying debris. Here are some other more specific safety guidelines often connected to certain kinds of tools.

  • Flying objects. Safety glasses should be worn at all times in the shop, especially while working near hammers and power tools to protect eyes from flying debris. Enforce eye protection while members solder.
  • Invisible dangers. Safety doesn’t only mean avoiding gushing blood. Foster good habits of consumerism by encouraging your students to choose materials with full knowledge of the potential long-term effects of their use. For example, never use a laser cutter to cut PVC or other chlorinated plastics. Lexan and PC board are also strongly discouraged. PVC gives off chlorine gas, which is dangerous for any nearby people and also highly corrosive to the machine. Many shipments are accompanied by a material safety data sheet (MSDS), and if they aren’t, then these are usually accessible online.
  • The air you breathe. Respirators (masks) should also be worn when sanding with either a power sander or by hand. Any kind of soldering generates fumes from the rosin core of the solder so the area should be ventilated. Under normal soldering conditions, solder containing lead poses no health risk, though makers should be encouraged to wash their hands after a long period of handling leaded solder. Lead-free solder is available but less recommended because the rosin gives off much more toxic fumes when soldering, is more corrosive to soldering tips, requires higher temperatures to solder with, and is generally harder to work with.
  • Note the name: “power” tools. They are powerful. Some power tools are heavy and should be not be used by makers who don’t have the strength to control the tool well. Power tools can grab anything that dangles near them. When using any power tool long hair should be tied up, and loose clothes and jewelry should be secured.
  • Multiple risks. Electric saws have high-power moving blades that can quickly cause traumatic injuries. However the chance of injury is small when properly maintained and used with care and attention. In addition to safety glasses, respirators (masks) and earplugs should be worn during use of electric saws.
  • Fire. Heat guns and handheld torches can generate fires if used without proper attention to the work and surrounding areas.
  • Burns. Make sure there’s cool running water nearby for burns. Use the lower-heat glue guns when possible. The tip of a soldering iron heats to about 400°F, hot enough to cause burns. It should be handled attentively. Steam irons (used in sewing) do get hot enough to cause burns.
  • Sewing can cause a small prick from a needle, but sewing machines and sergers both have enough power to put a needle through a finger when used carelessly. Sergers also have blades that can cut a careless finger.
  • Metalwork areas need welding screens or curtains to prevent eye damage in passersby. Visors should be worn while welding.

Safety Plans

Makers who display, operate, or use any items that pose a danger to others — such as fire (including all heat-producing or open-flame devices, candles, lamps, etc.), explosions, internal combustion, flammable liquids, compressed gases, hazardous chemicals, launches, sharp or otherwise dangerous materials or tools — will have to explain what they’ll do to keep others safe when they exhibit their project to others. Whether or not your showcase event will require a written Safety Plan, creating one is a wise habit to establish among your students. We’ve included a template for a Safety Plan in the Resources chapter.

Safety plans make you and your students more confident that you are all aware of the foreseeable risks, considered possible consequences, and have taken all the precautions you could to ensure everyone’s safety.

At Maker Faire, safety plans are necessary for any projects that would display, operate, or use any of these:

  • Lamps and other heat-producing devices including hot glue guns
  • Open flames, burners, candles, etc.
  • Internal-combustion engines
  • Flammable liquids, compressed gases, or dangerous chemicals including propane and helium
  • Any potentially hazardous electrical / mechanical device or chemical / biological substance

Safety plans typically include a description of the exhibit or demonstration, the names, qualifications and previous experience of people working the exhibit, a description of general safety precautions, and the emergency plan. If the project includes fire, the safety plan should also describe the fuel source, how much is onsite, where and how it is stored, how much is burning and in what amount of time it burns, and if the valve has an electronic propane sniffer.

By the way, there’s usually a different process for people who plan to serve food to people they don’t know (the public), which involves getting a city permit.

The Magic of Making: Engaging Students as Makers

http://vimeo.com/63273194 Here is a video of my 2013 Distinguished Speaker talk at SXSW EDU in Austin, TX. In this talk, I wanted to contrast formal and informal learning, and point out that informal learning is a kind of magic. We see it but we really don’t know how it works and we don’t understand its value. It’s IFFY, which is to say, Informal, engaging Family and Friends, and centered on You. Making is IFFY, centered on you and your interests, and it is something you typically share with family and friends.

Sign Up Now for Maker Training Camps


Have you ever wanted to:

  • Learn about Arduino?
  • Build a weather-monitoring site?
  • Build a marshmallow blaster to wow your neighbors?

But been frustrated by how hard it is to learn something new?

There are few options for makers seeking to learn a new skill. Many Makerspaces offer courses, but these are frequently safety and basic-use courses for specific machines and are often limited to an introductory level. YouTube videos and Massive Open Online Courses are convenient – until you have a question for the teacher.

Today, we offer you a new way of learning: Maker Training Camps. Training Camps are collaborative online courses specifically designed to make it easier to learn a new skill or build a specific project. Camps use Google hangouts and communities to make it easy to work with other students and teachers. Camps are generally between one and five weeks in length with a lecture, a project and optional office hours each week.  Camps range in price from free to $150.

Our teachers are makers themselves. Some of our teachers have written Make books, some are professors, and some run businesses using what they teach. We select teachers based on whether they are experts, not whether they have three PhD’s.

Every lesson in a training camp is accompanied by a project to help you understand the concepts. Camps culminate in a final project you can share with the entire class.

Our first three training camps are described below and start June 1.  Click here for more information or to sign up.

Introduction to Arduino You’ve heard about fun things you can do with an Arduino, but maybe aren’t sure where to start? This is the camp for you. Learn how to setup, program, troubleshoot, and design circuits for your Arduino as well as create an open-ended final project to share with the class.

Introduction to Raspberry Pi Learn the basic building blocks of Raspberry Pi and create maker applications for this tiny Linux computer. Find out how to write quick interactive applications using IDLE (Integrated DeveLopment Environment). Fun projects include creating a game simulator and a calculator.

Design for Desktop 3-D Printing Desktop 3D printers are hot! These powerful tools for designers and hobbyists present new opportunities and challenges. Learn to optimize existing 3D designs and create new designs that bend the rules, and push the limits of what’s possible.


HAXLR8R Launches Startups at Maker Faire

One of Maker Faire‘s newest Blacksmith Sponsors is HAXLR8R, a hardware startup incubator based of both San Francisco and Shenzhen, China. Now in its second year, HAXLR8R takes promising startups to China to jumpstart their innovative hardware companies. HAXLR8R’s latest batch of startups and the incubator itself (currently accepting applications for next year) will be at Maker Faire this week. Sponsors are key to making Maker Faire happen: most maker exhibits are provided free of charge to the folks showing off their projects, and it’s the generous sponsors that make that possible. So be sure to swing by and see what they’ve got going on.  I asked two of HAXLR8R’s mentors, Zach Hoeken Smith and Cyril Ebersweiler, to answer some questions about the incubator and the companies that will be at the Faire.

Cyril and Zach from HAXLR8R

Cyril and Zach from HAXLR8R

What is HAXLR8R?

HAXLR8R is a hardware startup incubator that was founded in 2011. Our incubator brings 10 companies to China and helps them develop and launch their hardware startups. Right now we’re closing in on the end of our second program in which we’ve led 10 companies through the process of prototyping, design, and factory sourcing. All 10 companies will be launching their products in San Francisco during May at our Demo Day and Maker Faire.


Why Shenzhen?

We’re located in Shenzhen because it is the best place in the world to design, prototype, and manufacture hardware. The resources, speed, and general awesomeness of building hardware here is staggering and hard to put into words. Shenzhen is sometimes referred to as the factory of the world, and it’s true. A huge amount of the goods that you interact with on a daily basis are produced here in Shenzhen and the manufacturing ecosystem here means that you can prototype using professional tools on a tight budget. Anything from CNC to SLA to laser cutting to PCBA to solder stencils can be had for a fraction of the price in the US, and typically on a 1-3 day turnaround time. Of course there’s also the world’s largest electronics market located across the street where you can find literally any sort of electronics you need. If you’re a hacker or maker, this place is best described as heaven.

HAXLR8R teams at work

HAXLR8R teams at work

Who will be at Maker Faire?

The entire HAXLR8R family will be attending Maker Faire, minus one company that is not suitable for a family oriented event. We’ve got teams from the US, China, Canada, UK, and Singapore. Each team will be bringing all or most of its founders and they will all have booths at Maker Faire. The products are all different, ranging from lighting and IoT (Internet of Things) to robotics and education. Most teams are still in stealth mode, but will all be launching the week of Maker Faire. Each team will have slightly different plans for their booth, but everyone will have products to demo and show off. Also, five of the 10 teams are open hardware companies and come from the maker community itself.

As for HAXLR8R, we’ll have a booth setup and we’re now accepting applications for the fall 2013 program. If people would like to come visit and give us their pitch, we’ll be available all weekend. We’re looking for people with early stage ideas for a hardware company. We like both open and closed source companies, and the bigger the idea the better. The fall 2013 program will run from August 2013 until November 2013 in Shenzhen with a launch event in San Francisco at the end.

Answering Common 3D Printing Questions

MakerGear M2 The MakerGear M2 3D Printer

Here’s a recent exchange between me and a 7th grade science teacher regarding 3D Printing in the classroom. I figured my reply could be helpful for others as well:

I am a 7th grade science teacher interested in buying a 3D printer for my students to use.  Based on your winter issue, we have narrowed our search down to 4 3D printers to choose from.  They are Afina H Series, the Cube by 3D Systems, MakerGear M2, and Type A Series 1.  If you have any general advice on any of those, please let me know.  If not, no worries.  I have 2 other more specific questions for you…

Based on my experience with these four machines, I’d recommend the Afinia right from the start. It’s definitely the most reliable, easiest to use, and outputs fantastic quality prints. That being said, there are some downsides — the bed size isn’t very large and it is quite slow (although not as slow as the Cube). Both the MakerGear and Type A probably aren’t ideal for a classroom setting (unless your students don’t mind troubleshooting!); they require more tinkering and tweaking than the other two.

Afinia The Afinia

#1. The Cube seems great for beginners, but does not get great marks for speed, at 15 mm cubed per second.  I am trying visualize that speed.  So for an average sized object, are we taking like 5 minutes to print? An hour?  Do you have a rough idea?

Printing a chess piece, for example, takes between 1.5 and 2.5 hours on the Cube. On the Afinia, probably a little less — between 1 and 2 hours. You’re not restricted to those times, however…you can control the speed and quality of the print in the software, thereby effecting the final quality and time.

#2. Media/print ongoing costs…Let’s say I have 135 students, and each prints 2 average sized projects over the course of the year, would the media cost a hundred dollars, hundreds, thousands?  I have no idea:)

MakerBot did a great study about a year ago to find out how many parts you can print with one 1kg spool (the standard size). So roughly 400 chess pieces from one $50 spool yields about $0.13 per print. If each student printed 2 chess pieces over the course of a year, it’d cost you around $35 in filament. Of course, that’s a rough estimate — the size of the print and the settings used to “slice” it will change that.