Micro:bit Triggered Minecraft Selfie Project

Here is a project I developed by remixing a bunch of tutorials of various other projects I found online.

This project is one that never gets old as people love to see their images printed into a Minecraft World.

It took me a long time to learn how the code works and how to make sure it runs smoothly, but in the end we have a project where you press a button via the Mico:bit which leads to turning on the Raspberry Pi camera to take your selfie. From there we have Python code convert the pixels into Minecraft blocks as it prints your image in the Minecraft World.

To learn how to do this check out my Instructable

This video gives you a quick overview of how it works


This video is a tutorial in case you don’t want to follow the typed up instructions on Instructable

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Where is the $ for Makerspace, STEM, and Learning?

Recently, I have been asked several times about where in the world do I find money to get materials, tools, and resources to do the projects that we are very fortunate to do with students and teachers in our school. This question is always one I avoid(sorry) because it is difficult. Finding money to fund programs is never easy.

I wish I could give everyone a nice little cheat sheet of directions to a magical money tree, but I can’t. However, I realized that perhaps I could stop avoiding the question and actually do the next best thing and provide outlets and places to get started.

While I preach and educate about the building the culture of making and learning as being the first and foremost essential ingredient to creating positive change in schools, I also realize having money can help to move the needle a bit. Here is what I have for you.

A list. A starting point of places I have used over the years. I write a ton of grants each year. Upwards of 10-20. I have a pretty solid rejection rate of about 95%. I don’t give up because all it takes is that one or two acceptance applications to keep things going.

This requires grit, determination, patience, and tough skin.

I have built a form. This form is something that I hope we all contribute to. I hope that as educators we can crowdsource funding opportunities. Let us help each other and spread the wealth. If you know of a source please take the few minutes to fill out this form in hopes that others could gain something positive for their students.

Best of luck! If you have success please leave a comment and reach out because sometimes all we need is a bit of positive reinforcement to know that things do turn out for the best.

Form to submit funding sources

Responses of Funding Sources – this will self populate as people enter information


While we wait for this to populate here are some general sites

  1. LEGO Education has created a Funding and Grant page that is helpful 
  2. STEMfinity – search by state. Thousands of grants listed
  3. Grants for Teachers
  4. After School Alliance
  5. Reach out to your local companies and business that are in the STEM field. I am blown away by how often I reach out to these companies and they have either grants, checks, resources, or volunteers begging to be used. They just don’t have it advertised very well. This is a great activity for students to make calls and build connections in developing ownership into the spaces they want to create.
  6. Donation list – Don’t be afraid to compile a “junk” list of things you need and share out to parents, churches, and community bulletin boards. You will be surprised at how many people will donate if you provide specifics. Be ready sure to have a deadline because if you don’t you will end up with more junk than you want.
  7. Back to School Night – you can put money tiles on a wall that parents could grab and write a check to donate. Each dollar amount can be linked to a material that you plan on buying so they know where the money is going. Simple construction paper laminated with dollar amount, image of material, and asking for contact to show them how it is being used works really well.
  8. Back to School Supply List – each classroom can ask for one item that supplies the whole school. Kindergarten teacher 1 can add cotton balls. Kindergarten teacher 2 can ask for glue. 4th grade teacher asks for cardboard. You get the idea. Each set of students brings in a material that goes into the makerspace. Sort and organized accordingly.
  9. Win the Powerball although you will probably bounce out of teaching at the same time!
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Coffeechug 3D Printed Ornament Challenge Results

I am blown away by the amazing 3D printed ornament designs that students and teachers submitted. I am still printing as I am bit behind schedule with one printer breaking down and staying home with my 3 year old. I promise to have them all done by Friday and delivered in time to add to your tree or wherever.

I started this challenge just to inspire others to try and did not really think about the inspiration I would receive myself by all the submissions. Thank you to the amazing teachers who opened up their rooms to the possibilities of design, creativity, and the opportunity to do something new.

If you have not checked out the ornaments check them out here and realize that I will be adding more images up until Christmas.IMG_1050

If you missed out on this challenge, but still want to make something then please stay tuned. I am in need of a design and will be hosting a new challenge January 2015. Details forthcoming.

This challenge really pushed my level of learning by being full immersed in 3D printing and I hope it provided a new way of thinking for those that participated. I look forward to doing this again next year.

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#YEOT Open Lab 1: Solder Skill and Solder Project

Young Engineers Week 2

Open Lab #1

 The main goal of tonight was to get to know the kids who signed up for YEOT and to develop their first skill: soldering

The first lab was a success. I was exhausted by the end of the two hours after running around helping them all as they began their trip down the path to engineering.

Up to this point they have had two webinars getting prepared for YEOT and starting to learn HTML. Tonight I wanted to get into DOING and MAKING so we did quick intros as we have students from several schools.

Next, we examined the tools in their tool kit that I put together.

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 9.24.52 AMScreen Shot 2014-09-10 at 9.24.57 AM

This is just the start. Each student is assigned to their own tub. This is where they can store not only their tools, but their projects as we work on them in each lab. We took time to assemble the helping hand, go over the solder iron and all the safety precautions.

We dove into the atmosphere of Coffeechug Cafe where we are a team all in this together. We help each other. This is not a competition. We learn, make mistakes, and depend on one another to develop skills and attributes that will help us in all aspects of life.

We then jumped right into soldering. Many people think we are crazy, but these kids can handle it! We tinned the tips and then practice soldering two wires together. We had a nice smoky haze in the room as they worked through how to solder, how much is too much, how much is not enough and all the little things that go into soldering.

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 9.25.03 AM


After soldering the wires we practiced one more soldering activity. I cut up some PCB boards and bought a bunch of resistors. I gave each student a board and 4-6 resistors. We talked about how to put the resistors on a board, how to solder the holes while not burning the board, and how to clip the legs. We spent about 30 minutes doing this as this took them some time to get used to. You can see we had all levels of quality which is part of the process.

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 9.25.09 AM

At this point we had about 20 minutes left before cleanup. We began our first solder project which is an adjustable power supply kit from Adafruit(check out my post on the kit)

We only were able to get three parts soldered on before time escaped us. Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 9.38.01 AM Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 9.38.15 AM


Overall, I was very happy with the first session. We were in lock step the whole time to make sure we had the skills and everyone was comfortable. I know that the next open lab students will work at their own pace. We will finish this project up where they work on their own with built in check points and then we will move on to the next project(it is a secret until next lab).

No major injuries and for two hours we had kids working hard and very focused. I am so excited to see what these kids will create as we continue to give them challenges and skills to go with them.

You can access more photos here

The next lab I plan on recording everything with my Google Glass to give everyone a glimpse of the lab. I look forward to working with them again in two weeks.

If you are interested in learning more please reach out to me. I am learning just as much as the kids and love to share what we are doing. The philosophy is to build everything we use so they understand how things work. More importantly hopefully this class inspires a movement to get more of this into the regular school day.


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#TIC14 – Speedgeeking with Coffeechug Version 2.0 – Reflection and Notes

15 minutes after I presented a new presentation I have put together where the audience makes BrushArtBots, I launched a new presentation. Last year I crafted this presentation and it was my most successful and popular presentation by far. The challenge I made for myself for this summer and upcoming school year was to not duplicate any material and try to be a bit outside the normal zone of ideas that are typically shared. One thing that I am starting to see at conferences is the same ideas being spewed over and over. I want something fresh. Even if you don’t know what I am talking about or you have no idea how you could apply what I am sharing it is at least getting you to think differently. You can see what I shared in version 1.0 in the link above or check out my Presentation page here on the site.

Here are my slides that I crafted for #TIC14

I needed another 30 minutes. As I was planning these slides I did not think I had enough, but my audience was awesome. They talked, they asked great questions, and shared some important ideas that were good for me to think about as well as the rest of the group. When launching a new session you never quite know how it will go. My audience was a great turnout so I had to deliver.
My goal was to not only deliver websites and apps and toys, but to also have them think about ideas in education. I weaved in a lot of past blog posts and short presentations I have done during the past school year to my school and so forth. I have some things to tweak, but overall I received a lot of positive feedback which means I am on the right track.
I also have created a page on this site where all sources are listed. I am in the process of revamping the page as I  lost everything I put on the page. Please give me some time I will have it looking nice soon.
If you attended I would love to know what you plan on using and what stood out to you. For me, I was so pumped once I got going. I already  have ideas for V3.0
Thank you to everyone who attended. I always appreciate presenting to more than an empty room.

Below are the questions and ideas shared on Todaysmeet.com during the presentation. I always take time afterwards to respond to them all. If you have further questions, ideas, suggestions, etc. please contact me and let me know. My responses are in bold.
Your room sounds amazing! I’d like to hangout at the nerd room! I love the Coffeechug Cafe. The key is just like we talked about in the beginning. Create your own mood and atmosphere that makes your room YOU! Every classroom should have its own flavor.
Ready for v2.0 !  By this statement I am assuming your attended V1.0 so I would love to hear your ideas between the two.
I need to create my office with this type of atmosphere. Thanks for the ideas already.  Please share pictures of how you transform. I love before/after pictures. They tell so much.
Great reflection questions for us to think about!  I am glad you enjoyed them. I wish I could record all conversations so I could hear all the amazing ideas.
Love the pirate (#tlap) references @burgessdave would be proud.  He is the man! Or should I say pirate!
Give teachers time to play!  If you search my website for Teacher Tinker Time you will find all sorts of posts and examples of what we did this year. 
LOVE Tinker Time!

I want to do this, would love to create this for our teaching team. Here is a list of blog posts on Teacher Tinker Time http://coffeeforthebrain.com/?s=teacher+tinker+time&submit=Search
Dissecting owl pellets!  This activity never gets old!
I wish we had it at my school 🙂  Make it happen! Let me know how I can help.
Will share with our new Instructional Coach
What would you do without technology? How would people deal with that?  Great question. I am starting to find that I am reverting back to activities that are not so technology based. Making things and taking things apart to remix are so much fun. It can be done. Like anything it is all about mindset.
Where do you get your ideas from for teacher tinker time? I look for things on social media. I also am a book nerd and read all the time. I will post on the main page a list of books I refer to all the time.
Do you do the project planning for every project a teacher does? Just about. I like to be part of it all so I can help see where teachers are overlapping, where I could connect different teachers and subjects, and help problem solve. I love it!
How long doe the project tuning usually take? One prep period. We have it down to about 37-40 minutes. Ideally, I would love to have an hour, but we don’t have the time. Here are some PBL posts and here is my wiki where I house all the documents you need to get started
Brilliant “Key point!”  One of my favorites. And yet it happens all the time.
Which tuning protocols do you think work best with students? with teachers? Check our our protocols here They work awesome as long as you follow the rules.
Legoland gives time & allows relations/conversations & learning begins/we have to capture their hearts before we can capture their minds.
Love all of your ideas to transform the atmosphere of your school by showcasing your students’ projects and work! 
Fabulous resources!

Would you share your google community again?

Here is a link to the Google Community Group: http://buff.ly/LHdIp5

Here is a link to my Play PD on my website if you want to read some thoughts of my own: http://coffeeforthebrain.com/category/play-pd/

I would recommend joining and back reading. If you can check out the panel chats. They are really good!

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#TIC14 – Tink Tank 1 – BrushArtBots

After battling bronchitis and feeling very under the weather the last couple days, I am glad I decided to make the trip to Dubuque to present. I was up late finalizing slides and packing everything. As I shared with so many educators at the conference what I love most about presenting is not so much being up front, but I love working and networking with so many awesome educators. I have met more people who have inspired me through presenting as opposed to sitting in audience. Today I had one hour to have educators make BrushArtBots. It is a great hands on activity getting them to think about how to incorporate this lesson or something similar in their classroom. Even more it reminds us how to think and be a kid again. We started with a few slides because I wanted this to be interactive and chance to play, tinker, design, hack, and explore.

Here is a link to the lesson plans if interested

Below are some images from the session today as well as from a few previous trial runs. Today I was amazed by the variety of designs. Some crafted some really cool looking bots like the butterfly. Some focused solely on designs to make them go straight. We had to work through types of paper, weight of the bot, amount of paint to use, etc. Educators were constantly in a problem solving state of mind. It was so great to watch. It was even better feeling inspired by all the new ideas. I was so pumped watching them come up with ideas I never thought of before. I chatted with some great people. It was so good to connect and hear about their schools, projects, and ideas. So a few things I learned specifically today. 1. I need to pack wax paper or a smoother type of paper to help bots move. 2. I need to pack string or dental floss. So smart! 3. Must find something besides Play-Doh as temporary glue. It works, but not as good as I want it to be. 4. I want to develop an obstacle course for the bots. 5. I LOVED the 4H idea of Eco-challenge of bots sweeping up debris using Dixie Cups. 6. Create piece of art and cover with sand. Bots brush sand away to see if students can clear enough away to identify work.

Last, here are comments and questions posted in the Todays Meet group. I have eliminated names and want respond to concerns. My responses are in bold.

Brush Bot Awesome engagement activity for students I agree. What I want to know is how teachers can use this in different classrooms and age groups. Would like to develop specific challenges.
Lots of applications.
How do you work around the frustration factor?(those that just give up ~ or won’t try) This is going to happen. The key here is to know the child(relationships) and check out their bot. Look at what is causing the issue and start asking them questions where you are guiding them to the solution, but they feel like they came up with the answer.
How do you store your materials? (Are they portable or placed on an established makerspace?) I have a large bin where I house the materials for this activity. The art supplies are just part of my room that are on tables and shelves for anyone to use for any projects. I am working on a new file system where all pieces are in one big storage unit, but for now they are organized by activity in tubs.
Love the fact that students can create a bot to take home and continue their creativity. This is the key to this activity. It is cheap enough to allow them to do so. What I would love to do and am working on are new activities that are cheap and allow students to take more projects home.
Great to just sit back, have a convo and really think about how this could b used w the 4 Cs… thanks! I would love to know more about ideas connecting to the 4 C’s. I really like this mindset and would love to develop more.
hardest part was stopping. Wanted to keep tinkering… How do you get the kids to move on when time is up? I think you keep up a timer or counter on the board so they know that at x amount of time we have to stop and clean up. The bonus of this activity is that those kids that want to keep playing will be able to take it home and keep tinkering. If they come up with something great, then they can bring it back to school to share out and possibly teach!


Loved the hands on and try it!

Thank you to everyone who took time to come to my session. I really appreciate it and hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed working with you all. Thanks for a great start to the conference.

Created with flickr slideshow.
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New LEGO EV3 Book Idea – Want To Help?

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 7.37.56 AMThis week and last week I have been helping students learn how to program with LEGO EV3 software. They work and work and along the way I show them tips and ideas. What amazes me is how much the software has to offer and how many times students don’t take time to explore.

One of the ideas that came to me this week is that students don’t know what the program is capable of and therefore they don’t explore. If they knew the power of the programming I think they would dive deeper.

Which lead me to my new book idea.

I am working through some details of a new book idea I came up with while teaching LEGO EV3 during my camp. One thing that I think is missing to helping students take programming to a whole new level is a manual that contains every single block. The book would break down the software block by block. Each page would contain an overview of a block and then a breakdown of each mode and parameter for that block. Finally, there would be an example of code to show them how the block could be used. As I work with students they over complicate things by not realizing the potential of the programming. Basically, a whole catalog of every option available with the software in a book format so they could search and find what they need.


I think this would be a great book idea where I would love to collaborate with anyone who would be interested. I started sketching a template that we could use for each block and would love to get moving on this before FLL season begins. I really think it could be a powerful tool for students and teachers to learn more.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Interested in joining? Shoot me an email at aarmau (at) gmail.com or respond here.

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Robodogs Summer Camp Preview




In about one week we begin our annual Robodog Summer Camp. The camp is an 8 day camp designed to help students get a taste of LEGO EV3 robotics and programming. From the camp we do select members of our team to represent the Robodogs for First Lego League. Each session is 90 minutes.

You can more about Robodogs and the camp on our Robodog wiki.

This year we have new mats, challenges, and missions. We have to keep coming up with new ideas each year because some members have been at our camp for four years so we cannot repeat challenges, but at the same time keeping some things simple so everyone can have success.

We have been lucky enough to win some grant money that have allowed us to purchase the Space Activity Mats. I have never used them and I am excited to give them a trial run. As you probably already know, many reviews and posts will be forthcoming.

I made this short little video in iMovie today and sent it out to all students who are coming to camp. I am excited.



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ITAG Conference Day 1: Brain on OVERLOAD, I create new Keynote!

Today was a great day of learning. It is so important for teachers to get out to these conferences to network. I learn so much from the keynotes and breakout sessions, but I learn even more from people in regular conversation.

If you know me, then you know I lack some social skills until prompted. I had to break out of my shell and comfort zone to engage and when I did I quite impressed with who I talked to and what they do. I have several posts in the making on all these topics. I have more pages of notes than you can imagine. I fought through fatigue to stay driven and capture key ideas.

These conferences make me realize how little I really know and how much more I can learn. I love this! It leaves me hungry for more.

Early today I posted my notes and thoughts from the first keynote. I will post the rest of my notes and ideas soon.

The point of this post is to get back to my earlier post about taking care of small details. I discussed my process of my handout. I still found two errors that are driving me nuts, but they are things that perhaps only I will notice. As I rehearsed yesterday I realized that my original slides did not fill the entire screen when presenting. So, I went back and created a whole new presentation. I kept 98% of it the same, but had to retype, copy and paste the whole thing to the new format. You can the new one here on my wiki for my presentation

Tomorrow I have to present during the last session of the entire conference. I hope to energize my crowd(if I even have one!). I have practiced. I have prepared. I am nervous. Nervous for coming across professional like the presenters here. Not nervous due to lack of preparation.

Off to relax and get a bit of sleep after the long night last night. As I have posted on Twitter and G+, I will post the same here to close. Thanks and stay tuned for all the great things I learned.

All educators, please leave a tweet about the importance of global education to the hashtag #flatclass. I am doing my first presentation tomorrow about global education. Feel free to also join the conversation tomorrow at 2:30 pm central time. I would love to have you to show how powerful the online global education network is. Thanks


Leave a note or two on the wiki and/or presentation handout at http://www.coffeechug2.wikispaces.com
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