THE TOOLS AND RESOURCES TO HELP YOU BUILD YOUR DREAM PROGRAM
Welcome to the Real Word Digital Resources section, a curated list of the tools and websites I strongly recommend for building and optimizing your makerspace and technology program. I have tested every recommendation on this page. Many of the resources listed here are crucial to running my program (and have saved me hundreds of hours banging my head against the wall).
Before checking the amazing resources I know and trust, an important disclosure:
Some of the links below are affiliate links which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. Please understand that I have experience with all of these companies, and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals and if you don’t feel right helping our community grow stronger in this way, then please do google the name and you can find them directly.
Components & Tools
This kind of goes without saying, but Amazon is the King, Queen, and Knight of “I need it quick.” Whenever I have a project that needs that one component I ran out of, Amazon can get it to me in two business days or less, with free shipping.
Based out of Boston by a wonderfully imaginative lady Limore Freid (Lady Ada) Adafruit is a programming, circuit hacking, and general making tutorial company that makes many of the most common and easiest to use circuits and kits available today
Check out our primer on the Circuit Playground Express to get an idea of some of the amazing things they’ve developed at their company.
After spending around six months researching what manufacturer of laser cutter to go with, Boss laser shined as a great balance between cost, quality, and support. No matter what problem I’ve had with this machine, a quick call to their tech support has been able to solve it, and fast! I have never felt like I was left hanging, and their lasers make an amazing addition to any maker space
The standard for quality and reliability in 3D printers. We have a Lulzbot Taz 6 in our shop and compared to the many (many…) other 3D printers we have tried, the lulzbot reliability beats them hands down. In a classroom setting, reliability matters more than almost any other criteria, and while there are other notable mentions such as the Form 1, however with the extra overhead, I will still default to the Lulzbot Taz every time.
Curriculum & Project Ideas
Youtube is the biggest social sharing platform on the planet. They can teach you how to do everything from designing a circuit, running a laser cutter, to how to make a tasty cake! Of course shameless self promotion, check out our youtube page for awesome tutorials, reviews, and curriculum tips, and subscribe for updates! 😉
Adafruit is back here on the list, and deserves it, their tutorial and project database is one of the most expensive out there. From robots, to intrusion detectors, to costumes and props. They got something for everyone!
Unlike Adafruit, anyone can publish tutorials and how to’s on Instructables. This is great because it opens the door for a very diverse set of projects and spin offs. Another amazing feature of this site are the contests. I can’t remember them ever having less than 5 or 6 contests running at a time challenging their users to make tutorials for a particular type of design challenge of theme. These contests are a great way to motivate your students to come up with a project, and an amazing opportunity for them to contribute to a growing community of makers.
Like a mixture between instructables and Adafruit, these guys both publish their own tutorials and are a repository of community posts and projects
An amazing resource for teaching kids how to think like a coder. They have curriculum that works all the way from pre-reader to highschool level, and all of the games are education and fun! These guys also host the Hour of Code, which is a week long world wide event where educators pledge to commit at least one hour to coding with their students. They have some really cool hour long projects to help with this, everything from a star wars droid control project, to coding your own angry birds in scratch
Students can use this site to learn how to code in a variety of languages by programming their hero to protect the castle and fight the barbarian horde! I usually use this as a gateway to typed language after the kids have some experience with scratch and all the kids love it. It’s a very gamified platform that can work in browser on chromebook or any pc/mac. There is a paid option if you wish to keep track of your students progress via charts and tools, but you can also have the kids sign up on their own and they can progress really far without paying for anything. (hint: The blue flags are challenges you don’t have to pay for)
This is a free online vector graphics application that can make drawings you can export to your laser cutter. It’s fairly intuitive and because it’s web based can work on chromebooks as well as any Mac or PC
Tinkercad is a free online 3d modeling program. It’s great as an introduction to 3D modeling and 3D printing. The interface is super intuitive, it exports directly to STL for easy 3D printing and even lets you share your work
So this software technically isn’t free, but you (and your students) can get a free 3 year educational license which is basically the same thing. If tinkercad starts feeling a bit limited, or you want to bring your 3d modeling and printing chops up to a production level than fusion 360 is your go to software. Made by Autodesk, THE name in 3D manufacturing and modeling, you can export your models to 3D print, laser cut, and even slice the file to make a 3D model out of multiple pieces of flat stock such as plywood or foamcore.
An online coding platform that teaches kids how to code and think like a programmer using a drag and drop lego like interface. A ton of cool projects have come out of this and kids can publish their results for eachother to play with and to get feedback from the community.
Adobe Creative cloud is a suite of software that will help you create anything from amazing websites, photo edits, video production, vector graphics for laser cutting, sound editing, and the list keeps going. These guys are makers of industry standard software such as photoshop and Premiere. Their software is now a subscription base for all of their products which makes things way more affordable to get going (they even have education discounts!) I usually recommend getting at least one subscription to their software, there are so many great programs, they will come in handy in no time.
So these VR devices are super cool, they allow for cutting edge Virtual Reality experience, either seated or room scale, but without the external tracking sensors. What this means is that you can take the headset and laptop into any classroom or environment and you dont have to mess with any room set up. Just a quick 1 minute calibration to set up the virtual boundary if you want to do room scale VR. If you can get the funding, I highly recommend these over google cardboard or other cell phone based VR headsets as they are open to almost all VR experiences on the market (including Steam and Oculus stores)
If you want to dip your toes in the Virtual Reality world, then google cardboard is the easiest way to go. They go for around $5-$20 a peice for the headset and simply pair with a cell phone or ipod touch loaded with google cardboard app and away you go. Experiences include everything from google expidition, where you can visit a ton of cool places and wander around virtually, to a microscopic tour of the human body!