Blake Progress in TeamTreehouse

Solving Code Problems

Learning code on Teamtreehouse has been really fun so far. Currently I am doing a WordPress Development Track, but am focusing on jQuery.

What is nice about this section is that the teacher breaks down problems into manageable tasks using Four P’s of Problem Solving.

    • Preparation
      • Understand the problem
    • Planning
      • Plan out the solution
    • Preform
      • Do what’s required for our proposed solution
    • Perfect
      • Perfect the solution or fix any mistakes or things that have not been considered yet

When your solving or trying to create a new bit of code, it is helpful to write or comment out the Problem, Solution, then plan out the solution. Like so:

//Problem: It look gross in smaller browser widths and small devices
//Solution: To hide the text links and swap them out with a more appropriate navigation

Anyway, I thought using this inside the code is very helpful and I will use it more!

Learning Creative Learning

Scratch Day MIT Photobooth and Reflection Wall

Below is a post I wrote for a online course from MIT’s Media Lab called Learning Creative Learning. I decided to participate in this course because I was interested to see if I could apply any of the material to my own life or to my Confident Dyslexic App. It was great to take part in the course and I will use Projects, Peers, Passion, and Play as a scaffold for lifelong learning.


The Scratch Day at MIT was held on May 17th. I offered to help think of ideas for the Faire/Carnival theme. Creating a sense of community around Scratch was a main focus but also the 4P’s:


The first project was a photobooth, and second project was a crepe paper wall decoration in the shape of a tent. The Tent would be where kids could put sticky notes of their thoughts and reflections of scratch. Both ideas would show kids and adults what scratch can do and enable them to think about the physical and emotional impact it has on learning.

For the photobooth, buying a polaroid camera was not feasible, but I remembered that Scratch can use the Webcam. Instead of creating a Photobooth app in Scratch I searched and found a number of them. I decided to remix this one3 and I added7 the Scratch Day Logo and changed the description, so others could find it too. You can view it here:

My workflow for the photobooth was the following:

  1. Let person choose which outfit they wanted for the photo.
  2. Screen Capture save the region of the webcam and description box.
  3. Open image and Print it up on 4×6 inch photo paper for the kids to take home.
    Below is a example photobooth printup.


I could not have done any of this if it were not from the help and creative ideas of Linda Garmon and Lisa O’Brien. Both were critical in implementation and authorization of the photobooth and reflection wall.

Both projects were great for kids and adults. Also, the Scratch photo booth program is accessible worldwide for anyone to remix! The crepe paper tent allowed many kids and adults see what others thoughts on Scratch had been written. Below is a image of the Tent and the photo booth before the event started.



The Crepe paper tent was a good place for kids to put their thoughts of Scratch on the wall, it was also physically close to the photobooth so they could do both tasks. I would also ask them what projects they worked on while the photo was being printed, and then tell them to go to the wall and write what they liked about Scratch on the wall.


Laughter was my measure for “Play” and there was alot! I printed about 120 photos, some with multiple people one photo. By the end of the event, there were around 30 sticky notes on the Tent Reflection Wall.



Learning and Doing Art

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to draw with crayons on a table, during dinner. That made me remember my goal of doing more stuff with art this year. Will be uploading more images, video and audio soon to the media section of the website. I will be using various design and creative software to produce the media and hope the page will highlight some of what I learn.

MFA Boston, Pentagon 2011 by Monir Farmanfarmaian

3x Community Update

Building community is hard work. Luckily I am using the book; Do Good Well: Your Guide to Leadership, Action and Social Innovation. Below is a 3x Community Update of the projects I am working on. Do Good Well has helped me to organize my thoughts and strategy. Each project has problems I have encountered, solutions, and things I have found to work beyond the solutions.

[column lg="4" md="10" sm="10" xs="12" ] [iconheading type="h4" style="glyphicon glyphicon-plane"]SpaceUp Boston[/iconheading]
Problem: Still haven’t done much.

Solution: Am thinking of reaching out to others to see if there is a good date to have a meeting.

What Works: Social media in reaching out to individuals.
[column lg="4" md="10" sm="10" xs="12" ][iconheading type="h4" style="glyphicon glyphicon-globe"]World Boston Young Professionals[/iconheading]
Problem: Need further ideas from other YP’s and chart a course in these uncharted waters.

Solution: Good to have a core group of dedicated YP’s that are very savvy.

What Works: Using tools like Doodle and good docs to keep track of communications.
[column lg="4" md="10" sm="10" xs="12" ] [iconheading type="h4" style="glyphicon glyphicon-user"]Dyslexic Young Professionals Group Boston[/iconheading]
Problem: Expecting very low turnout, on niche topic, to individuals that have a “word blindness.”

Solution: In the pre organizing phase, but have first Eventbrite scheduled on June 9th. Need to cross post it on other meetup websites and reddit.

What Works: Using the free Eventbrite tool to organize people who are coming (just one so far).

All of this is a balance for me and others. In order for this kind of Social Innovation to work, I will need to continue to use the book Do Good Well and work with other people.

Field of Corn

Sustainable Thoughts: Straw or Corn Stover House via ModCell

Green Home

I enjoy the mental task of imagining zero waste systems and I have a slight obsession with designing sustainable houses and architecture.  Years ago I came across the UK based ModCell prefabricated house. Their mission is folded into their vision of the future:

‘Structures combining high energy efficiency, use of renewable materials and the ability to capture carbon within the structure are now a reality.

The US is in dire need of buildings that accomplish these goals. My interest peaked when I learned about the Brighton Waste House that is using similar techniques. But ModCell in particular resonates with me because these houses can be put up fast and don’t have a lot of pre or post construction waste.

The video below shows a timelapse of construction.

Corn is the most planted crop in the USA. It would be great if a company in the US would build baled corn stover houses using the ModCell technique.  Perhaps a good starting location would be in Iowa.  Currently, corn stover is dumped after the Cob is harvested or fed to cows. What would be the costs of collecting and bailing it for a ModCell panel? Not sure but:

ModCell’s product is now patented and the company is currently applying for a CE certification to enable European sales.

Where would the factory to produce the ModCell panels be located?

Because the materials are quite heavy and bulky, Modcell use something they call the Flying Factory – they rent space from the farms where they source the straw, near to the building site, and construct the panels there, minimising the distance they have to transport the panels, saving fuel and bringing value to the local economy.

So they applied sustainability goals to prefabricated (straw bale) walls and roofing systems. I can only hope that their efforts to patent and licence/franchise are successful. First time home buyers and home builders in the US really need to get on the same sustainability page, or try out innovative cohousing development planning. Companies like ModCell are responding to these economic and planetary pressures.

Crowdsourced Confidence and Funding

The idea to seek crowdfunding for the development costs of the Dyslexia App was one that struck me as ideal. Below is my pre-marketing campaign in Prefundia. I research all mainstream crowd-funding sites for “dyslexia, dyslexic” but this only revealed a couple documentaries, pleas from parents to fund their child’s education, and one website/app. I will go-live on Indiegogo or Kickstarter next week.

Confident Dyslexic App Image

On a gorgeous spring Thursday, I – current innovator, activist and techie – set out to make one extra-ordinary app for all marketplaces. Confident Dyslexic App: join us!

There is currently a paucity of good apps in the online mobile stores that deal with Dyslexia.  I aim to learn how to develop and release a useful, positive and empowering web app for other dyslexics.

The Confident Dyslexic App will work with the Boston and global dyslexia community to build a new ways to find strengths and use these to form compensatory mechanisms.

Enter your email above to be notified of launch! Will be using either Kickstarter or Indiegogo within the month of April, 2014. Thanks! @Blakea23

Screen shot of chrom browser

My Current Massive Open Online Courses

My participating in these somewhat disorienting learning Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCS, are self paced and somewhat controversial. I used a helpful video to find success in these MOOC’s with five steps.

  1. Orient (Choose your courses)
  2. Declare (So other people can see your chosen course, and learn what you’re learning about)
  3. Network (With other students, and learn about their interests)
  4. Cluster (Identify similar interests with fellow students and reach out to them)
  5. Focus (Keep working on the course material, you will need to be extremely dedicated to finish the course)

I am on step number two, “Declaring” my courses and below are the courses I am participating in:


This ongoing work focuses on various web development and business skills. View my profile here.

MIT Media Lab – Learn Creative Learning

More of a community than a course, it will be a valuable network to tap into.  “Learning Creative Learning is based on an MIT Media Lab course that introduces ideas and strategies for supporting creative learning, with special focus on the role of new technologies.” The LCL website is here.

edX – MITx 15.390x Entrepreneurship 101: Who is your customer?

Taking this course, because “why not?” Course website is here.

Harvard Extension School - Certificate in Introduction to Computer Science CS50

Will provide a foundation for me learning state of the art of programming, web development, and software engineering. The Certificate in Introduction to Computer Science is the goal for my participation. CS50′s website can be found here.

edX - WellesleyX: HIST229x Was Alexander Great?

Fun learning about the “Mozart of warfare.” I am not actively contributing to the course but following along with the lectures and reading. Course website is here.

NASA & Saylor Foundation - Survey of Systems Engineering

Joint course between NASA and the Saylor Foundation to “explain the value and purpose of systems engineering, the systems engineering project life cycle, and relate the roles of systems engineers in complex space missions … identify the roles and concepts of operations, requirements, and trade studies in the project lifecycle and demonstrate the ability to apply these concepts to a real NASA mission.” Course website is here.

SpaceX and the NASA Social of CRS3

NASA needs cheap, reliable and American access to space. As the New York Times reports, more Start-Ups Aim to Conquer Space Market. One of these companies is Space Exploration Technologies Corporation.

SpaceX was chosen for missions to resupply the ISS with more cargo from a Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule.  The CRS3 mission was to be  launched out of the Kennedy Space Center on March 16th.

Incredibly, I was to witness this launch, but the purpose of me going to Florida was to take part in a NASA Social event which includes:

…an informal meeting of people who engage with NASA social media accounts. Social events provide NASA followers with the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes at NASA facilities and events and speak with scientists, engineers, astronauts and managers.

Unlucky that the day I flew down from Boston was the day they scrubbed the launch. The launch was to be the cherry on the top, but the layered NASA Social cake was the raison d’etre.

I did indeed speak to all the scientists, engineers, astronauts and managers that I could approach. Documenting the science was fun but comprehending all the awesome space lore made my adrenaline spike for four days.  I was also trying to share the most impressive nuggets of interesting space information via twitter for SpaceUp Boston and SpaceUP Pittsburgh.

The images below do not fully convey what it is like in person. Both the NASA Social participants and the hallowed ground of the Kennedy Space Center really expanded my galaxy.


Dutch Culture and Gift Giving

Three areas that interest me are the Netherlands (from close family friends), the d.School at Stanford (my previous flatmate) and 3D modeling and printing.

Happily, I found out of a opportunity to combine these different things from the twitter account of the Dutch Culture USA, and then from their website titled Dutch Design Competition USA 2014.

The Dutch government is looking for a new giveaway to distribute in the United States, and is inviting designers to submit inventive, quirky and smart ideas for a functional and affordable small item. The Netherlands Embassy in Washington, D.C. and the Consulate General in New York are partnering withKikkerland Design Inc. and Shapeways for this competition. The item should be inspired by Dutch Design, be representative for the Netherlands in the US and fit in the collection of Kikkerland.
The competition is open to everyone. We hope that Dutch designers will come forward, as well as US designers inspired by Dutch Design. Special teams of Dutch and US designers are also welcome.
Designers can submit their ideas until March 7. The top 10 entries will be selected by a high-profile jury by the beginning of April, and will be printed in 3D by Shapeways. This competition, however, does not require that every part of your design can be printed on a 3D printer.
The top ten designs will become part of a temporary exhibit in New York City. Members of the public can than vote on their favorite. The winning design will be announced in mid-April.

Winning Design

Kikkerland Design Inc. plans to produce the winning design and introduce it to the US and global markets. In addition, the Dutch government will buy 500 pieces of the winning product, and use it as its official giveaway in the United States. On top of that, Shapeways will offer the winner a weeklong residency at its headquarters in New York. Flight and accommodations will be included with the prize.The competition was inspired by the exhibition, “Out of Hand: Materializing the Postdigital” at New York’sMuseum of Arts and Design (open through June 1, 2014), and the sizable group of Dutch designers participating in the exhibit.
The Netherlands is defined by its innovative spirit and entrepreneurship in the arts and design industries. Creative ingenuity is an essential part of our nature. Being Dutch inherently means pushing boundaries when tackling problems. Like Americans, we value new ideas and enjoy exploring them. With centuries of cutting-edge arts and culture in our history, we are known for our high commitment to quality and our pragmatic approach.

I was able to gather a lot of information for this project.  It came from my experiences with the people of the Netherlands (including running in the Amsterdam Marathon) known as “Dutchies”, innovative Dutch-leading Body Psychotherapy, and anything “Dutch” and “Netherlands” in online stores. I also listen online to BNN.FM, when I get tired of SR.SE.

Then I blasted some music and began the using d.School design practices. Specifically I use the Gift Giving Project from their Class list (which I would love to do someday!) but can be also found here. I also used my favorite BootCamp Bootleg PDF,  as a active toolkit to “support your design thinking practice”.

Anyway, I finish my design with minutes to spare before the March 7th (CET) deadline. Below is my application:

Product Name Modern Klompen
What is the story behind your product? My design is to help people have a platform to meet socially and unite more. It is a modern take of a klompen, that can be put on a bike or on a desk.
Why is it Dutch Design? I feel that Dutch culture is about health (physical and mental), care of one another, and free exchange of interesting thoughts and experiences.
What else should we know about you and your design? Using d.School (Institute of Design at Stanford) methodology of Redesign the Gift-Giving Experience, I followed a multi-step process.First, I empathized that people do not want to be alone, but join in a group, get input from other people, refer and support each other.Second, I defined the needs of not being alone, and how to nourish the dignity we have for each other.Third, I ideated the thought that people need room to grow, and then need support. The solution is a mix between four typical Dutch developments:

1. Biking changes the behavior of people.
2. Expression through art and media.
3. The usefulness of klompen.
4. Flower cultivation and dissemination.
5. The .NL domain name for high-tech startup innovation.

Finally, a solution to incorporate these Dutch design elements into the context of someones life would be to print an object that;
a) you could attach to the handle bars of a bike,
b) could attach cut out photos/drawings/writing/media,
c) could hold other artifacts or small items in a waterproof and secure space,
d) Place a flower on the back part of the shoe,
e) Increase brand of .NL innovation.

You can see the design by going here:

Luckily, there are no Klompen in any of the main 3D printing online warehouses!

I will be overjoyed if it makes it to the final 10. I  also hope that some better modelers can help make the “Modern Klompen” a bit more finished,  and actually prototype print a couple out! ;-)