It would be hard to overestimate the importance of helping young people to feel comfortable navigating the world of 3D technology. While not every aspect of life will be saturated with 3D fabrication, the ability to understand the technology is a vital part of operating in the 21st century global economy. As such, a number of companies have developed educational systems to help students become fluent with the programs and machines required for operating 3D manufacturing tools. One of the newest releases in this arena comes from the innovative startup Skriware, based in Poland, that has exploded onto the scene with their unique approach to democratizing 3D printing. Their latest foray into expanding the number of people who can interact with these advanced manufacturing tools comes in the form of an educational program they have developed for young people called Destination: Mars, and we sat down for an interview with Karol Górnowicz, CEO of Skriware, for an interview to learn more about their offering.
Can you tell me a little bit about your own background?
“Let me start off with the statement that education has always been close to me. I was an active student leader acting as the President of the Global CEMS Student Board, working on curricula improvement projects and fostering cooperation between alumni and corporate partners. I studied Economics and Finance at the Warsaw School of Economics and CEMS International Management at the Rotterdam School of Management. I am also acting as the Board Member of CEMS Alumni Association Poland. Prior to joining Skriware, I worked as an Associate at The Boston Consulting Group and in the M&A Office of PZU.
My mother is a teacher and her day-to-day concerns had a significant impact on my life. She always wanted me to become the Minister of Education and improve our national system of education. I guess this really made me think about the need of immediate change that needs to take place in order for teachers to be more productive and for students to engage in learning and be more proactive.’
What is the story of how the company Skriware came to be?
“The idea behind Skriware was to make 3D printing as easy to use as possible. That’s why nearly two years ago we created and launched our first 3D printer on Kickstarter. It was an intuitive device, providing one-click printing user experience. The next step after the successful crowdfunding campaign was to create a set of tools that would easily allow people to gain and develop skills related to 3D printing.
We truly believe that 3D printing is one of the key future technologies. That’s why we started working on a solution that will help the future generation adopt this technology. But we didn’t want to limit it to 3D printing just for the sake of it. Our team consists of people with variety of backgrounds, skills and interests that are into 3D printing for completely different reasons. We wanted to share our passion for learning by making. That’s why holistic STEAM education was the natural choice for us, especially since 3D printing technology itself is a natural choice for such an interdisciplinary learning.”
What do you see as the biggest hurdle to making young people feel fluent in and comfortable with 3D technologies?
“I strongly believe that 3D printing may change many areas of our lives. Unfortunately, most of the solutions in this field are aimed at professionals and require specialized knowledge to use. We decided to take a different approach and created our first 3D printer to be as easy to use as possible. To this end, we built a whole ecosystem consisting of 3D printers, a library with 3D-printable objects, a 3D model creator and an e-learning platform. By teaching programming, design, artistic and project approaches, 3D modeling and robotics, we want to prove that the STEAM interdisciplinary approach to learning can not only be a great fun but also a great investment in the future.”
The Destination: Mars course that is being introduced sounds interesting; what types of activities will students engage in when they participate in the course?
“‘Destination: Mars’ sends students on a mission on the surface of the Red Planet. During a 15 hours course they learn the basics of robotics and programming, as well as various scientific trivia through fun and engaging scenarios. What distinguishes us from other STEAM solutions is a programmable robot – Skribot, that helps children develop new skills, and the ability to use our 3D printers and tools to design and print new elements, which encourages them to modify their robots and add new functions. Skribot gains new functions along with the development of the child’s skills, who can program him in one of two ways. Beginners can use block coding in the dedicated app, whereas, more advanced users can use the C ++ programming language on the computer.”
Can you give me some more detail about the company’s integrated educational ecosystem?
“At this moment, the ecosystem consists of 3D printers, a STEAM education platform, 3D models library, Skribots and a dedicated mobile app. We encourage hands-on learning by doing, integrating coding tasks with creative problem solving, including knowledge of engineering, electronics, 3D design. All served in play & learn-like environment. For example, some of the students who participate in our Mars mission can choose to try their hands at 3D modelling, others may choose to go further into robotics or engineering. Whatever they choose we want them to know that other possibilities are open and no one is stopping them from exploring. The name of the game is to inspire passion for learning and build their confidence.”
Who is the market for this course? Is it meant to be packaged for schools or after school programs? Or is it also available for private individuals who want their children to engage with this kind of technology?
“Our platform is now available for institutional clients like schools. Skriware’s ecosystem is tested by young students from all around the world. Our partners include Kids Code Fun, CoderDojo, IT for SHE and Perspektywy Foundation, not to mention several public and private schools running pilot semesters in Poland, Middle East and in Asia. Prior to the launch of the ‘Destination: Mars’, we have reviewed it with industry experts from Ivy League institutions like Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Dartmouth College. What’s more, also our space-related content was consulted with the scientists from the Astro Center at Texas A&M University. We are aiming to make ‘Destination: Mars’ available for individual customers in the coming several months. Our goal is to create a home and school- suited ecosystem for students aged 9-16.”
Why does Skriware believe it is important for children to be engaged in educational initiatives such as Destination: Mars?
“In Skriware we believe children will acquire knowledge more easily if issues are presented in a way that attracts their attention. ‘Destination: Mars’ and, in general, STEAM education offers exactly that. The idea is to learn in a more comprehensive manner by using the acquired skills to solve real problems. Art and creativity are of key importance here, as they allow the use of the technical skills in practice – from the design of websites and interfaces, through advertising, to the futures of robotics, AI, and 3D modeling.
In addition to the obvious competencies focusing on engineering, mathematics, and applied sciences, students need to think logically and creatively, solve problems or work in a group. Thanks to this comprehensive approach, children educated in a STEAM trend gain key resources for their future careers.”
Why has the Skriware decided to enter the US market and what does it hope to offer that might be different than what is already available to customers in the US?
“Skriware operates globally and has just entered the US market. At this moment, our biggest orders come from Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and South-East Asia. We are trying to reach people from all around the world, people with different backgrounds and from different cultures. But in my opinion, quality education should have no borders. The US market is particularly interesting due to a long history of STEM education and the presence of top universities, which are on the forefront of education innovation.”
What is in the works next for Skriware?
“We continuously develop our platform and prepare new educational products. Soon, new courses will be added. ‘Destination: Mars’ is just the beginning of our adventure. Expect more of the Red Planet of course but we have a variety of interactive courses and robots under development in cooperation with our education partners.
STEAM is already one of the most promising trends in the education and we believe it will develop even more with the progress of new technologies. There is a reason why so many educators are excited about it. I’m not saying that every child should become a scientist, engineer or designer. But it’s extremely important that they grow up knowing they can and how to use their abilities. Thinking about our children’s future, we must remember that how we work is currently changing very fast. Many future professions don’t even exist yet, but we already know that they will require a combination of different skills. The future world will be built by our children so we should help them by creating the best conditions to learn teamwork and understanding of diversified skills necessary for effective cooperation regardless of the profession they will decided to choose.
Thanks to STEAM, we can be sure that students will be prepared to face future. Society that is well-educated and ready for the challenges of the modern world gives hope for a better future. Sky is not the limit – we should aim at conquering space and we can only achieve that with the right mix in a team skill.”
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