3D printing is everywhere and, as with any new technology, some of the quickest learners are found in the youngest users. They can’t, however, do it on their own.
Adelaide, Australia-based startup Maker’s Empire is geared toward kids, bringing the technology behind 3D printing and designing into schools and homes. Their program is created for use on a tablet, and Maker’s Empire promises: “If you can use a tablet, you can design and print in 3D,” with “no special software skills needed.”
Some of the best use, though, for Makers’ Empire’s technology is in schools. The company ensures that its lesson plans intended for use in schools are up-to-date with primary school curricula in not only Australia, but also in the US and the UK. Seven schools in Australia have already purchased subscriptions, as have five further schools in Hong Kong.
And now the US appears to be ready to get in on the educational action. Maker’s Empire is preparing now for a trial program in 20-30 New York state schools beginning January 2015, following a thumbs-up from the New York Institute of Technology (NYiT), which makes IT recommendations to New York’s schools.
“He said he’d been looking every day for a year on Google, searching for a program like ours that makes 3D printing accessible to primary school kids,” said Jon Soong, co-founder and CEO of Maker’s Empire, of the phone call he received six weeks ago when one of NYiT’s directors called him. Professor Stan Silverman of the NYiT was seeking out a way to bring 3D design to New York’s schools.
“The other programs out there have all derived from an engineering perspective, and younger than about Year 8 they’re too complex. It’s a bit hard for a teacher to introduce AutoCAD to a Year 5 kid,” Soong said.
About four weeks after the initial contact, Maker’s Empire pitched their product to the NYiT board. It went so well that the board went on to hire extra staff to prepare for the pilot program’s launch at the beginning of the new year.
The schools that accept the NYiT’s suggestion will receive Maker’s Empire for free in return for their providing detailed feedback reports on the experience of both teachers and students. The ultimate goal, of course, is for schools to purchase subscriptions for their students — a goal shared by both Maker’s Empire and the NYiT.
“NYiT can’t mandate schools to buy our program but they’ve pledged to help us get it into a shape where schools will buy it, advising us on the marketing and price points,” Soong said. He continued, noting that “it’s been really refreshing that NYiT understands the commercial realities. Sometimes schools just want something for free because ‘we’re a school’, but that’s our market.”
Maker’s Empire started up in early 2014 and was accepted into the ANZ Innovyz START accelerator for the summer 2014 program. The 13-week program boosts the business acumen of startups, and Maker’s Empire was one of seven in the summer intake. Each startup received a $20,000 in addition to the 13-week mentoring/acceleration program (valued at $100,000 per startup). In return, each grants an 8% equity stake to the Innovyz START Institute. Since Maker’s Empire graduated from the accelerator in May, the company has raised an additional $170,000 from angel investors. (Note all figures here provided in Australian dollars.)
With the new foray into New York schools, it seems that Maker’s Empire is on a strong track to branch out into the truly global world of 3D printing and design. Let us know what you think about Maker’s Empire and their mission to expand into STEM education over at the Maker’s Empire Goes to New York forum thread at 3DPB.com.
Check out this video of their platform in action, as one of the Maker’s Empire team leads a tutorial on designing “BMO,” a character from Adventure Time:
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