Getting to know our initiatives: Makers Empire

Makers Empire is an educational software organisation dedicated to helping students thrive by equipping them with skills in design thinking and problem solving. They’ve created the world’s easiest to use 3D printing software, specifically designed for K-8 classrooms, which is supported by a comprehensive 3D Printing Learning Program – the first of its kind anywhere in the world.

Makers Empire also seek to empower educators to effectively incorporate 3D design and printing into their classrooms and help students enhance their understanding and mastery of design thinking and 21st Century learning skills.

The reach of Makers Empire is continuing to grow, so we caught up with CEO Jon Soong to find out how they’re improving the STEM education landscape in Australia and what it’s like being the face of the Australian Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda campaign!

Why did you and your co-founders start Makers Empire?

Makers Empire was started to enable teachers and children from kindergarten to Year 8 to be part of the future in technology and advanced manufacturing. We wanted to get in on the earlier years because if you wait until Year 8 to teach in this area, a lot of kids are self-selecting themselves out of it.

The concept started when my co-founder Roland Peddie decided to develop a game on his iPad for his daughter to create and customise characters and objects. He realised that a lot of gamers spend more time customising their characters and that a child’s curiosity and learning is regularly sparked by building things. We knew 3D printing was on the rise and saw the perfect opportunity to create a program that allows children to design an object and turn it into reality by creating a 3D model.

Roland shared this concept with me at a BBQ and we began discussing ideas on where it could be used. My wife, who was a teacher, suggested taking it to a school. We organised with my old school to try it out with some students and we were blown away by the reaction from both the kids and the teachers. At this point we knew we were on to something. We were accepted into the ANZ Innovyz START accelerator program and I quit my job to concentrate on it full time.

What inspires you in your role as CEO?

Creating a positive impact on the world by developing a worthwhile, valuable offering that can have global impact. We currently serve schools and organisations in Australia, the United States and Hong Kong, with expansion into new international markets to follow.

How is Makers Empire improving the STEM education landscape in Australia?

One key thing we found by spending countless hours in schools was the significant training and professional learning required by teachers to get maximum value and impact when rolling out 3D design and printing lessons. Our 3D Printing Learning Program is designed to address this. We have developed software, a Teacher’s Dashboard and, in partnership with Datacom Education, professional learning tools that will help both teachers and students improve their STEM learning outcomes. As a result, our offerings allow teachers to effectively implement 3D software lessons in their classroom, giving every student the opportunity to find success with 3D design and printing.

Our offerings allow teachers to effectively implement 3D software lessons in their classroom, giving every student the opportunity to find success with 3D design and printing.

3D printing has been named as one of the key technologies to dominate STEM learning in K-12 schools over the next few years with the NMC Horizon Report 2015 mentioning the “compelling progress” Scots College in Sydney has made with the Makers Empire 3D Printing Learning Program.

How has having a 21CM mentor team been of benefit to Makers Empire?

It has been very beneficial having some really smart people helping out and giving their thoughts. They’ve been able to give me ideas on how to access the market and where gaps in our program may be.

If you weren’t working in the job you have now, what would you be doing instead?

I’d be trying to build something again (probably nagging friends to quit their jobs and join me!)

For more on Makers Empire check out their website and the videos below:

Kirstyn Chan is part of PwC Australia’s Corporate Responsibility team and is here to provide you with the latest news from the 21st Century Minds program. Follow her on Twitter @kirstyn_c for updates.

Initiatives gearing up for take off

On the 1st and 2nd of March our 20 initiatives, as well as our accelerator partners and industry collaborators, will be getting together for the first time in Sydney.  In the lead up we asked a few of our initiatives to share a bit about themselves and how they’re feeling about the year ahead.

What three words describe you best?

Optimist, Novocastrian, ESTJMarko Njavro, Apptedude

Learner, Ambitious, DedicatedBec Spink, code the future

“Committed, Open, PragmaticAmanda Caldwell, National Youth Science Forum

“Never gives up” Christian Williams, Make Maths Awesome

“Spirited, Resilient, Determined” Michele Miller, RoboticsWPS

What drives you to do what you do?

Penance for my previous life as a banker 🙂  But seriously, the desire to contribute to creating a true “level playing field” (with respect to disadvantaged socio-economic groups and gender) and to play a role in removing some of the obstacles to upward social mobility.” Marko Njavro, Apptedude

I’m an educator first and always. I live and breath education. I am always learning and am driven to help others (both children and adults) at every stage of their own learning. Every decision I make as part of our team is made with one foot in a classroom.” Bec Spink, code the future

Desire to make a difference, build something that has impact and value from Adelaide. Show the world the quality of Australian education!Jon Soong, Makers Empire

“I’m was lucky enough to live my childhood dream and it was an awesome feeling. I want as many kids as possible to have that same opportunity.” Christian Williams, Make Maths Awesome

There is a lot of pressure on young people to decide on their futures early, but the future is what we make of today. I want young people to be aware that there are career choices and options today, and tomorrow, and the next day, and being well informed about those choices is what will empower them.” Amanda Caldwell, National Youth Science Forum

“Witnessing the growth in confidence, engagement and pure delight in discovery learning which our students display, along with the continued positive support and feedback I receive from our client principals and teachers about our programs.” Michele Miller, RoboticsWPS

What excites you most about being part of the program?

Access to some of the brightest minds and influencers in Australian Education with the backing of one of the world’s leading consultancies. There is still so much left to learn and test and 21CM has enabled us to step out of our small, Sydney based network and has opened up a world of possibilities with respect to trusted advice, mentoring and networking.” Marko Njavro, Apptedude

Connecting with other like-minded people and changing preconceived ideas about coding education in Australian schools.” Bec Spink, code the future

Ability to connect with experts in the education field and meet people who have done this before!” Jon Soong, Makers Empire

The opportunity to increase the NYSF’s network of like-minded people from like-minded organisations, with guidance from people experienced in strategic planning.” Amanda Caldwell, National Youth Science Forum

“To be able to connect with like minded businesses with the same desire to facilitate change in school education programs through STEM, which have an amazing impact on student learning and outcomes.” Michele Miller, RoboticsWPS

“Having the opportunity to change the way we teach in Australia and make our education system the best in the world!” Christian Williams, Make Maths Awesome

Strap on your seatbelts 21CM, we’re getting ready for take off!