STEAMLabs

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STEAMLabs

CanadaToronto, Canada
Year Founded:
2010
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
Scaling
Budget: 
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Kids are natural Makers. Help them play to acquire the skills they need to be Makers of the future - creativity, problem-solving, collaboration, tech literacy, leadership, citizenship and more. At our 2500 sq ft Makerspace, we prototype activities to share with educators all around the world.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if kids were their generation's leaders of innovation NOW?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The "digital native" generation is growing up as consumers of technology, not creators of it. Schools have not kept pace with the information age, and are not providing kids with the tech literacy skills they need to succeed in the new century. Informal learning spaces, such as libraries, museums, and makerspaces have started to address this gap. However, they frequently don't know how to get started, and don't know how to teach the topics.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

At our all-ages Makerspace, we run open-ended, interest-driven high tech play activities with 3D printing, Arduino robotics, programming, Minecraft, laser cutting, woodworking and more. Thousands of kids have come through our doors to make something creative. We're documenting our model for others to follow. We have produced free activity guides for educators including to curriculum-based modules for public schools. Hundreds of educators have downloaded the activity guides. We want to expand this concept around the world!
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

One of the best outcomes of our activity guides and training sessions has been confidence. Once educators have a basic understanding of technologies and how to teach them, they are eager to get started. For example, we developed an Internet of Things activity for classrooms to build a model of the electrical power system. This allowed the teacher to teach many aspects of the grade 6 curriculum in an engaging way connected to Arduino, electronics, and web interface development: http://steamlabs.ca/2015/03/ontario-power-system-education/ Access our CIRA Internet of Things, toy hacking and other activity guides at our website: http://steamlabs.ca/about-us/resources/

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

We offer several "pay what you can" sessions per week. This gives kids access to high tech making who would not otherwise have access to it. These kids take great pride in their Makerspace, and bring in their friends to show off. It's such a pleasure to overhear a new kid tell their friend who brought them "wow, you're really good with this tech stuff!". Approximately 750 kids have come to a pay what you can session in the past year. Parents and kids bond over making. Libraries in the Toronto area have purchased 3D printers as a result of our 3D design and printing activity module and/or training. These are available to the public as a resource. Toronto libraries have purchased Arduino robotics kits and are offering robotics workshops based on our Arduino programming activity guide. Andy has given talks to thousands of educators around the world.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

We aim to establish or inspire youth Makerspaces in more cities around the world. These will serve as places for kids to directly learn and make, as well as centres to develop new activity guides. The impact on the local community is tremendous as kids find a high tech creative outlet. The high tech making activity guides that we produce will continue to have a big impact. They get educators started down the path. We are also currently working on a parent guide, and school curriculum modules. These will give teachers a way to introduce digital literacy topics directly into their classrooms.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Our Makerspace is profitable and financially stable. Funding sources are required for developing the activity modules. So far, we have secured funding for these through government grants, foundation grants, and payment from private businesses looking to fund kids activities for their products. For example, Intel paid us to develop a kids education module for their Galileo development board. We'll ask for ongoing fees from future locations.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Other members of the Mozilla Hive Network are producing activity modules. We consider them collaborators, not competitors, and have worked closely with them in the past, and will continue to do so in the future.
Team

Founding Story

Andy started with a summer camp in his garage in 2010. He knew he didn’t need to be an expert in everything, he could learn alongside the kids. There were basic woodworking and electronics tools, and a computer. What he did have was a different attitude – the kids interests would define the projects, which in turn would define the skills they learned. Kids loved the camps. In 2012, we started a permanent 1200 sq ft Makerspace. Andy and Marianne used their wedding as a fundraiser and were able to get our first 3D printer. In the spring of 2013, Jenn came on board to help us grow to the next level. She coordinates, organizes, finds opportunities and partnerships. Since then, we’ve grown 10x in terms of the number of kids we serve.

Team

Andy Forest - Founder Marianne Mader - Founder Board of Advisors: Dale Doherty - Founder, President & CEO of Maker Media Massimo Banzi - CEO and Co-founder of Arduino Jim Davison - PHD Psychology, retired head of psychological services for York Region board of education
About You
About You
First Name

Andy

Last Name

Forest

About Your Project
Organization Name
How long has your organization been operating?

Please select

Project
Organization Country

, ON, Toronto

Country where this project is creating social impact
What awards or honors has the project received?
Funding: How is your project financial supported?

Individuals, Businesses.

Supplemental
Awards

$49,900 CIRA grant for creating Internet of Things Arduino programming education modules

2 Mozilla Hive Network grants for creating Maker activity modules for libraries and schools

Awesome Foundation Award at Maker Faire Toronto 2013

Editor's choice awards at every Maker Faire we have participated in - Toronto 2013, Rome 2013, Bay Area 2014

Primary Target Age Group

6 - 12, 13 - 17.

Your role in Education

After-School Provider, Teacher.

Please specify which of the following best applies:

I am applying on behalf of a school(s).

The type of school(s) your solution is affiliated with (if applicable)

None.

Intervention Focus

Extracurricular, Professional Development, Community, Online Learning, Parenting.

Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below?

Putting Children in Charge: Giving children a voice and cultivating agency via experiential learning, project-based learning, and civic engagement.

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers?

One size fits all fits none: Students are disengaged and not being prepared for "real life."

Need

Spread high tech making.

Offer

We have a lot of expertise in designing experiential learning Maker spaces and activities for kids. We

What key learning outcomes does your work seek to improve?

MakerKids seeks to empower and inspire kids to be makers! We provide the tools, technology and skills for kids to bring their creativity into high tech reality.

We design learning experiences for kids that are:

1. Production Centered - they make things!
2. Interest Driven - when kids interests drive their learning, they are totally engaged.
3. Networked - we live in the post information scarcity age, we teach kids to find information for themselves
4. Peer Collaboration - kids teaching and sharing with each other
5. For an Authentic Audience - for themselves, for their community

Secondary Form
PROGRAM DESIGN CLARITY: We are hungry to know more about what exactly your model consists of. Please succinctly list a) what main activities are you doing with your beneficiaries, b) where you carry out the activities? c) how often? d) for how many hours? e) who delivers the services? and f) any other brief details

a) We mainly do:
i. Programs for kids: camps, after-school programs, weekend workshops, events
ii. Curriculum development for clients like Intel and 3D Systems
iii. Educator training for clients like the Toronto Public Library
b) At our makerspace in Toronto, and at various schools, libraries and events throughout the Greater Toronto Area and beyond (Rome, NYC, SF, etc)
c) We run about 10 programs per week, with an average of 10 kids per program
d) Average of 2 hours per program
e) Our excellent instructors and mentors: http://makerkids.ca/team
f) We plan to open up a maker school

INSPIRATION: What do you consider the most important trends or evidence that inspire you to believe the world is ready to Re-imagine Learning? Please elaborate.

More and more people are dropping out of university to self-educate. More and more people are becoming entrepreneurs. The world is a complex and constantly changing place and needs education to match. We get hundreds of emails from organizers in other communities that want to learn to do what we do. As well, making is an increasingly popular community being encouraged by luminaries like Obama.

LEARNING THROUGH PLAY: What does “learning through play” mean to you and why it is a must-have, instead of a nice to have?

Learning through play means learning in an exploratory and fun way, where the kids are having so much fun that they don't even realize that they are learning. For us it's a must-have because 1) it keeps the kids coming back 2) it is a highly effective way to learn and 3) parents recognize how much their kids learn with us and keep bringing their kids because of this. We've had kids say "I wish I could come here instead of school"

SUSTAINABILITY: Please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating the percentage that comes from each source.

1) Revenue: 50%
2) Grants: 30%
3) Sponsorship / in-kind revenue: 20%

MODEL: How does your mission relate to your business model (i.e. Non-profit, for-profit or hybrid)?

Our business model (hybrid of non-profit and newly opened for-profit) allows us to ensure we are sustainable (through profit) but also allows us to give back (through the non-profit) by offering pay-what-you-can programs and free programs

FUNDING PRIORITIES: If your organization were given $20K in unrestricted funding today, how would you use it? Why?

We would use it to pay our instructors and staff to further document our curriculum. Often we are so busy and focused on doing that we don't have time or money to document extensively, but this is necessary for expansion and further impacting more kids.

PARTNERSHIPS: Tell us about your partnerships that enhance your approach.

We have partnerships with Hive, Mozilla, Intel, 3D Systems, ULS Laser Systems, Kids Learning Code, Chicago Toy and Game Fair, 826 Valencia, Maker Corps, Maker Camp, Maker Media, and more. They help by providing equipment, inspiration, and/or curriculum.

COLLABORATIONS: Have you considered or initiated partnerships with any of the other Challenge Pacesetters? If so, please share.

None that we are aware of

VISION: If you had unlimited funding, and you could fast forward 15 years to when your program has been able to achieve wild success - what will it have achieved?

There would be at least one MakerKids space (with an accompanying Maker School) in every major city in the world, and traveling chapters in smaller cities. Kids who have gone through our programs will have gone on to become entrepreneurs, visionaries and world-changers.

IMPACT - KEY METRICS: Please list the key data points that you would cite as evidence that you are able to achieve lasting learning outcomes. Please also share one data point for which you most hope to see better results over time

-survey responses from parents that cite how their children have been unable to learn certain skills or socialize in a certain way in school, but can at MakerKids. Parents have also told us that they are using MakerKids as a form of high tech arts therapy for their kids, where their kids feel better during and after our programs.
-We wish to see our revenue improve over time
-Other metrics we look at: number of kids, number of programs

IMPACT - REPORTING SAMPLE: Please attach any examples of your impact reporting. [optional]:
RESEARCH AND EVIDENCE: Please link or attach any research or evidence resource you are open to sharing more widely [optional]. Building research and evidence is a key aim of this initiative, and the resources you share may be chosen for listing in the Center for Education Innovations library:
SOURCE: If applicable - who created the research or evidence you are choosing to share? :
IMPACT - REACH: How many people did your project directly engage in programmatic activities in the last year?

1,001 to 10,000

STUDY: Has an external evaluation or study been conducted of your organization?

No

Other (please specify)

We plan to do this soon

Number of Employees:

Fewer than 10

Number of Volunteers:

10-100

APPROACHES: Given the complexity of play, it is not surprising that there have been numerous research attempts to categorize the different types and approaches! Please indicate which of the following your project focuses on.

Physical Play, Play with Objects, Creating a Supportive Socio-Emotional Environment, Providing a Range of Opportunities (providing the equipment and materials needed for various types of play), Educational Structuring (developing playful projects within educational contexts), Adults Participating (Ensuring adults are able to play alongside children), Challenging Play (play that disrupts - where rules are disregarded and levels of imagination are high).

Other (please specify)
AFFILIATION: Please specify if your organization has any existing affiliations with the LEGO Group.