Adelaide-born Makers Empire takes 3D design and printing education to the world

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By Melissa Keogh

South Australian born 3D software company Makers Empire has swiftly spread its 3D printing and design learning program to thousands of schools worldwide.

Developed in Adelaide by four co-founders, Makers Empire is equipping educators with 21st century tools, resources and support needed to help students thrive in future workplaces as technology continues to transform business landscapes.

Makers Empire says it’s currently working with 1000 schools, 12,000 teachers and 500,000 students around the world.

The company’s director of learning Mandi Dimitriadis says schools in every continent except Antarctica are using Makers Empire, which runs from St Paul’s Creative Centre in Adelaide’s CBD and has team members in the US and Asia.

“We know that Makers Empire has thousands of schools around the world and from our experience with that we know that SA really is leading the way,” she says.

“The success in SA has actually spring-boarded other big projects around the world. We’ve just rolled out (Makers Empire) in the UAE. The Ministry of Education saw something about our project in SA … we are now in 235 schools at Grade 7 level in the UAE and many schools in China and the US as well.

“The other thing about that too is that students become a part of a global design community with global design challenges. Students in Adelaide and China are working together to design a liveable city. Because the 3D files are really small you can just email them across the world and print each other’s work. It’s really great global collaboration going on.”

Makers Empire director of learning Mandi Dimitriadis with students.

Resources central to Makers Empire include the Makers Empire 3D app, allowing primary school-aged students to build their own 3D models, learn real design thinking concepts and engage in education games and challenges. Schools also subscribe to Makers Empire packages including curriculum and lesson plans, and professional online learning courses, training and support.

Three-dimensional printing – creating 3D solid objects from a digital file – and ‘design thinking’ are at the core of Makers Empire. 3D printing is increasingly being used in education with students developing 3D designs to produce solid objects. 

Mandi says cutting-edge 3D metal printers are making their mark in SA’s advanced manufacturing industry, creating products using aluminium, titanium and stainless steel for industries such as the medical and defence sectors.

“Definitely the medical industry is embracing it – we’re getting very close to being able to print human tissue … so it could change things like organ transplant in the not so distant future, as well as things like replacement bones, skin grafts and prosthetics,” she says. “It’s also used heavily in engineering. 3D printing can create geometric and complicated shapes that would otherwise be impossible.”

Aside from mastering 3D design and printing concepts, Makers Empire also provides students with important Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning and ‘design thinking’ skills.

Students learn to create 3D models, participate in global design challenges and improve skills in problem solving, resilience and creativity.

Design thinking is a solutions-based approach to solving problems and encourages students to develop empathy and understand the needs of others when designing solutions. Students are also encouraged to apply knowledge, embrace failure, take risks, and be resilient and persistent.

Mandi is an experienced educator who built her career in pre-school, primary and special needs education. She also managed education programs at the SA Maritime museum and worked within the Department of Education in curriculum and pedagogy roles.

Now dedicating her time solely to Makers Empire, she says the uptake of technology in the classroom has been a large and obvious change witnessed in the way students learn.

Not only is technology used as a tool but it’s making learning more meaningful, relevant and connects kids with other learners and experts around the world, she says.

“I would say we’re preparing our students for jobs that don’t exist,” Mandi says. “Our students will need to be adaptable, they will need a whole lot of skills up their sleeve to draw upon so they can be flexible and be innovative. We want them to be driving the change.”

Industry in focus: Careers of the Future

Throughout the months of May and June, future careers in South Australia will be explored as part of I Choose SA.

Embracing innovation, creativity and an understanding of building quality partnerships with technology is key to ensuring career opportunities in the future. SA is taking necessary steps to equip future generations with the skills for future careers and current workforces to transition to the future industries.

Read more Careers of the Future stories here.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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