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Brighton based entrepreneur Simon Riley is fulfilling his ambitious global vision to help inspire tomorrow’s engineers. Durtti wants Simon to share how MakerClub, his unique, educational brand, is enabling young people from all walks of life to discover and tap into their exceptional talents.
What or who triggered your initial interest in 3D printing, Simon?
I did my masters in electronic engineering, so even though I started my career as a developer, I’ve always been fascinated by hands-on, physical computing products like robotics and drones.
When I started MakerCIub, I wanted to inspire young people to create and code their own products from scratch and it’s really only through the advent of consumer-level 3D printers that this has become a really viable proposition.
It was actually my dad, an inventor himself, who got me a simple Rep Rap printer for my birthday, nearly 5 years ago. Pretty much everything we have achieved so far can be traced back to that machine!
Can you describe what type of service(s) MakerClub offers?
MakerClub is building the largest network of educational Makerspaces in the world. We teach product design, electronics and programming skills to ages 9 to 14 years old.
We do this using advanced equipment like 3D printers. In addition to this, we built a range of 3D printable robotics kits that give children the skills to learn.
Who or what inspires you most and why?
The children that attend MakerClub are particularly inspiring – the brilliantly creative ideas they come up with never cease to amaze us, and spur the company on to create more advanced content.
Then we have children like Omkar Govil-Nair, the 8 year old that developed a 3D printable smart watch that teaches kids to code. He then managed to raise $20k on Kickstarter so he could put it into production!
This makes him more successful than most hardware startup businesses!
Turning kids like Omkar into the rule rather than the exception is what gets me up in the morning.
How has 3D printing technology improved in the last 3 years?
It’s got so much faster and reliable. You can now pick up a printer for $350 that can print in multi-materials, pretty robustly.
Are there any apps you use or recommend relating to 3D printing?
We use Tinkercad to teach our kids about 3D design before they graduate onto more professional level programs.
Tinkercad is all online, so you don’t need any special equipment, plus its totally FREE!
What’s the best business advice you have ever been given?
Fail fast. Have an idea, get it out there and very quickly decide whether it’s just a nice idea or genuinely something that can be part of your business.
If you were given one million Euros to spend on those less fortunate than you, how would you choose to spend it?
I think we’d try and bridge the digital skills gap that will face lots of young people in the next 10 years.
We’re just starting our new, Bright Sparks program next month, whereby we provide 12 months of free technology mentorship to children from low-income families, sponsored by local business.
One million euros would go a long way!
What services do you hope MakerClub will be able to offer 5 years from now?
A MakerClub in every major city! In addition, we’d like to see the mass take up of 3D printers in the home. We see them being used as incredible educational devices for people of all ages, teaching them how to build, code and invent their own products from scratch!
Finally Simon, what advice would you give to someone who would like to start a 3D printing business, but they are not sure where or how to start?
Have a clear proposition, but be as versatile as possible.
The 3D printing industry is changing so quickly that you need to keep on top of new developments – and adapt quickly!
More at: www.makerclub.org
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