We’re huge fans of MakerKids; they offer a fun and accessible way for kids to connect with STEM while empowering them to DIY. They run weekly summer camps in Robotics, Coding, Minecraft, and an Idea Incubator (which samples all three) in addition to offering classes throughout the year. They also throw some incredible birthday parties for kids, themed around core STEM topics. The grand opening of MakerKids is set to happen in Leaside this Saturday, and families are welcome to pop in and see the space, enter to win cool prizes (like summer camp attendance) and sign up for FREE trials all day long. For kids in the North Toronto area, MakerKids is a welcome addition; now they don’t have to schlep across the city to experience it.
We caught up with the woman at the helm of the new Leaside location, Aimee Savard.
SDTC: For well over a decade, you’ve been a well-known PR professional in Toronto. What made you want to switch gears?
AS: PR is still very dear to my heart and AIMPR is still running, but I’ve spent years promoting children’s brands and lifestyle products. Recently I’ve focused more on technology and education. Watching my own kids grow up in Toronto, which is quickly becoming a global tech hub, I wanted to prepare them for their future, which led me to MakerKids. It’s nice to have something to call my own after working behind the scenes on other brands throughout my career.
What was your introduction to MakerKids?
I was at an airport in Dubai and was browsing a really cool tech shop. It was the first time I had seen “coding for kids” toys and thought my kids should be coding; this is the language of the future. They aren’t really being taught this in schools. Some schools are trying but aren’t quite on the cutting edge yet. I discovered MakerKids online. It’s the first maker space for kids in North America and was founded in Toronto by our CEO, Jennifer Turliuk, who graduated from Singularity University (at NASA). MakerKids runs award-winning weekly programs and camps in Robotics, Coding and Minecraft.
With other locations, MakerKids is a franchise business. How has that experience been so far?
We are the first franchise and were selected amongst hundreds of applicants. The head office and first location is at Bloor West. At MakerKids we tell kids, “Don’t be afraid to fail.” I see this on our wall every day and it has helped me through the learning process.
It’s been a lot to take in coming from the B2B consulting world, and moving into a new B2C industry where I am running all aspects of the business. I’ve certainly had many challenges, as any new business owner does, but I’ve also learned so much already and surprised myself with my own drive and desire to succeed.
What can we expect from MakerKids in Leaside?
Parents can expect an amazing team of highly skilled instructors that have a firm grasp on the foundations of STEM and know how to apply it in a cool way using our curriculum. It’s amazing what kids can learn when they’re having fun. We’re teaching kids to be creators versus consumers. Our new space here at Bayview and Fleming is state of the art, filled with all the tools to bring kids’ creations to life. We use the same microcontrollers that real-world industry professionals use. We’ve got a bright, accessible, ground-floor maker space, with three rooms to house children grades one through eight.
You’re a mom with twin boys. Have they tested it out yet?
My mini makers are thrilled to be part of the business and love helping out; they’re even getting their own business cards! I take their feedback very seriously. It’s great to bounce ideas off of them. They attended a camp at Bloor West last year and loved it. They had never done anything like it before. My husband and I were awe-struck by what they had learned in just one day: how everyday things around them work, how energy flows through a circuit board, etc. One of my kids told me he wants to “build stuff to help people,” which sounds pretty great to me.
Anything else you want to share?
Studies have shown that if children are exposed to STEM between the ages of seven to twelve, they are more likely to enter a relating field. This is particularly important for girls. Our project-based curriculum is set up for all levels, including beginners, so kids can try something new anytime. Not only do they walk away with real-life skills and develop a positive relationship with technology, they also learn soft skills like problem-solving, team work, resilience and confidence.