A new foundation with an inventive twist is looking to support the next generation of innovators by providing funding, equipment and programming to schools, teachers and the local community.
Launched in spring 2016, the Mini Maker Foundation
raises funds to encourage K-12 kids to become makers, inventors and problems solvers, with an additional emphasis on encouraging girl's involvement in technology and engineering.
Executive Director Joe Rabideau says that 90 percent of tax-deductible donations will directly go toward program development and equipment purchases for local schools. He says the foundation's passions include 3D printers, 3D modeling, printing instruction, hands-on learning and project-based programming—all areas that parallel STEAM education.
"While our goal is to get 3D printers into area schools, we're really about more than just getting new technology," says Rabideau. "It's about inspiring kids, sending that message that if you have ideas, you can bring them to life and have solutions. Today's 3D printers allow people to do that."
Rabideau would know. Several years ago, the self-described tinkerer and inventor came up with the idea for an "eargonomically" designed food and water bowl for dogs with long or furry ears. The Poochie Bowl
dish keeps a pet's ears out of their water bowl. In 2013, Rabideau drew on resources provided through LEAP
and Spartan Innovations
to prototype the bowl using 3D printing. That prototyping ability led to the manufacture of Poochie Bowl through Lansing's Diamond Engineering
, as well as distribution throughout the U.S.
Without the capabilities enabled through 3D printing, Rabideau says the Poochie Bowl never would have made it out of the pages of his idea journal. The experience of seeing his idea come to life prompted his quest to provide similar opportunities to kids. Toward that end, Rabideau also founded tinkrLAB
—a kid-focused maker space in the Meridian Mall that offers classes, workshops and camps on 3D printing, robotics, tinkering, making and building.
"We see a lot of maker spaces for adults, but we're not necessarily inspiring kids in the same way," he observes. "We want to be on the forefront of things. On the foundation side, we're trying to make that connection with schools—a lot of which are strapped for cash—and to help provide the resources and equipment they need."
Source: Joe Rabideau, Executive Director, The Mini Maker Foundation
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
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