Meet Julija McDowell Founder and CEO of TinkerTank
In a snapshot, what is TinkerTank’s mission?
We are preparing a new generation for the undefinable future of work. We are a technology based makerspace where children learn and develop their STEAM skills with hands on collaboration through critical thinking challenges and unlocked creativity.
When did you realise there was a gap in the market for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) education?
When my children started school, the schools were using outdated computers, no iPads, and no STEM at all. My husband and I believe that this is an absolutely important skill: Hard skills AND Soft. Critical thinking is taught through problem solving, iteration and experience. This was non-existent 10 years ago, so I started to home educate my children.
Because I was very fortunate to get to work for ILM, (Industrial Light + Magic), Lucas Arts, Disney, and more, as a Lead animator and trainer in California for over 15 years I was introduced to this skill set. In this production and post production space I came to understand the power of imagination and storytelling. Through the creation of Blockbuster movies – the artists and makers were constructing in so many ways that were Creative and collaborative.
- SET BUILD
- SCALE MODELS
- Prop building / Design
IT WAS SO INSPIRING! I just kept WONDERING – why children are being taught the same way for over a hundred years… why was no one making a change?
What age groups do you work with? Is there an age group you find particularly receptive to the education and workshops you provide?
We are all ages – however our most popular programs are the after schoolmemberships, birthday’s and our famous holiday programs. They are for 5 to 12 year olds.
We also offer Corporate Team Building Workshops for you and your teams. This unique offering involves beer, bots, and good times!
How did a business that bases its working model off group meet ups adapt during the lockdowns?
COVID has been tough on most, as we all know. TinkerTank has been forced to rethink, reconfigure, and “pivot” into something very unique. We not only have in studio sessions now, we offer online classes that are super engaging, entertaining and most of all, educational. We teach everything that we do in studio – but on a live and interactive online session. We have worked with the likes of SalesForce, Dexus, Charter Hall and more! We have so many 5 star reviews and are so excited to now be available now to ALL of Australia.
Where have you seen the most progress or growth, both for TinkerTank and for your students?
Getting parents and the government to understand the importance of STEAM education, and how it is taught. STEAM skills are required in 75% of new jobs today and that number is only going to increase. When we opened doors 8 years ago, no one even knew what STEM/STEAM was. It’s very important for our future.Schools simply cannot keep up with all the latest tech on their own, we take care of that for them. We are working with high schools and more primary schools every term. Our dream is to have more rural outreach, to bridge the digital divide that is so unbelievably apparent.
What have you found to be the most effective way in reaching your target audience?
Word of mouth has always been our best form of reaching the right students, students and parents love to talk about us. We have worked with over 10,000 students! We also use Facebook, Insta and school newsletters!
What are some exciting things coming up for TinkerTank in 2022?
It’s all top-secret. However – here is a sneak peek: We will be launching “Interesting Industry Leaders” on our podcast “TinkerTalk” where I sit down and chat with Industry leaders about what they do, why they do it – and how they got to where they are now. It’s to help inspire and really illustrate to our students that what they learn with us in TinkerTank is relevant and there is incredible work right here in their hometown. Please reach out if you have some wisdom to pass on. We would love to chat!