Product Review of Makers Empire
Makers Empire is a 3D design tool enabling learners to create, download, and print original or community-based objects. The teacher dashboard is a hub of activity where educators can create classes, add learners, view and comment on learners‘ designs, browse or build lessons, complete interactive tutorials, and more. Students can use a tablet, mobile device, or laptop/desktop computer to access the software, joining via class code, QR code, or teacher import. Students need only a username and password to get started, and once they sign in, they can customize their avatar, complete challenges, and access the design modules. Designs can be as simple as modifying existing characters and working with shapes, or as complex as using blocks to build structures or even entire cities.
Students will likely need to complete one or more of the design tutorials to learn the functions of the various features and buttons, but they’ll be motivated by the feedback, leveling up, and accumulation of tokens they can use to unlock designs or components. Once learners finish their designs, they can make them public or private, but educators will still have access. Users can also comment on others’ designs, view feedback from educators, classmates, or other users, and even enter their designs into competitions. The Gallery is a great feature — there are some gems — but with nearly two million uploaded designs, users will want to use the filters to find desired content.
Teachers looking for a solid approach to bringing the four C’s (creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking) into their classroom will be pleasantly surprised at how well Makers Empire can help achieve this goal. Promote scientific inquiry by having learners design and print a maze to predict and track insect behavior. Encourage mathematical design principles through the use of geometric shapes. Foster imagination by having learners design the characters and worlds they envision in books and stories they read, and breathe new life into ancient civilizations by letting learners construct 3D models of architecture and artifacts. Promote student collaboration by designing a lesson around a problem, and encourage learners to innovate by creating or improving upon a design. Engage hard-to-reach learners by providing hands-on opportunities to learn concepts, and promote formative feedback by having learners document their progress via screen recordings or a video response tool.
Need inspiration or ideas? There are over 130 lesson plans to browse in addition to a user-friendly platform to build your own. The vast, searchable library of designs allows learners to view and comment on designs shared by others in their class, school, or online community. Whether learners are working independently or in groups to solve a problem or just create something new, they’re being creative and bringing abstract ideas into the concrete realm.
Putting learners in the driver’s seat opens up a wealth of learning opportunities. It’s a challenge to find a tool that can engage learners as they learn difficult concepts, but with lessons on spatial reasoning, engineering, literature, and ancient civilizations, Makers Empire provides a platform that educators can use to promote content knowledge, technical skills, and soft skills, and prepare learners for challenges in and out of school. 3D design can be a great teacher for promoting a growth mindset, as learners create designs that flop — and then work to turn them around. Starting learners early on the path to persistence, creativity, and imagination lays the groundwork for collaboration and innovation — teaching learners to be not just consumers, but creators — and empowers them to develop problem-solving skills so greatly needed in our global society.
Makers Empire provides an effective platform, but it will take organized, thoughtful, and deliberate planning to ensure that learners are doing more than building random designs just for fun. Teachers should be prepared for some student frustration and some rudimentary designs at the beginning (process over product is a good starting mindset). Also, while a 3D printer is not required, learners might be frustrated at the thought of creating designs that will never become concrete objects. As learners advance their skills, educators should be prepared to support them in bringing their designs to completion.
Overall User Consensus About the App
Giving learners the opportunity to be creative, innovative problem solvers by designing their own inventions and solutions is a sure crowd-pleaser.
Curriculum and Instruction
STEAM concepts are a natural fit in this tool, and with careful planning, educators can leverage Makers Empire to promote design thinking and the four C’s.
With step-by-step tutorials, webinars, lesson plans, design badges, and a robust social media presence, there’s no shortage of learning and support options.