STEMiverse 0011 - Ariane Skapetis: Explain Everything

July 10, 2017

In this episode of STEMiverse, Marcus and I talk with Ariane Skapetis.

Ariane is currently a Learning Technologist in Higher-Ed with qualifications and expertise in e-learning, blended learning and K-12 Education. She has held numerous roles throughout her lengthy career in Education. Teacher, Computer Coordinator, ICT Consultant in Sydney region schools and now as a Learning Technologist at UTS. Ariane has seen it all: from the introduction of the Internet to schools in the early 1990s to modern game-based learning, “flipping” the classroom and using mobile phones to enhance educational outcomes.

This is STEMiverse episode 11.

Show notes

[00:00] Introduction - Introducing Ariane Skapetis
[02:13] Ariane talks about her background in education
[07:39] How the new gadgets transformed the students' learning experience
[09:17] The transition from using technology to making it: Explain Everything app, Microsoft Kodu visual programming language
[13:44] The initiative and effects of implementing open ended creative technology in the classroom
[16:45] The transition of teacher to mentor
[17:30] Current application of the project
[18:25] The transition of the project to more schools
[19:39] Present-day people's choice of devices for the classroom
[20:56] Ariane's choice of technology
[21:36] The unification of apps
[22:22] Educational outcomes have changed
[23:31] Creativity as an important outcome in today's schools
[23:48] Other outcomes: More choices of what to create
[24:21] Choice and recognition of student diversity as a result of introducing open ended technology in classroom
[25:30] Where should I start as a new STEM teacher: Scratch or Kodu
[26:19] What is Scratch
[27:58] What would your ideal classroom look like if you had infinite budget?
[30:36] The teacher's role inside the ideal classroom: The facilitator
[31:13] Advice for new facilitators: Think about your teaching style
[33:04] The open society as a marketplace of ideas
[33:50] Ariane's work in UTS: Introducing new tools, moving away from powerpoint, incorporating google drive and kahoot!
[36:02] Flipping the classroom
[36:39] How do you get students to do the pre-work
[38:51] What do you do when students don't have a smartphone
[40:49] Collaborative pods
[45:24] Rapid Fire Questions
[45:40] Who has been the most influential in shaping the way you teach
[46:31] Who do you look up to now
[48:42] Professional Development Conferences and Workshops: TeachMeet Website or Twitter: #TeachMeet
[50:23] Teachers are lifelong learners
[50:58] Advice to Educators just starting out
[52:52] Ariane’s Contact Information: Twitter: @ariadne09, Podcast: edtechlunch


STEMiverse 0010 - Phillip Mallon

July 3, 2017

 In this episode of STEMiverse, Marcus and I talk with Philip Mallon.

Started at the age of 9, Philip built a radio crystal set and this became the foundation for an interest in electronics. Phillip's path has given him countless opportunities to learn and to teach during the last fourty years.

As a cadet with the NSW department of Public Works, he studied Science and Technology at the University of Sydney. This was followed by further studies in the UK and a Masterst degree in Engineering Science at the University of NSW. Philip applied his new knowledge in biomedical engineering to providing electromedical equipment for the new Westmead Hospital. He worked on the first electronic toll system for the Sydney Harbour Bridge and was the control systems engineer on the Accelerated Loading Facility.

Philip helped provide the first computer systems engineering labs at UTS and was employed there as both engineering manager and an academic to provide both teaching and practical engineering skills for students.

While at UTS Philip was a director for Autism Australia now Aspect and took an interest in supporting schools for Autistic children.

At the RTA Philip was engaged in Intelligent Transport Systems Projects (ITS) including the flashing lights at all schools zones in NSW, road safety pojects including the Lithgow black ice detection project, managed motorways, the new T-Way bus systems for Sydney and structural health and security monitoring projects including monitoring the Sydney Harbour Bridge for security threats.

Now retired, Philip is an active maker and mentor to other makers at the University of the Third Age ( u3a) and various Sydney Meetups including ozBerry, Sydney Robotics and Coding and Hack Sounds.

Philip's maker projects involve music, robotics, home automation, environmental monitoring, software engineering and electronics and he is interested in how people with disabilities such as autism and retired seniors can be creative as makers.

Philip exhibited his maker projects at the Sydney mini-maker faire last year. He is an alpha tester for new Seeed Products including reSpeaker and won two of their design competitions using reSpeaker and WioLink.

In the next hour or so, Marcus and I explore Philip's amazing engineering and learning experiences, and it was fascinating!

Episode notes

[00:00] Introduction - Introducing Philip Mallon
[03:42] Philip talks about his background, his father's background, and the merging of his interests into Biomedical Engineering
[07:27] The early days of Biomedical Engineering
[10:17] The early use of computers in education
[12:00] Philip's mentorship experience: Apprenticeship in government sections
[13:07] Philip's work experience after graduation: Safety systems in intensive care wards
[16:02] Philip's process of figuring out what to do facing limited sources of information: Interacting with other experts
[17:30] Has Google replaced mentors? Overspecialization problem in engineering
[18:34] Risk reduction in high stake situations: Interaction between experts and teamwork
[20:22] New technologies in Biomedical Engineering: Linear Accelerators
[21:35] Philip's philosophy on learning and teaching
[22:49] Working with EMI: The profits from Beatles' record sales funded medical research
[24:10] EMI's engineer winning Nobel prize for inventing the CT scanner (Sir Godfrey Newbold Hounsfield)
[24:32] Rapid development of technology: minicomputer, microcomputer
[26:01] Philip's mentor's unique hands-on approach during his Master's studies
[27:24] Conflict or collaboration between hands-off and hands-on approaches: Necessity of the right tools
[29:23] Nuclear Medicine Program
[31:12] Operating systems and software for Biomedical Engineering equipment
[32:36] Philip's teaching style and tools
[34:11] SCATS (Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic System)
[37:14] What attracted Philip to Academia: UTS' new program in Computer System's Engineering
[39:33] Philip's first years lecturing in UTS and his experience with undergraduate students
[46:10] Reflective learning and its benefits for students
[50:33] The biggest challenge the students had to face according to Philip's experience: The language barrier and how to overcome it
[51:42] How would you go about as a teacher helping a student understand difficult concepts
[57:32] The matrix structure in UTS
[58:40] Rapid Fire Questions
[58:59] Who has been the most influential in shaping the way you teach: Elizabeth Taylor, civil engineer from UTS
[01:01:58] Advice to educators just starting out: Inclusion and respect to everyone's prefered method of learning
[01:04:22] Parting thoughts, Dos and Don'ts: Make learning life-long and fun, start as early as possible
[01:08:15] Philip's Contact Information: Facebook:


STEMiverse 0009 - Ben Newsome

June 26, 2017

 In this episode of STEMiverse, Marcus and I talk with Ben Newsome.

Ben Newsome is the founder of Fizzics Education, a company that specialises in delivering interactive science workshops and shows. Through Fizzics Education, Ben reaches around 300,000 children each year, in person or via video conference, in Austalia or around the world.

Ben is a qualified Science Teacher and a former Environmental Consultant, a Children's Summer Camp director, and a CSIRO Education Team member.

Ben is the recipient of the 2013 Northern Districts Education Centre (Sydney) Winston Churchill Fellowship, is on the leadership team for the International Society for Technology in Education Interactive Video Conferencing group, is an Ambassador for the Association of Science Education Technicians NSW, is part of the education advisory committee for the GWS Giants AFL team and a co-founder of two non-profit museum collaborative networks; Virtual Excursions Australia & the Pinnacle Education Collaborative.

Wow, what a resume!!!

This is STEMiverse episode 9.


Episode notes

[00:00] Introduction - Introducing Ben Newsome

[01:53] Ben talks about his background as a science teacher and the founding of his company Fizzics Education

[07:13] How Ben reached out to schools

[10:19] Does the quirkiness of Ben's company name reflect on the way he delivers his science lessons?

[12:32] Authenticity in science

[13:23] Ben's book: 'Be amazing: How to Teach Science the Way Primary Kids Love'

[18:30] Chapter 1: Understanding the Students

[20:58] Chapter 2: Priming the Classroom

[23:04] Preparing and dealing with children's various needs and levels of tolerance

[24:42] Chapter 3: Unleashing Teaching Tactics

[27:09] The importance of establishing a Makerspace and joining the Maker Movement

[29:07] How would Ben go about creating a Makerspace

[32:11] Makers Empire (

[33:48] Ben's advice is to get the things you can afford and will consistently use ("Don't just get the thing cause it's shiny")

[36:40] Chapter 4: Leveraging Technology ("Teaching Robotics without Robots")

[39:59] Chapter 5: Exploring Social Media (in safe environments for children)

[44:24] Examples of Apps: Flat Stanley, Trello, Slack

[47:22] Chapter 6: Engaging the Community

[50:39] Suggestions for schools to begin engaging with the community

[54:57] Rapid Fire Questions

[55:07] Who has been the most influential in shaping the way that you teach: Elon Musk ("Rockets are cool. There's no getting around that"), Robert A. Heinlein ("Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done"), Carl Sagan ("Valid criticism does you a favor")

[56:37] What App can you not live without: Trello, Slack... coffee and a fantastic team!

[57:56] How do you hire Educators

[01:01:19] Contact Information: Website:, Twitter: @BenNewsome_ or @FizzicsEd, Facebook:


STEMiverse 0008 - John Burfoot

June 19, 2017

 In this episode of STEMiverse, Marcus and I talk with John Burfoot.

John is a STEM robotics teacher and trainer. He is a Science and STEAM specialist in the state of NSW in Australia, for primary schools. He also facilitates and delivers technology workshops through the MacICT Innovations Centre at Macquarie University in Sydney.

John is also a founder of Sci-riffic, a company that delivers specialist science and robotics training for schools. As you will see, John has a passion for science and technology and a vast experience in teaching it. He also has a lot of experience outside of teaching, and in particular in communications, marketing, electronics, avionics, and as a special effects technician.

This is STEMiverse episode 8.


Episode notes

[00:00] Introduction - Introducing John Burfoot

[01:26] John talks about his background, his apprenticeship in electronics & avionics, his love for movie-making and working for a special effects company, as a financial services consultant and in communication & marketing

[07:58] How John became a teacher and his introduction to Lego Robotics

[09:56] Diverse backgrounds in other teachers: Typical or not?

[11:06] The diversity in the subjects John could teach due to his background

[12:51] John's background in Communications in Westpac Financial Services

[14:51] Learning can be hard

[22:45] John's current occupation with STEM Robotics

[24:34] Lego Educational Robotics Platform NXT

[28:22] Conducting science experiments with Lego

[31:20] What is STEM? The definition of STEM for new educators: Vague, but still evolving

[33:52] STEM: a methodology or a collection of subjects? John answers this question according to his experience in schools

[36:01] What does the STEM facilitator bring that a teacher doesn't have?

[38:42] What an ideal STEM teacher looks like and how to empower teachers to do STEM: Technological and Methodological requirements

[47:11] The essence of STEM: Training children to think and act like scientists and engineers

[50:22] Rapid Fire Questions

[50:40] Who has been the most influential in shaping the way that you teach: Skip Ross and his book 'Say Yes to Your Potential', Martin Seligman (Positive Psychology), Stephen R. Covey ('The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People')

[52:33] Advice to Educators just starting out: Understand electronics - Learn how to use LittleBits

[58:09] PD Recommendations: STEM conferences, Future Learning, Science Teachers' Association of New South Wales (, Australian Science Teachers Association (

[01:00:56] Australia vs the World regarding STEM teaching

[01:03:31] John's Contact Information: Email:, Website: Sci-riffic


STEMiverse 0007 - Tim Heinecke

June 12, 2017

In this episode of STEMiverse, Marcus and I talk with Tim Heineke.

Tim is a former Physical Education teacher, and has been wondering about the art and practice of student engagement. In fact, he founded the Student Engagement Institute, based in Sydney Australia, to explore what it takes to help students become passionate learners.

Tim is the author of Student Engagement, How to inspire and motivate every child, and offers professional educational experiences for teachers that want to make a difference in the lives of children. Tim’s book and approach in teaching dominates our discussion, which is full of practical ideas for turning any classroom into a place where children want to be.

This is STEMiverse episode 7.

Show notes

[00:00] Introduction - Introducing Tim Heinecke

[01:24] Tim talks about his background, his relation to teaching and his company Student Engagement Institute

[03:26] What motivated Tim to launch the Institute

[05:54] Meaningful strategies from Tim's book 'Student Engagement: How to Inspire and Motivate Every Child': Aesthetics, Belonging, Cognitive willingness, Dialogue, Investment & Systems

[07:23] Tim talks about his training and his approach in PE (Physical Education)

[12:11] The 6 engagement elements: Investment (from the teacher to the student)

[17:19] The importance of face-to-face communication for children today

[18:51] Treatment of Investment in STEM education

[21:47] The 6 engagement elements: Aesthetics (in the classroom)

[26:22] The 6 engagement elements: Belonging (kids being part of something bigger than them)

[27:57] Sparking students’ interest - Encouraging children to seek new experiences (special mention to Poll Everywhere app)

[31:11] The 6 engagement elements: Cognitive willingness (lifelong learning & providing students with a variety of topics to explore)

[35:49] The 6 engagement elements: Dialogue ("choosing simple words but choosing them well")

[38:39] The 6 engagement elements: Systems (e.g. preparation, resources, welfare, making sure things work properly)

[42:03] Putting it all together (building a garden example)

[46:26] Rapid Fire Questions

[46:47] Favorite Book: 'Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life As an Educator' by Dave Burgess

[46:59] Who has been the most influential person in shaping the way that you teach: Don Northey

[47:41] What app can you not live without: Safari

[48:03] Advice to Educators just starting out: "Jump in"

[48:27] Favorite Programming Language: BASIC

[48:58] Parting Thoughts, Dos & Don'ts: STEM innovation will make the biggest difference

[50:02] Contact information and workshops: Website: - Email: - Phone: +614 STUDENTS


STEMiverse 0006 - Jorge DeSousa Pires

June 5, 2017

In this episode of STEMiverse, Marcus and I talk with Professor Jorge De Sousa Pires.

Jorge is a retired associate professor. He was a researcher and senior lecturer at Uppsala University. He was also the Research and Education manager of Apple Sweden from 1988 onwards, and in 1996 he joined the Education Team of Apple Europe.

Jorge is fascinated by the power of technology to transform education. He worked at Malmo University in Sweden with the specific goal of improving Computer Assisted Learning at the University. He is also the author of several books and many peer-reviewed articles in Education and engineering.

In this conversation, Jorge discusses his colorful experiences in his long career in education. From helping his mother to teach grammar in her school in Portugal, to moving to Sweden, learning several languages, spearheading many educational initiatives, and using spreadsheets as a teaching tool.

This is STEMiverse episode 6.


These are resources that Jorge made available to listeners for download. 

01 Easter Påsken 2001 (PDF)
02 Easter Påsken 2001 (PNG)
  [Swedish, English, Portuguese] All about the days of Easter Such a file can be copied and changed for the actual year. Software: Inspiration

03 Concept map Communication (ISF - You will need Inspiration to open this file)
04 Concept map Communication picture File with the Concept map (PNG)
  Screen dump of the Concept map
  Software: Inspiration

05 Timeline size (JPG)
06 Timeline of history of Europe, Sweden, England, Portugal (3D) (PNG)
  Timelines always start with Me, My parents, My family and then the rest Software: Timeline 3D

07 Visual programming (from one of my books) (PDF)
  Programming with modules was introduced vey early on the Mac.
  Software: Extend, Stella, Excel, Mathematica,ANUGraph (Australia), Workbench, LabView

08 Read carefully! (PDF)
  Pay attention to the detail! It is true.

-- Good luck with your Mission! Jorge de Sousa Pires 20170410


Show notes

[00:00] Introduction - Introducing Jorge De Sousa Pires

[01:44] Jorge talks about his background, his book 'The joy of understanding how the concepts are interrelated', his company JSP and his relation to teaching

[05:41] Jorge discusses his books: His first book on electronics and his next three on Technology Enhanced Learning

[07:45] Using spreadsheets (Excel) as a teaching simulation tool

[08:54] How teaching in Sweden differs from elsewhere in the world

[10:55] Knowing your student before teaching

[12:24] Jorge's first spreadsheet application programmed in Basic before Excel and his journey of becoming a teacher

[15:55] Jorge's radio show during the period of dictatorship in Portugal and his migration to Sweden

[22:22] Getting over the language barrier

[24:59] How the students have changed over the years: Behavioral management & teacher's administrative duties

[30:32] Sweden's educational system and MOOCs

[34:21] What tools have changed in Jorge's time that change the way that he sees teaching STEM subjects: The computer

[37:30] How does one use technology in the classroom to gain insights: Go from 'what' to 'why'

[41:42] One of the responsibilities of a good teacher: Encourage the student to ask questions

[43:02] The impact of technologies such as AI, the Oculus Rift, 3D glasses, Virtual Reality on learning

[48:56] The most important technology for education in the next 5 years: AI and Programming

[50:18] Every student should be a programmer

[52:28] Rapid Fire Questions

[52:54] What App can you not live without: Evernote, Concept Maps and Timelines

[58:26] Most Influential Person in shaping the way that you teach: Teaching analphabets

[01:00:56] Jorge explains Concept Maps

[01:06:14] Advice to Educators just starting out: Elevate your students, keep in mind that not all children know about technology and be confident

[01:09:55] Parting Thoughts & Contact Information: Email:


STEMiverse 0005 - Keith Heggart

May 29, 2017

In this episode of STEMiverse, Marcus and I talk with Keith Heggart.

Keith is an Academic at the University of Technology, Sydney, and the University of Western Sydney.

He is an Organiser at the NSW Independent Education Union, expecting a PhD in Citizen Education and Critical Pedagogy expected at the end of 2017, and many more qualifications in Education and Engineering.

In this conversation, Keith discusses some of the STEM-related topics that excite him, including community-lead makerspaces, the magic of the Raspberry Pi, programming, online resources for teachers, and practical approaches to teaching science.


Episode notes

[00:00] Introduction - Introducing Keith Heggart

[01:22] Keith talks about his background, his relation to STEM and Education and his current activities

[03:19] Community-lead and funded Makerspaces

[05:01] What is needed to run a Makerspace

[06:57] Examples of current Makerspaces in Sydney: in schools

[09:26] How to run a Makerspace as a Teacher in a school: "Experiment and try and have a bit of fun" - Edutopia & Treehouse

[11:24] If you started a Makerspace today what would be the first thing you'd buy: Raspberry Pi Platforms

[12:42] Bias in favor of Engineering and Computer Science in Makerspaces - How to also expose children to Science and Mathematics

[16:40] The most important responsibility of Teachers: Not to kill students' creativity

[17:37] Administrative tasks restricting teachers from doing their job as well as they possibly can

[19:15] MIT assesses students' Portfolios, not just their marks

[20:01] How students' learning process changed over the last 10-20 years - What could be improved and how

[24:48] Alternative to age criteria for dividing student classes: capability, desire, customized learning experience via computer teaching tools and the Teacher's place in such an environment

[27:42] Mentorship rather than distribution of facts and data - How far into the future is this possible

[29:22] Arguments against PBL (Project-Based Learning): Does not allow information processing, cognitive overload vs explicit instruction for developing a base level of understanding

[31:24] Maker Education (Maker Revolution): Can it be applied in the classroom

[34:12] What is the biggest thing that will disrupt Education in Australia

[35:38] School of the Air

[36:30] Rapid Fire Questions

[36:59] What App can you not live without: Evernote, Zapier, Wunderlist

[38:22] Who is the Most Influential Person in shaping the way that you teach

[39:34] Advice to Educators just starting out: Join a Union

[41:25] How should new educators prepare for teaching: "If things are not working well try something new, and then evaluate"

[42:44] Favorite Programming Languages: MATLAB, Python, Swift

[43:59] Teaching Python vs Swift

[46:46] Professional Development Conferences and Workshops: #edu Twitter, #aussieED (@aussieEDchat), Teacher's Education Review Podcast (, Treehouse, Lynda, Apple Distinguished Educators Program & Apple Teacher Program

[49:35] Parting Thoughts, Dos and Dont's: Be inclusive

[52:30] Links and Contact Information: Website: - Twitter: @keithheggart


STEMiverse 0004 - Chris Johnson & Keith Burston

May 22, 2017

In this episode of STEMiverse, Marcus and I talk with Chris Johnson and Keith Burton.

Both Chris and Keith are retired academics with a love for technology and education. They have teamed up to create large constructions using Mechano blocks and Arduino-powered electronics. They take this hoby seriously, as you will see later on.

In this conversation, Chris and Keith discuss their Mechano crane and explain how it represents a great way to introduce children to engineering and programming. Among other things, we also discuss the Differential Analyser, robotics, artificial intelligence and conversation bots, and the dangers of abstraction in education.


Episode notes

[00:00] Introduction - Introducing Chris Johnson and Keith Burston

[01:20] Chris's background: IT Academia, Meccano and Research in Robots and AI

[02:36] Chris describes Meccano toys

[05:03] Keith's occupation with Meccano and Electronics

[05:32] Keith's background: Academia, industry research with Telstra, Communications, Project Management and Teaching

[06:39] Keith's current occupation with Meccano

[08:08] The Meccano Differential Analyzer

[11:21] Meccano advantages: "becomes intuitive" and promotes creativity

[12:55] Using Lego in teaching

[14:07] Chris's Researching Interest in AI includes Robotics, how to program autonomous thinking and the Turing machine

[17:07] Chris's choice of Programming Language for AI: Visual Basic

[19:03] Keith and Chris's current mentoring activities

[20:54] Keith built his first robot with Meccano when he was a school boy

[23:02] Future predictions: Becoming further and further abstractive and the dangers of only teaching the top levels

[33:27] Disappearing knowledge after 25 years when the Baby Boomers are gone

[35:28] Teaching STEM as the responsibility to teach people how to build things from scratch (which "enhances creativity")

[37:28] How would you structure the teaching of technology: Get input from the students

[39:46] Rapid Fire Questions

[39:58] Book Recommendations: Subscription to New Scientist, Longitude by Dava Sobel, The Victorian Internet by Tom Standage

[45:18] Favorite Programming Languages: (Keith) C++ (Chris) COBOL, Pascal, Visual Basic, C#


STEMiverse 0003 - Pasi Suhonen

May 15, 2017

In this episode of STEMiverse, Marcus and I talk with Pasi Suhonen.

Pasi is a Maker from Finland. By day, he is a customer-facing engineer at Rohde & Schwarz Finland, a German telecomunications company based in Munich, Germany. At any other time, Pasi is a tinkerer and life long learner.

In this conversation, Pasi tells us about his path in education and especially his experience as an apprentice, what schooling is like in Finland, and his hobbies, in particular microcontrollers, programming and radio astronomy. I think you will find Pasi's learning experiences very intersting!


Episode notes

[00:00] Introduction - Introducing Pasi Suhonen

[01:18] Pasi talks about his work in Rohde & Schwarz

[05:05] How Rohde & Schwarz survived the war

[05:57] Family companies in Germany are common to grow large without privatization

[07:30] Pasi's training in engineering

[10:04] Apprenticeship programs vs classroom education

[11:03] Finding a mentor

[11:51] A typical day with a mentor

[17:37] Pasi's childhood: how he began exploring electronics, what influenced his interest in science and technology & how was school in Finland

[21:25] Requirements for the Vocational school in Finland

[23:22] Pasi's current involvement with education: Open University courses

[24:45] How Pasi's early educational experience has helped him with self-directed, independent life-long learning in the present

[27:04] Public education in Finland

[28:41] Pasi's mentoring experience with his own child - Differences between current and older times for children

[31:31] Current state of STEM education in Finland: mandatory programming courses

[35:08] Russia's (Soviet Union) influence in electronics, differences and similarities

[38:02] Pasi's occupation with Arduino platforms and micro-controllers as a hobby

[41:01] How much Arduinos are used in schools in Finland

[42:23] Rapid Fire Questions

[42:52] Most Influential Person in shaping the way that you learn: many people, mentors, teachers, students, fellow-students, colleagues and especially Spock from Star Trek

[44:26] What App you cannot live without: email, others related to signal generation, spectrum analysers, EMI test receivers

[47:21] Advice to new Engineers just starting out: focus on prospective fields that are in demand and have growth potential

[48:20] Qualities of a mentor that you appreciate the most: will & patience

[49:40] Programming language that Pasi uses: C, related to Arduino

[50:07] Pasi's training as Professional Development: in-house seminars & training programs at Rohde & Schwarz

[51:17] Recommendations of publicly available courses: Pasi's company webinars

[51:48] Rohde & Schwarz ( Seminars & Trainings, Webinars & Videos

[52:30] Parting thoughts: study while you are young, keep an open mind and study in a wide scope


STEMiverse 0002 - Julija McDowell

May 8, 2017

In this episode of STEMiverse, Marcus and I talk with Julija McDowell.

Julija and her husband Nicholas are the founders of TinkerTank, a creativity and collaboration space in beautiful Manly, just out of Sydney, Australia. At TinkerTank, Julija, and her mentor collaborators offer STEAM education programs and activities, aimed to inspire the next generation of scientist and engineers.

In this conversation, Julija discuses STEM, makerspaces, schooling and homeshooling, and how to motivate children so that they learn because they want to, not because they have to.


Episode notes

[00:00] Introduction - Introducing Julija McDowel

[01:16] Peter and Marcus meet Julija at TinkerTank and discuss the facility's purpose (

[04:12] Julija talks about her background at George Lucas's Industrial Light & Magic

[08:01] Children at TinkerTank learn how to make YouTube videos and animation

[09:33] How to teach children without them thinking that they are in school: Create a fun environment ("try not to be like a school")  - Project Based Learning

[12:15] Hiring mentors: by word of mouth

[14:04] Age group targets: main group ages 7-12 - Finding ways to motivate ages 12-16 to rediscover science

[15:02] Advice for parents and teachers for motivating older children: surprise them and inspire with new and exciting things

[18:35] If money wasn't an issue what would Julija do with her company

[21:20] Makerspaces in Australia vs the US: differences in focus

[23:43] Changes in learning ways and expectations of students and parents over the last 10-20 years

[24:58] Homeschooling benefits and alternatives for working parents

[28:22] TinkerTank's schedule and approach, similarities and differences with Montessori

[31:29] Examples of Student-Led Learning and Length of Program

[34:29] Art Integration: creativity in everything

[36:16] Choice of equipment for TinkerTank

[40:13] Discussion about littleBits

[42:10] Learning through making: Troubleshooting skills development

[43:25] Rapid Fire Questions

[43:50] Who has been the Most Influential Person for Julija: Sir Ken Robinson

[44:19] Favorite Teaching Book: John Holt's Books (regarding the choice of unschooling)

[45:29] What App can you not live without: Homeschooling App AT3N (, wich is now integrated into TinkerTank apps, and Social Media

[47:08] Advice to Educators just starting out: Believe in yourself and your kids and go with the flow, break outside of the box and keep learning

[48:00] Professional Development Conferences and Workshops: Raising Happy Kids Conference (Sydney) and SXSW Conferences

[50:32] Advice to Educators with non-STEM related backgrounds: Face your Fears

[51:31] Parting Thoughts, Dos and Dont's: Learn the Value of STEM and STEAM

[52:54] Open Days at TinkerTank