Review by Marianne Rogowski, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2018

Makers Empire

Stellar 3D design hub promotes innovation, collaboration, and creation

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Science

Skills
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
K–8
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Pros: Fun, interactive software combined with over 130 standards-based lesson plans will help teachers get started with design in virtually any classroom.

Cons: May be cost prohibitive for some schools, especially considering that multiple 3D printers would be needed to maximize the effectiveness of the tool.

Bottom Line: This is a great design and creation tool that teachers and students can use to be innovative and share ideas with a vibrant community of makers.

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 students 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 students design the characters and worlds they envision in books and stories they read, and breathe new life into ancient civilizations by letting students construct 3D models of architecture and artifacts. Promote student collaboration by designing a lesson around a problem, and encourage students to innovate by creating or improving upon a design. Engage hard-to-reach students by providing hands-on opportunities to learn concepts, and promote formative feedback by having students 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 students to view and comment on designs shared by others in their class, school, or online community. Whether students 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.

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Makers Empire is a 3D design tool enabling students to create, download, and print original or community-based objects. The teacher dashboard is a hub of activity where teachers can create classes, add students, view and comment on students' 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 students finish their designs, they can make them public or private, but teachers will still have access. Users can also comment on others' designs, view feedback from teachers, 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.

Putting students in the driver's seat opens up a wealth of learning opportunities. It's a challenge to find a tool that can engage students as they learn difficult concepts, but with lessons on spatial reasoning, engineering, literature, and ancient civilizations, Makers Empire provides a platform that teachers can use to promote content knowledge, technical skills, and soft skills, and prepare students for challenges in and out of school. 3D design can be a great teacher for promoting a growth mindset, as students create designs that flop -- and then work to turn them around. Starting students early on the path to persistence, creativity, and imagination lays the groundwork for collaboration and innovation -- teaching students 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 students 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, students might be frustrated at the thought of creating designs that will never become concrete objects. As students advance their skills, teachers should be prepared to support them in bringing their designs to completion.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Giving students the opportunity to be creative, innovative problem solvers by designing their own inventions and solutions is a sure crowd-pleaser.  

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

STEAM concepts are a natural fit in this tool, and with careful planning, teachers can leverage Makers Empire to promote design thinking and the four C's.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

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. 


Common Sense Reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Media specialist/librarian

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