MyMachine embodies a unique methodology for creativity and education-based entrepreneurship. The MyMachine Global Foundation encourages all educational levels to build ‘dream machines’ entirely dreamt up by elementary school kids. It’s both very serious and a lot of fun at the same time. 

I asked Matisse, 6, if he could have any ‘dream machine’ what would it be and what would it do? Matisse replied, “Could you please make me a machine that chases away the ghosts from under my bed?” So that’s exactly what we did. 

It became ‘The Spocker’ – a beautiful robot that gives a status report to Matisse, clarifying what good ghosts will stay and protect him during the night (very important to Matisse) and what bad ghosts have been banned. So now Matisse can go to sleep safe and sound.

Virgin Unite, MyMachine

Virgin Unite, MyMachine

It’s been quite the journey from inception to inventions like ‘The Spocker’. The MyMachine team having built a methodology consisting of three steps in one academic year:

  • IDEA: Children from elementary and kindergarten schools invent their own ‘Dream Machine’. Anything goes. The main criterion is that it’s relevant for the child who really, really wants it.
  • CONCEPT: Higher education students (e.g. product design students, game design students, engineering students) translate this idea into a product concept.
  • WORKING PROTOTYPE: Technical, middle and high schools pupils build a real working prototype.

MyMachine, honoured by the United Nations at the World Summit Awards, is standing out as it unites all educational levels in a unique ecology of talent - working to materialise unexplored dream machine ideas. 

Virgin Unite, MyMachine

Virgin Unite, MyMachine

Throughout the process children, pupils and students are supported by a wide range of local organisations sharing a common view about the importance of good education in society. College students go into the elementary classroom for ideation sessions with the kids. The kids then visit the university to give feedback on how the college students are translating their ideas into concepts. The kids then visit the technical high schools and collaborate with them to build a working prototype. 

So what happens once the inventions are ready? 

First we present everything, from drawings, mock-ups etc. to the working prototype in a please-do-touch exhibition to be discovered by all the kids, students and the broad public. After that, each of the working prototypes go back to the concerned elementary school to be on display. Some of the ideas will actually become commercially viable products. 

Virgin Unite, MyMachine,Matisse

Virgin Unite, MyMachine,Matisse

Within a very near future, MyMachine will be able to celebrate the release of its very first commercialised idea. Part of the revenue will of course return to the MyMachine Global Foundation. From the perspective of a college student, MyMachine is a great way of touching base with their future jobs. As a future product designer or engineer, for example, you have to listen to your customer – and in this case the customer is the child-inventor (a really demanding customer by the way). 

Students need to use their skills to translate the idea into a concept that can be built in the participating technical high schools. This means taking into account the available production facilities. Sometimes this would be a high school with 15 year olds working in wood, in another case 17 year olds working in electronics. The college students need to know what complexity levels they can incorporate, what kind of woodworking machines they have, their electronics capabilities, etc.

Virgin Unite, MyMachine

Virgin Unite, MyMachine

MyMachine has been set up as an Open Education platform with five key focuses:

  1. Creativity in education
  2. STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Mathematics) in education
  3. Maker-Centered-Learning in education
  4. Project-Based-Learning in education
  5. Entrepreneurship in education

Founded in Belgium by Piet Grymonprez (Howest University), Jan Despiegelaere (Community Foundation of West-Flanders) and Filip Meuris (Leiedal), the MyMachine Global Foundation has now started a franchise system that allows other regions to start-up. 

MyMachine is now in eight countries, across three continents (Belgium, Slovenia, Portugal, Slovakia, France, Norway, South Africa and USA). The team have also started collaborating with some incredible people and groups including Sir Ken Robinson, Hank Nourse at the New York Academy of Sciences, The Harvard Graduate School of Education on Maker Centered Learning, Angela Debarger on Project Based Learning, The United Nations, Unesco, Unesco Chair on Open Technologies for Open Educational Resources and Open Learning.

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