Written by Perry King
Turliuk is the CEO of MakerKids, a company that has lead the charge – with classes, camps and parties — to help parents, kids aged 8 to 12, schools and staff at the the Toronto Public Library develop stronger technical knowledge and know-how.
But she owes her success with MakerKids to a time when she was being bullied and her grades could have been better. With the help of a teacher at the time, she coded a website for a book report — instead of your standard book report.
“It was really empowering for me,” said Turliuk, whose book report was then featured in a magazine. “Later on in my career, I was looking back and thinking about ‘What was the most impactful thing that made me want to be a leader?’ and it was that moment.”
That project helped fuel her stint at Queen’s Business school and gain admittance into the Singularity University graduate studies program, a program founded and organized in Silicon Valley by NASA.
It was the skills in that program, and her business and marketing knowhow that put her on a path to create and run MakerKids, which was started in 2010.
With hundreds of students each week, and thousands each year, the lab places Minecraft, robotics and coding at the core of its teachings, and tries to keep teachings fun and casual.
Turliuk and her team have developed a lot of complementary concepts within their programming. She says that Minecraft is a particular draw for her students, but that teachings don’t have to stay limited end to Minecraft concepts.
“Sometimes kids will come in wanting Minecraft but then they’ll learn about how coding can enhance their Minecraft experience; then we teach them some coding within Minecraft too,” she said.
MakerKids is also passionate about introducing STEM concepts to kids, particularly at ages 8 to 12, because their research shows that it could be a keytime they could consider it before shutting down the possibility.
“Part of the reason we selected this age range target is so we could give girls and boys the ability to have a wider range of career opportunities that they’re considering,” she explained.
This ride has been a thrill for Turliuk. Her company has received praise and press. She has also received an honorary degree from Humber College, for her contributions to society. The honour has been bestowed on actor Mike Myers and other luminaries.
Days are really fun, and challenging, at the lab. MakerKids is honing a franchising model that can be replicated across the region and, with hope, beyond. The programs have filled gaps in the curricula of some schools, and are impacting how traditional subjects are being taught, Turliuk said.
But the biggest challenge these days lies in the day-to-day workings of the lab:“One of our biggest problems is that kids don’t want to leave,” laughs Turliuk.
Photo Credits: Andrew Williamson Photography