Editorial intern Shannon Cuthrell co-wrote this story.
Homemade rockets flew from the parking lot of Raleigh’s Saint Mary’s School one day last spring. It was the first time a class of freshman girls got to put their physics knowledge into action.
That was all thanks to a fast-growing Raleigh startup bringing science, technology, math and even English and arts education out of classrooms and into mobile prototyping labs built within shipping containers. They’re called BetaBoxes
, and combined with a software platform all about creativity, experimentation, problem-solving and showcasing your work, they’re the magic behind Betaversity.
There was a design thinking workshop last month at UNC—Chapel Hill for members of the Institute for Defense & Business, an education collaborative that fosters relationships between academia and the government and military. And a test for the Brado roll-out has happened over the last two days at RTP’s The Frontier workspace.
Brado’s interest is in innovating the innovation process and wants to offer big brand clients like Home Depot, BP, Nestle Purina, Budweiser, KFC and Unilever new ways of conducting user testing and product development.
In early 2016, the agency will host pop-up corporate innovation workshops for some of the biggest brands in the world. So for example, executives or employees from a large department store could use 3D printers and design thinking to come up with new ideas for their stores in a BetaBox, located for a day or two in their store’s parking lot.
But even as BetaBox explores new frontiers with deep-pocketed corporations, Maroni’s true passion is for students, teaching and learning. He wrote recently in a post on Medium entitled Why Makerspaces Are Changing the World:
We started our company to accelerate the adoption of makerspaces in the traditional education system. Our 3–5 day BetaBox program both engages students and motivates administrators to invest in makerspaces of their own. We don’t really want BetaBox to go back to a school, we want to spark sustainable on-campus programs that are meaningfully integrated into the learning process.
Maroni says that the Betaversity team wants its BetaBox to be a spark for a student to pursue engineering or a STEM career, and its software to be the number one way that Millennial engineers get jobs.
That means continuing to iterate and evolve, just like they ask of the students in the labs: “We’re always asking ourselves, ‘Are we building the right thing?’ We try to seek criticism from customers and companies and effectively turn feedback into real product features.”