Winter 2015 All Geared Up

An experienced educator is helping kids learn the value of engineering—one franchise at a time.

Children have an innate desire to learn but their minds are often preoccupied with video games, television and other electronics, which is why it’s important to challenge them through hands-on learning experiences and creative activities. This is the basis for Engineering for Kids, a program conceived by educator Dori Roberts, which brings science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to kids, ages 4 to 14 in a fun, yet challenging way; through classes, camps, clubs, and parties.

In motion

Having taught engineering at the high school level for many years, Roberts wanted to get kids more actively involved and began an afterschool club that participated in various engineering and science-based competitions. The response was great, with more than 180 kids participating in state competitions—even taking home a few titles. Roberts saw a great business opportunity, and left teaching to devote all her time to developing Engineering for Kids.

“Engineering for Kids offers a suite of programs for children ages 4 to 14 introducing them to science, technology, engineering and math through a variety of workshops, all aimed at developing problem-solving skills,” says Mike
Cavanaugh, director of marketing. “These include afterschool programs, evening classes, school field trips, workshops, birthday parties, homeschool programs, scouts workshops, and pre-school programs.”

Franchise functionality

The company began franchising as a way to spread the program across the country.

“Engineering for Kids presents a low-barrier opportunity with room to grow, as the brand plans to add between 50-60 new locations soon,” Cavanaugh says. “Our franchisees share our founder’s passion for the program, understanding the need for STEM education.”

A one-time franchise fee is $19,500, paid in one lump sum at the signing. There’s also a royalty fee of seven percent of gross sales paid monthly. The minimum monthly royalty is $200. Currently, there are 116 locations worldwide, but growth has never been about numbers, Cavanaugh says, but “about finding the right people for our system who can service their community best.”

Franchisees receive protected territory, use of the Engineering for Kids brand and trademark, the award-winning proprietary system and curriculum, and comprehensive training and support.

“We work with the franchisees very closely at the beginning of starting their business and then we are there to support them as they need us once they get started,” Cavanaugh says. “Most of our locations are mobile and use schools and recreation centers as their classroom space.”

Creative curriculum

There are three categories for programs and within each is an ever-evolving curriculum to challenge the minds of children. The Junior Engineers is designed for children in Pre-K to 2nd grade; the Apprentice Engineers is for those in 3rd to 5th grade; and the Masters Engineers targets those from 6th to 8th grade.

The kinds of activities offered in each program vary across the board. For example, the Junior Chemical Engineering classes introduce fundamental concepts of solids, liquids, and solutions. Students investigate the properties of several crazy concoctions and make their own samples of bubbles, playdough, flub, and more. During the Electronic Game Design Racing classes for Apprentice Engineers, students use Multimedia Fusion 2, a gaming software, to create their own video game. Students design a racetrack, racecars and an environment in which their cars compete. For Masters Engineers, marine engineering classes let students use the engineering design process to design, create, test, and refine several types of marine-based devices and vehicles. Students construct working prototypes that teach and reinforce the concepts of above-water transportation, underwater exploration, and harnessing the power of water.

Birthday parties comprise a 60-90 minute engineering activity. One example is a LEGO Robotics Party where all party guests get to program robots to perform in a robotics challenge.

According to Cavanaugh, Engineering for Kids uses a four-step approach to training franchisees. It starts with
pre-training, which includes learning the pre-operating manuals and details, and scheduling training dates. This is followed by corporate training in Virginia, which is designed to prepare franchisees (up to two people) with the knowledge and tools to open a successful Engineering for Kids business, and includes everything from class curriculum to marketing and business operations. “Our onsite teacher training will take place once [franchisees] have hired all the teachers and acquired all their supplies. This hands-on training will take place over two days and will prepare them for offering programs in the territory,” Cavanaugh says. This includes curriculum manuals for each of the Engineering for Kids content areas with step-by-step lesson plans for all of the activities. “For on-going training, our in-depth operations manuals provide an additional resource and cover many of the ongoing details of running an Engineering for Kids business.” Training videos will also be available for both key curriculum areas and as new curriculum becomes available.

Engineering for Kids essentially unlocks a child’s creativity while strengthening math and science skills.

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