Baltimore Education Startups SXSW SXSWedu

Workbench Powers Online Communities For Maker Companies

Baltimore EdTech Startup Workbench Talks With Our 9 Year Old Reporter

You’ve the technology implementation director at your school or your district. You’ve just received 1,000 Sphero Balls, Makey Makey kits and Parrot Drones. You’ve hit the motherload of maker stuff. But what comes next?

That’s a real pain point for thousands of technology directors and implementations specialists across the country. But why? You’ve got all the gear, let’s get to it.

In today’s modern school district chances are that implementation director is the same guy that ordered 10,000 Mac Classics in the 90’s. If you’re lucky you have a fully engaged, technically savvy millennial at the helm of your technology implementation. But that guy or girl, he or she’s got problems. They learned by doing. Not by reading the instructions, and definitely by reading curriculum binders. No, the millennial technology implementor, the overlord of the toys that will bring our young people into careers as scientists, artists engineers, wasn’t equipped to teach all the teachers.

We wrote a story a while back about Robot Lab and presented a similar scenario. A real life scenario in schools across the globe. You get a shiny new $10,000 robot. The teacher fortunate enough to have the robot in class can barely figure out how to charge it up. Meanwhile three students have been googling it all night. Now the robot belongs to them while everyone including the teacher is left out.

Workbenchtop Workbench Powers Online Communities For Maker Companies

A community could solve all these problems. A community that manages the languages that communicate between the components in the maker world. A community can bring forth successful projects and tips and supply each and every teacher in the system with the knowledge, the tools, to make the maker movement in schools work. The community, levels the playing field and makes that $100,000 expenditure worth it.

For maker companies that community is Baltimore startup, Workbench. You can find them at, because, Workbench isn’t just the community, its a platform that can help educator, and students everywhere make those ideas in their imagination come together.

“We revolve around project-based learning so we wanted our name to reflect this key focus on making, building and learning,” said Workbench founder and CEO Chris Sleat said in a statement last year when the company launched. “But this is not your father’s workbench. These online sites, or “workbenches,” provide a new generation of fun, exciting learning experiences that teach programming, coding and other critical STEM skills. You can use the workbenches to make and program your own robots and drones or to share designs to print your own parts. The sky is the limit.”

Sleat isn’t old, he’s from the Radio Shack generation, not from the Heath Kit generation. If you know what a Heath Kit is, you’re old.

Sleat talked with our 9 year old edtech reporter and then hung out with her for most of the afternoon on Monday. Sleat created Workbench because he has kids that learn a lot different than we did. He also noticed all these amazing things coming about to help the maker generation, but no one was taking the time to make sure every teacher and student knew what to do.

I’ve personally seen classes full of students walk Sphero balls down the halls like dogs, and then get shelved until next year.

Workbench2 Workbench Powers Online Communities For Maker Companies

What if you could create a dance/dance/revolution style Sphero controller. What if you could teach a greek mythology lesson and have a gaggle of Sphero balls outsmart a Minotaur. Or use those same Sphero balls to learn about the Solar System?  What if your students could learn the aerodynamics and geometry involved in a paper airplane and then power it, and fly it with their iPad or Chrome Book.

All of these ideas aren’t projects that will take months. They are all projects that could be built in a couple days worth of classes with the help of Workbench.

So if you’re school has all these amazing edtech maker items in the building collecting dust, sign up for a free account at and then reach out to them to find out how you can bring Workbench to your Maker/Stem initiative.