What is Machinam?
Remember how back in high school you would get to maths class and just be like, ‘Woooo, I can’t wait to get stuck into these non-linear equations today!?’ Nope, us either. And now we’re engineers and as it turns out we use maths everyday in our careers to solve relevant, real world problems, but at the time, we couldn’t see the point of what we were learning.
That’s why we created Machinam - a for-profit, for-purpose company that is developing an app-based resource for high school maths classes. This product tackles the age old question, ‘Why do we need to learn this?’ by framing maths problems in a way that allows students’ to connect what they are learning in class to their own life and future careers.
This digital app brings together problem-based learning, real life context and digital technology to provide an alternative to traditional high school maths textbooks that is engaging and relevant to students’ interests, and is mapped to the Australian Curriculum.
Who are the people behind Machinam?
Claire, Felicity and Jillian have been passionate advocates about the possibilities that arise from diversity in STEM education and creating change in this space for the past six years. After volunteering their time in existing non-profit organisations as well as founding their own successful non-profit, these women are now using a commercial structure to create lasting and sustainable change. Their passion, and their professional experience delivering large projects and leading teams has enabled the founders to bring their ideas for Machinam to reality.
Jillian Kenny - Director - PhD, Civil engineer, co-founder Power of Engineering, 2014 Top 100 Most Influential Women in Australia.
Felicity Furey - Director - Senior project manager, Civil engineer, co-founder Power of Engineering, 2012 Top 100 Most Influential Women in Australia.
Claire Bennett - Director - Senior engineer, high risk engineering project manager, mother.
How long have you been operating as a business?
We’ve been operating as a business since January 2015.
Where are you based?
Our business is operated out of Melbourne and Brisbane in Australia.
We’ve implemented some great tools like Slack, Trello and Google Hangouts to keep communication active no matter where in the country (or world) we happen to be.
How did you come up with the idea for Machinam?
In 2012, Felicity and Jillian co-founded Power of Engineering, a non-profit organisation that inspires female and regional Year 9 and 10 students about what’s possible from an engineering career. Shortly afterwards, Claire joined the team as Partnerships Coordinator. After a few years running this organisation, they began to question if there was a way to scale the impact they were making. At the same time, the thousands of teachers and students we were meeting, were asking where they could get resources like we used at our workshops, that engaged the students, to use in class. After spending many hours talking and scheming in a quaint cafe at the Barracks in Brisbane, Machinam was born.
What does the name Machinam mean?
We wanted this Organisation to focus on changing the social fabric of engineering, technology and design. The word ‘fabric’ stuck out as a potential name and we discovered the latin translation of the word to be Machinam (by the way, it is pronounced Ma-ki-nam). Machinam is also the derivative of words like fabrication and machine, which is a nice homage to our engineering background. Apparently, to machinate is to artfully plot or scheme, which we quite like as well!
What is your previous experiences in start-ups or business?
Our business experience comes from running Power of Engineering (PoE) for the last five years. The not for profit has proven to be an excellent training ground for running a business. We have learned all sorts of valuable things about recruiting, managing teams, project management, financial reporting, business planning and governance. As senior project managers for some of the world’s leading consulting firms Claire and Felicity have managed multi-million dollar projects for large and small businesses.
What has been your biggest success with Machinam so far?
Validating our idea through school trials. We have confirmed our approach, the market size and demand. We got some pretty great feedback from the students too. There are some really articulate year nines out there who were thanking us profusely for helping them rekindle their natural curiosity and thirst for learning in maths - it's really rewarding to see we are making a difference in their lives already, and we can't wait to scale this project and help more students and teachers.
As one of the teachers who trialled the content in class said,
“If successful, this resource has the potential to transform the way a whole generation relates to maths. They’ll understand how and why it’s such an important skill for life.
Where do you find inspiration and who are you influenced by?
For inspiration, we all love Brene Brown. If you don’t know who that is, she is a researcher who studies vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame, and did one of the top 5 most watched TED Talks of all time that you should definitely check out. Brene was the first to label our business approach as "grounded theory entrepreneurship" - an approach where the product emerges to fulfill an existing need. The idea is that you trust what emerges from the data, and what people's lived experiences are. By doing this you identify the main concern of a group of people you want to help, your market. Your business evolves around how you are continually trying to resolve that concern. A business is only as good as its ability to address the changing needs of its markets and this approach means you can be confident that your target market wants your product, seeks it out, and doesn't have to be marketed to.
We are definitely influenced by big-thinking entrepreneurs like Tim Ferriss (love his podcasts), Elon Musk and Peter Diamandis who asks questions like, “How can you impact a billion people not just focus on a target market of 10,000.” We also love to bounce ideas and share advice with our network of Young Social Pioneers - an amazing group of thinkers, dreamers and doers who are solving social issues through entrepreneurship.