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Meet John Coleman and Maroula Bratakos of Engineering For Kids San Diego

Today we’d like to introduce you to John Coleman, Maroula Bratakos.

John, Ph.D. is director and owner of Engineering for Kids of San Diego. John remembers waking up early as a child to watch space launches and the excitement of the lunar landings. Those experiences led him to become a neuroscientist. With nearly thirty years in science and technology, John was ready for his next chapter and is thrilled to be able to instill the same excitement he had as a child in the next generation of engineers and scientists and to help kids prepare for the ever-increasing competitive world fueled by technology.

He is joined by his wife Maroula who supports the back-end of the business and currently works as a project engineer. Maroula’s childhood curiosity for math and science led her to electrical engineering degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, followed by an over twenty-year career in communications technologies which continues today.

John and Maroula were drawn to the hands-on approach of Engineering for Kids because it teaches more than just technology, but also problem-solving, courage to move forward into the unknown and a love of learning. They purchased their Engineering for Kids franchise in the summer of 2014 and have been offering after-school programs, summer programs and workshops throughout the San Diego region since January 2015.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Starting a business in a new field is always going to be challenging as you learn the market and build up your client base. With our after-school and summer programs, you have to make your appeal to both the kids taking the classes and the parents paying for the classes.

The kids tend to be our best salesmen as when they learn about the classes they can be very convincing to get their parents to enroll them; they really have a thirst to learn and get hands-on with technology. However, a lot of schools have gone green and no longer send home take-home flyers so the kids are taken out of the sales loop. At these schools, we have had to adjust our marketing to be more focused on the parents.

Also, San Diego is one of the earliest and largest regions for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs for students so being a new company trying to distinguish ourselves in this crowded and competitive field has certainly been a challenge. We also have made a concerted effort not to expand too quickly, even though the demand has been there because we wanted to make sure to keep the high quality of our services.

Please tell us about Engineering For Kids San Diego.
The goal of Engineering For Kids is to bring science, technology, engineering, and math to life for children ages 4 to 14, showing them just how fun learning can be. We offer the best in STEM enrichment through a variety of camps, classes, birthday parties, and workshops. We’ve made it our mission to ensure that students receive the hands-on, imaginative experiences they need to open their minds to new skills and bright futures.

In addition to learning science, technology, engineering, and math in a fun and engaging environment, we help our engineers-in-training develop problem-solving skills and discover how the world around them works. These skills are extremely beneficial for students of all skill levels, and our curriculum adapts to present age-appropriate challenges that grow with your child each year.

One of the things that sets us apart from other STEM vendors is the depth of our curriculum. We offer robotics, programming, 3D printing as well as traditional engineering disciplines including Electrical, Mechanical, Aerospace, Civil, Environmental Engineering, just to list a few. Our curriculum is not cookie cutter or demo-based, but rather hands-on with designs driven by the students. We emphasize the engineering design process which includes brainstorming and designing, before building. Testing is also an important step in the process as is allowing the students to go back and modify their designs based on the testing.

As a company we are most proud of our ability to give back to our community, partnering with a local Title 1 school to provide free classes to their students.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
As previously mentioned, John remembers waking up early as a child to watch space launches and the excitement of the lunar landings. Maroula remembers crafting science experiments in the backyard, playing with LEGO and traveling with her family.

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