Brilliant Labs, a New Brunswick-based not-for-profit, recently celebrated its arrival into Nova Scotia by participating in Maker Week, which encourages young people to learn about technology by making things.

Brilliant Labs helps to teach students about technology through project-based learning, especially within the classroom. The not-for-profit uses projects, such as jewellery-making, video game design and entrepreneurship, to teach people about how they can not only consume technology, but create it.

Maker Week took place June 12 to 18, which this year was the last week of high school before exams. Brilliants Labs’ Nova Scotia Program Directors, Sarah Ryan and Kim Desveaux, said the timing was great because the week introduced the not-for-profit’s programs to the province’s schools. Teachers and students were receptive to the programs because they can adapt to any type of learning style.

“It makes for a better school day when the kids are hands-on and they’re playing and they’re trying and they’re experimenting—they’re excited,” Desveaux said. “The bell rings and they don’t even get up their chairs to leave.”

Desveaux and Ryan have engaged many of the province’s schools since the April opening of the Nova Scotia office.

They organized the first ever Nova Scotia Scratch competition, in which nine students are awarded prizes for the best projects using Scratch, a MIT-created tool that teaches kids to program. The competition received more than 60 submissions.

“We were pretty blown away,” Ryan said. “The level of design quality was beyond what you would have experienced in the 80s and 90s in arcade games, which is pretty impressive.”

In October, Brilliant Labs hopes to bring in 150 Atlantic Canadian high school students to Nova Scotia to participate in the Super Power Challenge, which gives students the resources and tools they need to solve community issues. Brilliant Labs and its community partners then pair teams with a mentor in the community to help them develop their business idea and prepare them for the pitch competition in February.

“We’re hoping to evolve how the school system is working,” Ryan said. “Slowly we’re going to make an impact so that 10 years down the road, we can look back and say, there was a big change in Atlantic Canada in 2014, 2015, and we will be part of that change.”

Brilliant Labs Nova Scotia received $400,000 from the provincial government in April. The not-for-profit is also supported by individuals and private companies.

“We want to keep our kids in the province, we don’t want to necessarily move everybody to out west because that’s where the most prospective jobs,” Ryan said. “We’re going to prepare them with these real-world skills.”

Though school will be out, Brilliant Labs Nova Scotia will have programming throughout the summer. 

Meanwhile, Brilliant Labs in Fredericton will be participating in Maker Day on July 4. You can find details here