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DeBruce Foundation and Make48 Introduce Inaugural 'Make48 Innovation Course'

Updated: Jan 13

The collaboration between Make48 and The DeBruce Foundation marks a significant milestone in the realm of STEM education, bringing forth an innovative program aimed at nurturing students' skills in the art of making and innovation. We’d like to introduce the Make48 Innovation Course, a dynamic program that employs a blend of videos and interactive content to guide students through the intricate process of innovation, shedding light on the crucial skills acquired along the way.


A female and male posing with a Make48 Innovation Course film clapboard
Joan Melendez Misner and Jay Flores filmed the Make48 Innovation Course at Operation Breakthrough

The DeBruce Foundation, a national nonprofit foundation headquartered in Kansas City, has been actively engaged in the development of the Course. At the core of this are the "Agilities©," as defined by The DeBruce Foundation. These Agilities are work skills deemed essential in every facet of the economy, playing a pivotal role in problem-solving, task execution, and job preparation. The Course is designed to cultivate these practical skills that are increasingly becoming indispensable in today's workforce. 


Adding a touch of charisma and expertise to the Course are Make48 STEM Ambassadors, Jay Flores and Joan Melendez Misner. The duo brings a wealth of experience to the project. In October, Jay and Joan flew to Kansas City to kick off the filming process, setting the stage for what promises to be an engaging and transformative learning experience for students. The involvement of these seasoned engineers reflects a commitment to delivering high-quality content that not only educates but also inspires the next generation of innovators. Agilities Ambassador Jylon Hollinshed, entrepreneur Patti Dobrowolski and Maker Lizzy Cook will be additional experts coaching students through the process. 


Director of Education, Brett Kisker, will join the organization at the beginning of 2024. Brett joins Make48 in a key role in the partnership between Make48 and The DeBruce Foundation, including the advancement of those organizations' impact within high school and college settings. He will oversee the management of the Make48 Innovation Course, which is designed to teach the core concepts for success in the Make48 environment as well as the Agilities that individuals need to become "Employment Empowered." Brett joins Make48 with nearly two decades of leadership in Project Lead The Way, math and science classrooms, and he spent the last five years as the Executive Director of the Northland CAPS program in Kansas City. 


Ann Zimmerman, Special Projects Consultant with The DeBruce Foundation, has dedicated several months to this initiative. “My role is to find the natural points of integration within the Course where we can highlight the skills students are developing as they go through the innovation process. The Agilities provide a way to help students connect their own skills with the skills needed in potential careers.” In anticipation of the upcoming innovation course, we had the opportunity to speak with Joan Melendez Misner, Ann Zimmerman (The DeBruce Foundation), and Tom Gray (Make48). Their insights and perspectives offer a glimpse into the thought and effort invested in shaping this groundbreaking course. As the project unfolds, it stands as a testament to the power of collaboration and innovation in education, paving the way for a future where students are not just learners but creators and problem solvers.


Joan got involved with the Make48 Innovation Course through her friend Jay Flores. “Jay and Tyler Isaacs (friend & former co-worker) reached out and asked me if I was interested in participating with Make48 on a project that would involve an upcoming video series. I’ve seen Jay host Make48 competitions before, so I was familiar with the organization and their mission. As someone who is passionate about STEM education, especially in underrepresented communities, it was right up my alley.”


Working with both Tom Gray and Ann Zimmerman, Joan filmed her first scenes at Operation Breakthrough. “I was both excited and nervous. Jay had worked with the team before and I was a newcomer, so I wanted to ensure that I would bring value to the project. As soon as I met The DeBruce Foundation and Make48, those nerves immediately went away. The team was friendly, and it felt like a family. From that point on, I was just excited to be part of the project and help bring the videos to life.”


Tom Gray was pleased to have Jay and Joan onboard. “We have known Jay for a long time and love everything that he stands for in regards to STEM. Jay was very complimentary when nominating Joan to join him to spread the message to the younger audience. Joan is a successful female engineer and actively shares her mission and passion. We hope to inspire young men AND women to find a STEM-based career.”



Innovation Partner - The DeBruce Foundation


The DeBruce Foundation has been a fantastic partner in bringing the Make48 Innovation Course to life. Ann Zimmerman shares why the Foundation got involved. “The DeBruce Foundation is passionate about expanding career pathways. We know that helping people build Career Literacy and stronger networks can help them become empowered in their future careers. Partnering with organizations like Make48 helps us reach and connect with youth and other partners who can benefit from Career Literacy tools and resources like the Agile Work Profiler© and Career Explorer Tools©.”


“Eight modules will be included in the course, and will take students through the innovation process,” Ann explained. “Starting with a specific challenge, teams use their Agilities to build a team, work to develop a solution, then build a physical prototype and create a product portfolio and pitch. We’ve also included information on intellectual property and licensing so students have a good start if they are serious about their idea and want to try to take it to market.”


Tom Gray, co-founder and CEO of Make48 has been working to expand access to the innovation process for a few years. The idea of a Make48 Course first began in 2020. “We knew the power of the events, but desired to expand to teach many more people the experience of the Make48 process,” Tom stated. “We realize our way of teaching with the power of collaboration and makerspaces is different, as it opens up the opportunity for everyday people (without an engineering background) to become makers and innovate.”


Make48 and The DeBruce Foundation are eager to share the Course with students around the country. When asked why, Ann Zimmerman gave us this reason. “Our world needs innovative thinkers! Make48 believes everyone is innovative and deserves the chance to bring their ideas to life. Experiences like a Make48 competition or the new Make48 Innovation Course are inspiring future innovators. They provide robust, real-world experiences for young adults to solve real challenges. They also give individuals the opportunity to gain valuable insight into their strengths and interests (Agilities).  Leveraging those Agilities and building strong networks can help them build confidence in their ability to achieve their future goals.” 


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