Interview with Lina Sadek, Founder of StuDIYo Lab, Region's First Design Technology Centre for Kids

Interview with Lina Sadek, Founder of StuDIYo Lab, Region's First Design Technology Centre for Kids

In a world dominated by digital screens and technology, StuDIYo Lab is ushering in a new era of experiential learning for children. Challenging the traditional norms, StuDIYo Lab is an after-school enrichment program in the UAE offering hands-on learning in woodworking.

Explore the transformative impact of StuDIYo Lab as founder, Lina Sadek shares insights into the journey and challenges faced in bringing the venture to the forefront of education in the UAE.

Overcoming initial challenges

Reflecting on her own experiences with her children, Lina emphasizes the value of learning through play, a concept she discovered during motherhood. She discovered that children learned useful lessons while engaging in games. This realization led her to 'Arabize' educational toys and eventually establish StuDIYo Lab.

In the inception of StuDIYo Lab, Lina faced considerable challenges in introducing this novel concept. Establishing the concept as an after-school enrichment program, she encountered difficulties articulating the significance of woodworking and the skills it fosters in schools. Moreover, it was difficult to convince parents and children to embrace these hands-on, non-tech activities in the era of digital media and technology.

Despite initial skepticism, a few forward-thinking schools embraced the idea leading to workshops that surpassed expectations. The success of these workshops highlighted a substantial demand for such unconventional activities even in the technological era.

Lina believes that post-COVID, parents are increasingly aware of the negative impacts of excessive screen time and online learning. This led to a growing demand for activities that promote hands-on engagement. She continues,

“StuDIYo Lab uniquely addresses this by offering hands-on workshops in woodworking, providing children with a physical outcome they can be proud of, a valuable alternative in a world saturated with screens."

Another major challenge StuDIYo Lab faced was the COVID-19 pandemic. As a business with a physical center opened in October 2019, StuDIYo Lab faced the unprecedented task of adapting to the restrictions imposed in March 2020. It was not easy to transition to online platforms as the workshops focused on hands-on learning. Initially, they offered limited online sessions by sending machines to clients for remote participation. However, with the reopening of Times Square, new challenges emerged with restrictions on in-person interactions.

Lina says that the team used this time to reevaluate and redefine their programs, spending two years developing a unique skills pathway. This process aimed to transform the initial uncertainty into an opportunity for growth, ensuring the business continued to evolve and provide a distinctive experience for children interested in woodworking and craftsmanship.

Ensuring a safe environment

As children are the major participants of the program, StuDIYo Lab prioritizes safety as a fundamental aspect of its approach. Emphasizing the importance of safety at the lab, Lina mentions how they teach children specific protocols, such as tying back long hair, wearing aprons, and attentively following instructions. The team at the lab also monitors and assists the children during the activity.

Furthermore, the machines employed at StuDIYo Lab are designed with children's safety in mind like blunt blades on tools like jigsaw. However, sharper blades are necessary to create wooden projects. The sharper blades are introduced to the young participants when they are in control of their actions. This meticulous approach ensures that children advance to using sharper blades only when deemed capable and responsible, facilitating the creation of more intricate projects. Participants acquire different skills at each stage while comprehending the underlying safety concepts by putting them through a leveled learning journey.

Embracing diversity and inclusion

StuDIYo Lab prides itself on being a welcoming space for children of all ages, genders, and ethnicities. Lina light-heartedly compares it to the 'United Nations' as there are children from different ethnicities coming together under the roof. She also mentions that StuDIYo Lab warmly welcomes children facing challenges to join them along with the support of a shadow teacher. The lab has gained valuable experience in working with such children and is enthusiastic about collaborations that promote inclusivity.

Notable partnerships include one in Abu Dhabi with Lotus Retal, where the lab trains older kids from refugee families, providing them with internship opportunities and the potential for future employment. Additionally, the lab has collaborated with entities like Jad's Inclusion and Dubai Special Needs Center.

Sustainability at its core

"Environmental sustainability is a priority at StuDIYo Lab,”

says Lina Sadek.

Incorporating sustainability practices into its operations, the team embraces the adage that one person's trash is another's treasure. The lab actively collaborates with companies willing to dispose of unused wood, repurposing it for their workshops.

By selecting quality and intact wood, the lab effectively recycles materials from various projects. The lab also engages in reverse engineering with electronics sourced from recycling companies. Through specialized programs, children disassemble these electronics, learning about circuitry, motherboards, and more. This approach transforms discarded items, such as printers, TV screens, laptops, and mobile phones, into new creations like remote-controlled cars or objects with moving mechanisms. Once the projects are completed, the lab returns the items to the recycling plant.

Beyond profit margins

Meticulously designed to nurture creativity and problem-solving, StuDIYo Lab has yielded numerous success stories.

“Every child at StuDIYo Lab is a success story,”

says Lina.

According to her, every child's journey within the program is considered a success, measured by the transformative experiences they undergo. She shares an anecdote involving a seven-year-old boy who was initially reluctant to engage in woodworking due to a fear of getting his hands dirty. Despite being initially forced by his mother, the team at StuDIYo Lab successfully eased his anxieties. Within half an hour, the boy experienced a remarkable shift, realizing his ability to control the situation and overcome his initial fear. Another compelling story involves a homeschooled student who rediscovered his childhood dream of becoming an architect. These personal narratives exemplify the profound impact and individualized success achieved through StuDIYo Lab's unique and transformative approach to learning.

For Lina, the success of StuDIYo Lab is not solely defined by profit margins. It is measured by the smiles on children’s faces and the satisfaction of schools that bring students on field trips. Rather than focusing solely on profit, she emphasizes the tangible effects on every child and parent who participates in the workshops.

To entrepreneurs looking to venture into this field, Lina underlines the importance of passion intertwined with curiosity. She says,

“Passion and curiosity are key ingredients for entrepreneurs in education.”

With a background not initially tied to education, Lina reflects on the unexpected journey into entrepreneurship and education which was driven by the needs she observed as a mother. She faced many challenges as a business that opened just before the onset of the pandemic. Despite family advice to close the business during the challenging times, her unwavering belief in the significance of the workshops for children's enrichment compelled her to persevere.

Looking ahead

Lina expresses optimism about the concept’s growth and impact in the coming years. Having already expanded beyond Dubai and Abu Dhabi with a recent opening in Sharjah, she underscores the unique identity of StuDIYo Lab as a maker space with a purpose. The goal is for schools to recognize the value of the programs offered, promoting the idea of sneaky learning, or having fun while learning. She hopes that schools will approach StuDIYo Lab to implement similar maker spaces, particularly in primary classes, where the need for hands-on learning experiences is often overlooked.

As StuDIYo Lab continues to carve its mark in the educational landscape, Lina Sadek’s journey is an inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs to embrace passion.

Watch the full interview:

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