Meet John McInerney

We recently connected with John McInerney and have shared our conversation below.

Alright, John thanks for taking the time to share your stories and insights with us today. So let’s jump to your mission – what’s the backstory behind how you developed the mission that drives your brand?

As a kid, the I couldn’t focus on school or homework. When I was making something with Lego, I could imagine anything. The joy I felt while building and creating was an amazing experience. When it came time to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I figured I would provide others with that same joy. I aspired to work for Lego as a Product Designer, geared my education towards those goals. After graduating college and looking for my dream job all of the doors closed in my face. So I decided to take my skill set and make it meaningful. I started volunteering at my local Children’s Hospital providing opportunities for kids to play with lego and build Lego robots of my own design. There was such a great need for hands on play and educational experiences that it became my job. Through Buildup STEAM a nonprofit I founded to provide children stuck in hospitals with opportunities and access to Educational and recreational technology. though the use of Lego robotics we have transformed the hospital experience for thousands of kids. Now we are expanding our program across the US to creating positive experiences in the hospital setting. Instead of waiting for my dream job, i created it!

BuildUp STEAM patient

Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers.

If this is your first time hearing about Buildup STEAM, This is what we do. We provide Children’s Hospitals with a Buildup Cart and Buildup Educator! Our Mission is to inspire creative and positive thinking by building an environment of encouragement and healing while reducing anxiety and stress for children who are hospitalized. The cart has everything we need to build, program and sanitize a variety of different robots. Our Buildup Educators work in the hospitals, facilitating the bedside robotics experience. Assisting the kids if they need help building and teaching them how to program the robot. After a child finishes playing with their robot, The educator sanitizes all materials to the hospitals standard then goes to work with the next patient and family.

We provide a much needed service to the patients and families we serve. The opportunity for creative and hands-on experiences in the hospital setting. We utilize the awesome creative power of Lego and the educational benefits of STEAM to transform the hospital experience for kids. We provide a creative outlet to drive focus away from their illnesses and pain towards a creative and positive experience. We have a menu of 36 robots that the kids can choose from to build their robot. They also have the freedom to create their own from their own imaginations! Once they finish programing, the kids can watch their creations come to life!

We utilize Lego because it has a strange power. Once you finish putting it together, there is a magical feeling of confidence. this creation wouldn’t exist without me. We have found through our optional surveys that building robots in the hospital builds confidence in kids. We also found that it makes them feel more energetic, helps them feel calm and even feel less pain.

“early on in my volunteering, before Buildup STEAM existed as it does today, I was working with a patient building Flower Bot. A robot with wheels for legs, a happy face and arms that hold a little flower. After building, programing and playing with the robot, the patient’s mother finally spoke up. after sitting silently, observing the experience. She said “Do you realize what you just did?” Thinking I may have done something wrong ” oh no, why did I do?” “My daughter was complaining about stomach pains constantly for the last week. She didn’t say a single word about it for the last hour. You made her feel better. She hasn’t smiled all week and you got her to laugh.” For me, this experience cemented that this is what I need to do with my life. If I can truly bring joy to kids going through the most difficult times in their life, I have to keep going.

BuildUp STEAM patient

Can you share a story from your journey that illustrates your resilience?

Having a small Nonprofit startup that works in Children’s Hospitals during a global pandemic was the biggest challenge i’ve ever faced. I was working my hardest to create something that made the hospital experience better for kids. Working on building it in a way that would be able to expand to other hospital and healthcare systems. Just as I got to the point I had the capacity to expand to a new hospital… the world shut down. Luckily I have an incredibly strong partnership with Mott Children’s Hospital, where I started volunteering and launched my first program. With their team I was able to continue working remote until the doors were reopened back to our services. Our sanitation process is strong enough to kill covid and I was back in the hospital working with patients in August of 2020 while the pandemic raged on. What felt like a dream come true, we expanded the program to our second hospital in January of 2021. With the support of the Children’s Foundation, we launched at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit. We are now partnered with 5 hospitals around the country and working to expand our reach across the US.

BuildUp STEAM patient

Any stories or insights that might help us understand how you’ve built such a strong reputation?

Perseverance and problem solving. Every challenge Ive faced in my career needed problem solving and meticulous changes in order to function. I had an uphill battle since day 1 and learned everything else as I went. My background is in art and design, not business or building a non profit. Having the perseverance and courage to keep going and learning everything I can is what helped me build my reputation. Showing others in my field that I will do what it takes to make Buildup a reality.

BuildUp STEAM patient

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