Patrick Benfield's approach to innovation is the result of his experiences at the intersection of art, technology, entrepreneurship, and education. He has since shared his expertise internationally at conferences and institutions, including Stanford, MIT, SXSW Interactive, SXSW edu, the IB Global Conference, and National Maker Faire. Patrick's writing on making and innovation have been published
in several peer reviewed science education journals and in Meaningful Making
Patrick began his journey following an introduction to the iconic sounds of the Hammond B3
by his friend and mentor, keyboardist Ian McLagan
while living in Southern California. In Austin, Patrick founded McLemore Avenue
while also performing as a studio musician for a variety of labels and artists including Mojo Nixon
and celebrated artist/musician Tim Kerr
It was during this period that his adventures in technology began, starting with his stint at Applied Materials
on the Endura
line where he learned the fundamentals of project management (kanban), electronics, manufacturing, and the unpredictable nature that's the life of a tech worker. Looking for more stability, Patrick shifted to education, where he integrated design, coding, and hand-on learning with gifted students in Round Rock ISD. This ultimately led to his involvement in the Maker Movement
in 2014, starting with his participation in the inaugural Thinkery EdExchange
Since then Patrick has been on the leading edge of the international effort to develop best practices to support maker education in schools. His first iteration of this was at St. Gabriel's Catholic School, where he was the founding director of its makerspace and PreK - 8th grade STEAM initiative
which he presented
to the 2015 FabLearn Conference
at Stanford. That same year, he was selected to be part of the founding team of UTeach Maker
, which has since become a national program that prepares the next generation of innovative educators.
In 2017, Patrick created his second school innovation initiative, beginning with the i.lab for Design + Making
at Magellan International School, where he refined and expanded on his earlier efforts.
It was through these experiences that Patrick became acutely aware that, despite efforts to democratize access to these powerful ideas and tools, there were systemic forces at play that prevented full participation, especially in underrepresented communities. This led to creation of Co.Lab Community Makers
, a free, non-profit creative studio and fabrication lab, co-founded by Patrick, in 2018.
In 2023, Magellan moved to its Forever Home, where Patrick has created an updated i.lab for Design + Making for the primary school, and the bauhaus design lab, the new innovation space for the middle school.