(Photo: Thinking Huts)

Maggie Grout

Loveland resident and University of Colorado graduate Maggie Grout, started Thinking Huts when she was just 15 years old.

Is it possible to close the education gap in underdeveloped countries via sustainable 3D-printed schools?

Maggie Grout of Loveland knows it can and will soon see her vision become reality this fall in Madagascar.

Maggie is founder/CEO of Thinking Huts, a nonprofit she founded as a 15-year-old sophomore at Holy Family High School in Broomfield and nurtured through her high school and college years, even though many of her peers thought she was crazy.

So how does someone still in high school come up with such a world-changing initiative?

Maggie acknowledges that had she not been adopted as a baby from China, her life’s course most likely would have taken a much different path, perhaps working in some factory for $3 an hour.

Instead, Susan and Harry Grout brought their baby girl home and nurtured her in all ways parents do plus one more: She was challenged by her father, one of the founders of MapQuest, to find ways to change the world using technology.

The school will be a single-story, 765-square foot structure resembling a beehive. (Photos: Thinking Huts).

She took that to heart and that’s when she founded the nonprofit organization that uses innovative tech solutions — i.e. 3D printing — to help close the global education gap by making schools accessible to children in rural areas.

There are more 290 million children not in school, Maggie said, and of those 1.3 million Malagasy students are not enrolled in school due to overcrowding and long, dangerous walks to the nearest schools.

3D printing is a “piece of the puzzle to solve the global education crisis,” Maggie said.

She spent her high school years and later as a freshman at the School of Mines and then her remaining three years at the University of Colorado Leeds School Business contacting different nonprofits, researching technologies and putting together a board of directors, one of whom just happens to be her father.

Being as young as she was at the time, finding people to take her seriously and understanding the concept she was proposing was at times challenging.

But now businesses, volunteers and donors are not only taking notice, they’re taking action. Maggie is fearless when making contacts on behalf of Thinking Huts and didn’t hesitate to send an unsolicited email to Amir Mortazavi, founder of Studio Mortazavi in San Francisco, Paris and Lisbon, who just happens to be a big proponent of sustainability.

The single-story school can house up to 20 students. (Photo: Thinking Huts).

Mortazavi responded almost immediately. “It was a pretty dreamy proposition that I received,” he said on a TOA on Air podcast. “I was quite intrigued and enamored.” He was especially intrigued that Maggie’s project includes sustainable building techniques while creating education opportunities where there are none.

Construction of the first school, known as hut v1.0, will commence this fall on the campus of Ecole de Management et d’Innovation Technologique in the south central region of Madagascar as a prototype to test portability and cost effectiveness.

The school will be a single-story, 765-square foot structure resembling a beehive that can house up to 20 students. Additional pods — or huts — can be added as needed.

Maggie anticipates that the first five schools will cost about $60,000 each.

“We anticipate future Thinking Huts will be closer to $20,000 each as more huts are replicated and the design optimized,” she added.

The exterior walls will feature a relief pattern drawn from traditional Madagascar prints and the facade will feature a climbing wall and pockets that students can use for a vertical farm. Solar panels on the roof will power the school, and a rain catchment system will provide needed water.

14Trees will provide their COBOD 3D printer and technicians for the project, which will be built of a proprietary hybrid concrete mixture that should emit less CO2. Locally sourced materials will be used for other building components, such as windows, doors and roof.

“When I first got started, I didn’t realize I could build a whole building,” said Maggie. And now she intends to build 22,000 schools in Madagascar alone, an undertaking she surmises will take three decades.

Not willing to wait till physical schools could be built, Maggie and her team distributed 200 Think Boxes prior to the COVID-19 pandemic to communities in the Dominican Republic and Guatemala. The boxes included pencils, notebooks, math and science/geography workbooks, along with a blanket/mosquito net, backpack and hygiene products.

To date Thinking Huts has raised $150,000 in donations and in-kind contributions. The goal is to raise an additional $200,000 by summer’s end.

Interested in helping?

Thinking Huts is live streaming a silent auction and table read of the romantic comedy “Second Act” from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, July 24. Admission is open to the public. For more information and to register, go to events.handbid.com/auctions/love-thinking-huts-virtual-summer-benefit.

And to learn more about Thinking Huts and other ways you can volunteer, visit thinkinghuts.org.

By Luanne Kadlub, At Home Colorado