5th Element providing fun, educational STEM programs on Fleming Island

By Wesley LeBlanc wesley@opcfla.com
Posted 3/3/21

FLEMING ISLAND – 5th Element Studios is teaching Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics concepts to children and adults of all ages without them even realizing it.

That’s the promise …

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5th Element providing fun, educational STEM programs on Fleming Island

Posted

FLEMING ISLAND – 5th Element Studios is teaching Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics concepts to children and adults of all ages without them even realizing it.

That’s the promise of 5th Element Studios, a local business devoted to the fun of S.T.E.M. located at 1811 Golden Eagle Way, Suite on Fleming Island. It opened last May with the promise of making things like 3D printing, robotics, coding and more accessible and enjoyable to everyone. The past year is evidence of the family-owned businesses’ dedication to those ideals.

“We couldn’t open until the end of May,” owner Patric Johnson said. “We were open just in time for Summer and 5th Element was really well-received. The past year has been great for us. There are some tough times and being a business owner isn’t easy, but it’s been worth it.”

Johnson has been a tinkerer all her life. Her mother was a seamstress and made a lot of things for the family growing up. If something was broken or torn, she encouraged Johnson to find a way to fix it. She grew up in a world where women were discouraged to enter the fields Johnson wanted to enter, but her family was always encouraging.

She eventually went into media and digital marketing in college and began doing things like 3D printing for fun. Johnson used a 3D printer to create pieces for her and her husband’s costumes at their annual costume party and that’s where the idea of bringing this love of 3D printing and technological tinkering to the mass began.

Her husband, Chris Johnson, eventually gave Johnson the big push she needed to open the store and it’s been on Fleming Island for nearly a year now. The store is run by Johnson, her husband, who is the shop’s designated repairman when machines break and the shop’s safety guru, and her two daughters. Johnson and her family live in Green Cove Springs, but she chose Fleming Island for the store because of how tight-knit and welcoming the community is to local businesses.

“The people here want to support local businesses and they make efforts to do things together,” Johnson said. “That’s one of the best parts about this place is that you can do all of it together.”

When you walk into 5th Element Studios, you’ll first see Johnson’s first 3D printer in the window as a memorandum to where all of this started. You’ll see tables lining both sides of the space and walls filled with tools, robotics, creations and more. There’s a display case at the cash register filled with robots and a wall of soldering tools behind it. Another room is lined with 3D printers. It’s a S.T.E.M. dream workshop.

The business thrives as a simple walk-in-and-play kind of place, but it’s also great for workshops, camps and parties. The first hour of tinkering is $15 and every hour after that is $8. Camps that stretch multiple weeks usually run $115 while some longer and more advanced camps and multi-week projects can stretch to about $225. Johnson said one thing she’s proud of is that the price for everything includes the supplies and everyone gets to take home their creation.

5th Element Studios also uses open-access software and free programs so that people can continue what they learned at the studio at home for free. Robots created at the studio with a free software for programming the robot can be taken home and recreated and reprogrammed for free as a result.

There are things for ages 6 through 9, 10 through 13, 14 through 17 and adults.

“What we do here is for everyone,” Johnson said.

Johnson takes pride in her and her daughters’ love of S.T.E.M. in a traditionally male-dominated field. While too humble to fully admit it, Johnson and her studio are working to buck the trend by making S.T.E.M. accessible to all.

“You can be a girly girl who loves making robots and coding,” Johnson said. “You can be a tomboy who loves making robots and coding. The point is that you can be whoever you want to be and still be in S.T.E.M. We’re just here to give people the tools and the accessibility to discover new things.”

5th Element Studios is participating in a virtual S.T.E.M. event on March 27 for 100 girls in connection with the University of North Florida and Johnson & Johnson, and Johnson is excited that her business is able to do things like that.

“I left my job to do this,” Johnson said. “It hasn’t been easy and it can be quite difficult on some days, but I get to do what I love each and every day. To see the faces here light up with joy when their code finally works or when the robot does what they were trying to get it to do, you can’t beat that. That spark is what it’s all about.”

“I treat everyone in here like my kids. This is a home for S.T.E.M. learning and creativity and tinkering. It’s about being comfortable. We’re here to guide them, to answer their questions, to teach them...and often, they don’t even realize they’re learning because of how fun it is.”

5th Element Studios is open Monday through Saturday, although Johnson encourages calling beforehand on Saturdays as those days, the shop is usually reserved for parties and other large engagements. More information can be found on 5thelementstudios.com or on the 5th Element Studios Facebook page.

“We’re just here to show our learners – our tinkerers – that they can be anything they want to be and they can do anything they want to do,” Johnson said. “We just want to give them the opportunity to figure out what that is.”

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