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What you should know about Synthesis, the edtech startup that follows Elon Musk’s Ad Astra model

Ad Astra
Musk’s aims for this in-person school (besides educating his offspring) was to make age segregation obsolete, focus on problem solving and gamification. Source: Bill Ingalls/AFP

Elon Musk is known for many things.  From starting Tesla to taking over Mars and his erratic tweets, they have earned him a spot as the most love-hated billionaire today. Lesser known to the public is his role in Ad Astra (“to the stars” in Latin), a private school by South African entrepreneur and educator Joshua Dahn. 

Musk’s aims for this in-person school (besides educating his offspring) was to make age-based learning obsolete, focus on problem solving and gamification. At this school, children learn soft skills in a more natural way in a multicultural and innovative environment — innovation is key.

Joshua Dahn alongside Chrisman Frank, an engineer from edtech startup ClassDojo, worked together to bring this concept to the masses. Source: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP

The problem? Only a few SpaceX families had access to this and Musk was too busy with all of his other companies to gain enough financial interest. So, Dahn alongside Chrisman Frank, an engineer from edtech startup ClassDojo, worked together to bring this concept to the masses. Enter Synthesis, an online games-based academy. 

What is Synthesis?

Synthesis is currently an online, once-a-week enrichment programme that teaches the Ad Astra concept of problem-solving. It accepts applications from students (six to 14 years old) from all over the world. It promises exciting courses and experiences through simulations; case studies; labs; fabrication and design projects; and corporate collaboration. 

Ad Astra

Interest in edtech is at an all-time high. Source: Noah Seelam/AFP

It comes at a time where the pandemic is spurring an all-time high interest in edtech. The market for online education is projected to reach US$350 billion by 2025.

Costs

While the original Ad Astra School was non-profit and free, Astra Nova — the provider of Synthesis — is a for-profit business. Fees vary depending on wealth and income. Frank has already predicted the price to lower and make it even more accessible to as many kids as possible.  

Since its late November 2020 launch, Synthesis has reportedly reached a US$2 million annual run rate. Most enrollees are from the US, the rest are from India, Russia and Europe.