Looking to get your kids into coding and foster their love of electronics? Little Robot Friends may be the organization to do just that. We recently chatted with the founder about their mission and what your child can expect from its courses and camps.
What is your business called and what does it do?
My business is called Little Robot Friends. We create toys, apps, and teaching materials for introducing kids age 7 and up to the world of coding and electronics. Our hands-on, creative approach to teaching help make learning STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) subjects fun and engaging for kids.
We sell our robots online and we teach classes both off-site (schools, maker spaces) and at our studio office in the east end of Toronto. We also run March Break and summer camps.
What made you want to do this work?
My partner and I have spent more than a decade working as interaction designers for museums and science centres. The unique problem that we solved was how to turn difficult concepts into engaging exhibits for museum goers who have short attention span. We all learn best when we’re having fun, so our focus was on creating engaging experiences and drip in the knowledge. We’ve made exhibits for the ROM, Telus Spark in Calgary, LA Discover Cube, etc.
About five years ago, we became parents, and we wanted to create something that has lasting impact for the next generation. We wanted to combine our geeky passion for tech and maker culture with education. Little Robot Friends was first a side project and labour of love that has now grown into its own company. Our mission is to empower kids to be creative with technology, to make and innovate rather than being mere consumers of it.
What problem does this solve?
Teaching computer programming is hard and a lot of times it is boring. While parents, governments and private sectors continue to demand that education adapt to 21st century by teaching computer science in schools, most teachers are not trained to do so and if it’s not fun to learn, kids get bored.
We solve this problem by making introduction to code easy to teach and fun to learn.
Who are your clientele/demographics?
Our clientele are parents and educators of kids age 7-12. That’s about grade 2-8.
How does your business make money? How does it work?
We have an online shop that sells our robots, which we ship to just about anywhere in the world. We teach classes and camp at our studio in the east end of Toronto, and sometimes we do school visits!
Where in Toronto can we find your profession?
You can find us at littlerobotfriends.com, and if you happen to be on the east end of Toronto, we have a store-front office on the Danforth, between Coxwell and Woodbine Aves. [I know you didn’t ask for this, but I’m attaching a picture of our new storefront for visual]
What is the best question a prospective customer could ask a member of your profession when comparing services?
Would my kids like, play with, learn anything from, this?
Absolutely! I have seen so many kids come through our door and walked away happy that I can say with certainty that all kids like robots in some form. Some kids maybe more in-tune to engineering activities than others, but all kids are curious to learn and be creative, and we’ve designed our materials – the robots, the classes, the content, so that they enjoy it and learn something in the process.
A lot of emphasis are being put on STEM fields nowadays, and I would say that yes, while promoting science, technology, engineering, and math subjects is good for job prospect in the future, it is more important that we expose our children to all spectrum of learning subjects that help develop creativity, critical thinking, and social-emotional skills. At Little Robot Friends, this value is at the heart of what we do. Our robots are designed to be a fun learning tool, and our classes and camps incorporate many activities to make it a fun, holistic educational experience.
We teach coding not with a goal of having every child become a computer programmer, but because we think learning how to code teaches children critical problem solving and thinking skills that is essential to the life-long learning process.
What is the best part about what you do? What is the worst part?
The best part is seeing kids learn a new concept and really understand that they have the power to make something. There’ll be a spark on their faces when they get something to work, and to us, that is the most incredible thing.
The worst part of my job is probably the bookkeeping. Bah, so tedious yet necessary. Some people love doing that but it is so not my cup of tea.
What is your favourite joke about your own profession?
That since I make robots, why don’t I just make the robots do the work for me?
Yeah, doesn’t quite work like that just yet. 😉
PAY IT FORWARD: What is another Toronto business that you love?
My neighbourhood’s newest business, The Workaround, is Toronto’s first co-working space with a daycare attached. You can book desk, meeting rooms, and all the co-working space bells and whistles with the option to drop off your baby or toddler off with them while you’re working in a different room! As a self-employed parent, I understand first hand the struggles of balancing life and work, and The Workaround helps with this on so many levels! theworkaround.ca.