• @simply_cima 😃Mine are 5,5 and almost 4. Sooooon siz... Soooon!!! It’s coming! In the meantime, do enjoy crawling a… https://t.co/PHUghqDSxB

      Jun 22, 2018

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My 3D printer adventure [video]

How does a 3D printer work?

It’s super cool to be able to print out 3D stuff. Like, statues, objects for in the house like a vase, a handy guitar holder or parts for an Arduino project like a car or a robot. The sky is (almost) the limit when it comes to printing 3D objects. In this article, I’ll tell you all about my 3D printer adventure. From buying one to my first ever print.

(more…)

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The studio on wheels got its logo’s [video]

My first real Robotvilla day was dedicated to decorating the Kids Tech Studio with the official Robotvilla logo’s. It was a very special day for me because the logo design I’d made a while ago, finally came to life in the studio! It took a while because I decided to register the name and logo. The registration process took months before it officially got registered in the books. Yup, I’m allowed to put a ® sign in the logo.

 

Robotvilla logo

Logo design process

I’ve designed the little robot that lived inside the logo, together with my son Vico when he was 3,5 years old. The robot even has a name. He’s called “Muizernaik”. I remember that Vico and I sat together and I’d draw figures on a piece of paper, asking Vico: “What kind of head should our robot have? A Circle? Square? Half a circle?”. Vico drew his own figures to make clear what he wanted and that is how Muizernaik came into life.

A4tje met viltstift tekeningen van VicoPhoto: How little robot “Muizernaik” came to life (2015)

The guys from Elway Designs in Hilversum, The Netherlands, did a great job in putting the logo’s on the studio, as you can see in the video above. I’m very happy with the result and I don’t think I’ll drive around unnoticed with this artwork on the studio. This was another big step in the right direction!

Robo greets,

Francesca

Also, a nice read: the idea behind Robotvilla.

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Purple laptops and orange mice for the kids
Purple laptops and orange mice for the kids

The epic search for laptops.

The kids need laptops in the Robotvilla so they’ll be able to code and build cool stuff. This was quite a challenge since computers are pretty expensive. Since I finance Robotvilla myself, it was a mission and a half to find a lot for a “little”. At first, it felt like a mission impossible but if there is a will, there is a way. I started out by posting a request for old laptops on Twitter and Instagram. In no time I got offers from really nice people who wanted to donate their old laptops to Robotvilla. The problem was that these sweet people don’t live in the Netherlands, so I had to pay a lot of shipping and Import taxes. So that was a no go… I kept my hopes up by thinking: “It’ll come when it comes…”

Purple laptops…

I follow a couple of really fun people on Instagram, who run Robotvilla-like workshops for kids on the other side of the world. One day I scrolled by one of their Instagram posts and I saw that they used bright blue laptops for the kids. It looked so welcoming and fun that I decided to ask what brand the laptops were. It turned out to be blue HP Stream laptops. Immediately I dove onto the web in search for these fun laptops but I found out that these HP Streams were an older model, thus hard to get.  Bummer! I found one on eBay and one on Amazon, again, I had to pay a lot of shipping and I needed 7 or maybe 8 laptops.

Comfomart in Eindhoven

Then my Google search spat up a purple edition of the HP Stream, located at Comfomart in Eindhoven, The Netherlands. (Purple! So very Robotvilla!) To my surprise, the stock count was set on 10(!) TEN pieces! What? Could it be? I didn’t want to celebrate too early, because often times the stock count on the website doesn’t match the actual count in the warehouse. So I decided to give them a call. I wanted to ask about the availability and I wanted to tell my Robotvilla story hoping that they could help me out a bit. You must know that picking up the phone and calling people up isn’t my strongest skill. It makes me feel anxious and awkward, but I had to do it for the sake of the kids! (A little victory on its self right there. Go me!).

I got in touch with the general manager, a very nice man. He was very enthusiastic about Robotvilla and willing to help me out. 🎉 That boosted my energy level! He offered a nice discount on the purple laptops, which indeed were in stock, and I offered to put their logo up on my website. I happily accepted the offer and am grateful for this collaboration. If you ever need computer stuff, Comfomart is the place to go! 👍

and orange mice

The laptops aren’t complete without computer mice. I discovered that mice are also very expensive. The really cheap ones were ugly and that would have been a shame next to those cute purple laptops. I decided that the mice had to be orange next to the purple laptops. Totally in style of the Robotvilla color scheme. Luckily there are great Chinese websites like AliExpress that offer a lot for a little, without the shipping and tax costs. I took a chance and ordered a bag full of orange mice. I had to wait a full month for them to arrive but it worked out great!

Mission: Laptops for Robotvilla = ACCOMPLISHED...

I’m curious to see how the kids respond to the laptops. This is a massive step closer to an operational Robotvilla where the kids can now enjoy playing with code on purple laptops! Would you like to collaborate? Let me know and drop me an email!

Robo greets,

Francesca

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More time for Robotvilla projects
More time for Robotvilla projects

More time for Robotvilla!

To give Robotvilla, as a mobile studio and blog, a serious change of succeeding, I had to make a serious decision. I decided to cut my Freelance User Experience Design time, which is my core business, one day shorter than usual. That way, I have more time to create articles and videos and work on amazing projects. This also means less income, thus more financial pressure but, like I mentioned; more time to work hard on my Robotvilla dream. It was kind of a hard decision because we have a family we have to provide for, but after discussing this with my husband Vincent we decided to go for it.  So starting from April 2018, every Thursday will be my Robotvilla day!

Robotvilla projects

Comming up on the Robotvilla blog:

  • The 3d printer adventure. From assembly until my first successful 3d print,
  • The DIY camera slider. (It’s a sliding rail for my camera.) The slider enables me to make cool videos for the projects listed below,
  • Creating a super cool digital jewelry piece,
  • Very cool pirate comics that teach about electronics,
  • A wooden Build-Your-Own computer kit with an educational Minecraft game,
  • Having fun with a catlike programmable Lego robot. (You can probably guess which one I mean.),
  • A drone that you can program to do backflips and more with a really cool educational app for kids.
  • and I’m also planning to add a section called the “Robotvilla bookshelf” where I’ll be reviewing children’s books on Robotvilla related topics like coding for kids and STEAM projects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math).

If there is anything you’d like me to try out or read about, let me know and drop me an email! I’m grateful that I’m able to make this decision. I’ll make the best of it! 🎉

Robo greets,

Francesca

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* Build Your Own Robot with the BYOR-kit [video]

Vico (5 yrs) and I had so much fun while crafting our very own High Five Robot with the BYOR kit by Solly Systems. Especially when its arm came to life after we had turned it on. *WACK*, it did. LOL! Vico and I built our very own cardboard robot out of boxes and a big cardboard roll. It wasn’t just any robot, no it could actually move, see and hear! Amazing, right? Crafting 2.0! (more…)

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I got my trailer license!
I got my trailer license!

The reason that I choose to invest in a mobile studio (trailer…) is that I can reach kids that aren’t able to come to me. That way I can visit schools and daycares. Having a trailer is one thing but being able to drive around with it in a safe way is something else. The trailer is pretty big and heavy, it weighs 1300 kilo without its interior and the whole combination is more than 6 meters long.

Trailer lessons

It was time to get my trailer license, so I signed up for lessons. Ka-Ching!! 650 euros out of my pocket…*ouch*). In total, I got 5 lessons and 1 exam. I drove through the smallest alleyways and streets in Laren (Beautiful dutch town), and I parked the trailer countless times rear side first. Aside from the lessons, I practiced with my own trailer together with my husband Vincent on a big empty parking lot nearby.

D-day

Then 28 November 2017 came and it was D-day, the day of my exam. I haven’t been so nervous in a long time. Two hours before the exam, I had to finish 2 more lessons. Flustered, sweaty palms and a heart rate of 250 I managed to pull through. Then we drove to the exam center. First a cup of coffee and a final practice round of questions about weight, length, checks, and safety. Then the examiner called me to his office. I was so nervous that it seemed as if I was floating in slow motion while walking towards him.

We went outside, luckily the sun was shining, and after a few questions, I got to hook the trailer on. So far, so good. (Yes, if you mess this part up, you failed the exam…). The examiner got into my car and because of his utterly calm presence, I instantly felt calmer and we actually had a really nice drive with 1400 kilo paved tiles in the back. When we got back at the exam center, I took a seat at the examiner desk as he gave me a firm hand while saying: “Congratulations madam! You did it!”. Party whistles and confetti in my head! I did it! I was so happy and relieved. Two weeks later, I picked up my new license. Milestone!! Super proud!

 

Robo greets,

Francesca

Reading suggestion? In this article, I’ll tell you how I found my Studio on wheels.

(Source photo: Wikihow)

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Kids tech studio on wheels Robotvilla! A dream come true!
Kids tech studio on wheels Robotvilla! A dream come true!

From a dream…

Exactly two years ago, in the summer of 2016, Robotvilla popped into my mind: the blog was born about kids, code, and robots. Now the blog is actually going to bloom into a Kids Tech Studio on wheels! A Kids Tech Trailer if you will. I have no idea how the concept of this tiny house on wheels is called in English, but you can see what I mean in the picture 🙂 (more…)

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Eindhoven Maker Faire 2017 [video]

We went to the Eindhoven Maker Faire, the Netherlands! The Maker Faire is an event where people of all ages gather to be amazed. The Faire is about Art, Technology, Robots, weird objects, innovation, and creativity.

We had an amazing time. The Moov robots were so impressive, as were the R2D2’s that circulating on the grounds. The kids loved them. I also talked to a lot of interesting people, including Teun from BYOR (Build Your Own Robot). We’ll actually be collaborating soon! And I also spoke the maker of the fabCreator, an amazing CO2 laser cutter and the creator of a real Furby old age home!

We saw so many cool things that I decided to make a little video about it. Enjoy!

Robo greets,

Francesca

ca

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OSMO Coding [video]

I took a little time off to collect my thoughts, but now I’m back. So let’s pick it up where I left it. I was in the middle of editing my OSMO Coding video when I lost my SD card. Long story short, luckily I had saved the OSMO footage before I foolishly dropped my card somewhere on the floor at the office. Note to self: Always pay extra attention when handling such a small card and put it away safely. (more…)

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IT WORKS! Don’t-worry-clock > part 2 < Arduino project
IT WORKS! Don’t-worry-clock > part 2 < Arduino project

“Mommy, when are you coming to pick me up?” – “When your heart is fully lit, honey.” – part 2

I’ve made a cool toddler clock for my son Vico, who just started school a few weeks ago. Not knowing when we will be reunited is stressful for him. I wanted to take away his worries so he can enjoy his day more fully, so I created a little don’t-worry clock which he can use to check how long it will be until I pick him up. Because he can’t tell time yet, I thought of something different using an Arduino. In part one of this article I shared the first steps toward making this thing and in this part, I’ll (proudly) tell you about the final product and if Vico actually benefited from it.

Electro Lasagne

It was a race against time to get the toddler clock done before his first day of school, but I made it! It took really long before my special battery and battery shield arrived, and it had been a hot minute (20 years! I’m getting old…) since I soldered something. With shaky hands and a small drop of sweat on my forehead, I managed to solder the battery shield successfully together. Pffew!

Arduino project - Adafruit PowerBoost 500 shield solder

Heart clock apart

Then the time came to connect the parts together and switch on the power. I thought: Did I figure this out correctly? Will it work? Here it goes… little check lights appeared on the Arduino, the battery shield and the dot matrix powered up and… *BAM* the little red heart lit up! It’s alive, alive!!!!! I was so happy that I ran across the room holding my precious toddler clock in the air like this:

simba animated gif

Yep, that’s how happy I felt!

The heart

My first idea for the animation with the dot matrix was to turn off one row of LEDs every hour. This way it visually counted down (check my mini video in part one). If all rows were turned off, school time would be over and I’d come and pick him up. But rows are boring! So I thought of a little heart shape that would fill up during the course of the day. (The video below shows a fast version of the animation.) To make thing even more clear for Vico, I stuck a little white heart on top of the dot matrix to enhance the effect. Also, if for whatever reason the power would fail, the heart would be still there and it would be a little less of a disappointing for Vico.

Besides, the heart shape has a special meaning for us. I often draw a little heart on our wrist with lip liner. That way, if we miss each other on a work day, daycare day or school day, we can look at our little hearts and feel a little less far apart.

The assembled heart clock. I stuck the pieces on top of each other with adhesive velcro. 

Later, I realized I should protect the battery better than I did in this project. It should be put in some kind of a hard plastic box or something like that. Batteries like these are vulnerable and need to be tucked safely away as they can cause heat and even fire. We don’t want that. Maybe a 3D printed custom made container? I don’t know. Any ideas, anyone? Let me know in the comments below.

The snack box

Unfortunately, I didn’t have any time left to sew or attach the toddler clock to Vico’s backpack. It was literally the night before his first day, so I dove into the kitchen cabinets looking for a small box to put the clock in. Luckily I found a little snack box in which the clock neatly fitted. It even held the clock in its place tightly. Furthermore, because of the white lid, it had a cool see-through effect.

Heart in box

The don’t-worry clock in a little snack box, with cool see-through effect. 

Did Vico benefit from the clock?

And now the mother of all questions: Did Vico feel less worried at school with this clock in his backpack? The answer (proudly) is: Absolutely! The clock gave him a sense of time and a sense of connection. When I showed him the clock for the first time, I told him I made “a special heart clock” for him. I explained what he could do with it and that if he wanted to know when I was coming to pick him up, he could peek into his backpack and look at the heart. Another interesting insight is that making this clock helped me cope better with this (stressful) period of change in our lives because I build something especially for him, which fits his needs. Let me tell you: that felt really awesome.

Next adventure: Toddler clock version 2.0

Vico used his clock during the first three weeks of school. After this period he was used to the new school, the kids, and the teachers and he didn’t need it anymore. Even so, I want to make another version of this clock, a sturdier and smaller version. I’ll be using a very cool multi-colored LED ring (3 cm diameter!) with a very small battery. Giuliana, Vico’s little sister, will be going to school in 1,5 years and, who knows, maybe the toddler clock will help her too!

16 NeoPixel Ring

NeoPixel ring with 16 multicolored LED lights <3

I also want to improve the code I made for this clock because I think it’s probably very sloppy. (That didn’t make it less fun! ;)) I haven’t coded in years, so I’m very rusty at it and with these kinds of projects I want to pick up my coding again so I can help my kids with their projects in the future.

To be continued!

I’m looking forward to your comments about this Arduino project. If you have any tips, ideas or comments, please leave them in the comments section below! 

Robo greets,

Francesca

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