What a rollercoaster
Wow! The past few months were all about finalizing Kids Tech Studio Robotvilla. Who would have thought that there were so many discussions and choices to make? Like, which robots to by, which educational toys to order or which coding platform to choose. Or more practical stuff like, which laptops to buy, which laptop locks and what kind of headphones? Also, find a home-base for Robotvilla. A place where I can run my Robotvilla sessions. A place with electricity to plug the trailer into, somewhere with a bathroom and running water. A place where parents can also have a place to relax like in a restaurant when the kids are having fun at the Robotvilla-session. What about insurance, legal stuff, and bookkeeping? Which price point to pick and what the opening hours should be. How to balance my family, my core business as a freelance User Experience Designer and Robotvilla. And what if the kids don’t like the sessions?! ?
My head was spinning for months, but I’m finally at a point where the dust is settling. Running around like crazy turned into walking towards a clear goal. The road was long and had its obstacles, but everything came together in the end. The time is now! Kids Tech Studio Robotvilla and I are ready for launch! What a ride!
It was August 2018, and I had written in my planner that I wanted the Kids Tech Studio up and running by the time it was summer. Time was running out to hit my goal, and so it was time to pick a date for the open house (which was also the launch of Robotvilla). I noticed I was procrastinating like crazy. I came up with all kinds of excuses to postpone the opening. I was afraid of failing my dream project.
When I procrastinate, I feel a bit worse about it, every day that passes. Time for action! But how? A thing I use is called the five-second rule by Mel Robins. This technique makes you execute an actionable task before overthinking it and hesitate to take action. Just count backward from 5 to 1 and perform the action you had in mind. I used this technique multiple times during this time of anxiety about the launch of Robotvilla. I counted backward from 5 to 1 and picked a date for the open house, which was on October 6th from 11:– – 16:00, 2018. I counted backward to finalize my order at the printer to order my business cards and my flyer with my open house announcement on it. I counted back before I pressed “send” on the invitation to friends and family on Whatsapp and I also counted 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… before announcing the open house on social media. No way back! *breathe in, breath out…*
Friday evening, October 5th, 2018
18:00 – Vincent and I drove to Werf35 in Hilversum to set up a big party tent. That way, we would have more time the next morning. I had a clear vision about what the open house setup should look like. I even drew it to help communicate my idea to Vincent. When we were home, and the kids were in bed, I stayed up almost the entire night preparing everything for the open house. I packed everything up so we could load it in the car the next day.
Saturday, October 6th, 2018
08:00 – We were loading everything in the car, I was anxious, and my tummy aced. At 11:00 the first visitors could come. I had no idea if somebody would show up. What if… what if…. what if… *breathe in, breathe out*
10:50 – Everything was in place and up and running. The sun was shining; the colorful balloons were playfully dancing in the wind. It was quite at Werf35, except for my kids who were whizzing about and had fun on their fancy scooters. Another sip of water, another deep breath…
11:00 – What was that on the parking lot? My first visitor? A mom from school with here kids. I thought: “WOW! Somebody came! And what’s that? More people?! For Robotvilla??”. Before I knew it, the Kids Tech Studio was packed with kids and people who were curious what Robotvilla was all about. The party tent outside was also buzzing with parents and kids who were having fun coloring the homemade Robotvilla coloring pages while sipping their lemonade and eating their candy.
I was talking non-stop to people about Robotvilla. About how the idea came about and how the Robotvilla-sessions work. When I peeked at my watch, it was already 14:00! And the next peek was at 15:45. Time flew by, my voice was almost gone from talking so much, and I had my first sign-ups! A-MA-ZING! I was overwhelmed with joy. I’m so very proud of this accomplishment and thankful for the help and patience I got from friends and family.
My Robotvilla dream project came true and is located at Werf35 in Hilversum. Every Wednesday afternoon, I get to help curious kids on their journey in tech. How cool is that?
Would you like to join us for a RoObotvilla session? Book your ticket here!
A short time ago, I decided to temporarily drop one day of UX work, to get things done for Robotvilla. (Read more about that decision in my Robotvilla day blog post.) My first real Robotvilla day is therefore 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.
Logo design process
Together with my son Vico (then 3,5 years old), I designed the little robot, which lives inside the R of the Robotvilla logo. The robot even has a name: “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.
Photo: How little robot “Muizernaik” came to life (2015)
The guys from graphics design bureau Elway Designs in Hilversum, The Netherlands, did a great job in putting the logos 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!
Also, a nice read: the idea behind Robotvilla.
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. I finance Robotvilla myself, so it was a mission and a half to find a lot for “less”. 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…”
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) items! 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 less, 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!
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, as 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!
- 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,
- Searching for and trying out educational toys, apps, and crafts to offer in the studio,
- Remodeling this entire website,
- Finishing my beautiful Robotvilla trailer.
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! ?
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.
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.
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!
Reading suggestion? In this article, I’ll tell you how I found my Studio on wheels.
(Source photo: Wikihow)
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…)
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!
Hurray, the Robotvilla is in the air! The idea of Robotvilla came to me in the summer of 2016. I worked many evenings and nights to bring my idea to life, and now it has finally happened! I’m very proud of the results thus far, now the only thing Robotvilla needs to do is grow. (more…)