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Roboy & Lucy with Rafael Hostettler

In this episode, I am talking to Rafael Hostettler. He’s the guardian and project lead of Roboy – a very exciting robotics project of Devanthro GmbH. Late last year, they’ve also kickstarted and released a children’s book called Roboy & Lucy.

Rafael is Roboy’s legal guardian and project lead. He has an Master in Computational Science and Engineering from ETH Zurich, Switzerland and works towards his PhD at the robotics and embedded systems lab at the Technical University of Munich. He’s a true robotics enthusiast and played a huge role in the history and development of Roboy. 

Roboy is an advanced humanoid robot and research project that was originally developed at the AI Lab of the University of Zurich. Right after its unveiling, Rafael adopted the robot and moved with it to Munich. As already mentioned, Roboy is all about humanoid robotic design – the human body is the blueprint. This means Roboy has a skeleton and muscles for example – and uses a lot of AI in each of the sub-systems of course. 

We’ll definitely chat about Roboy a lot during the interview, but the focus is actually on a children’s book called Roboy & Lucy that Rafael helped to kickstarted and fulfill in 2019. The book is now available in both English and German and also in digital and print format. The book teaches about friendship, curiosity, and the use of technology for a good purpose. 

The key characters are 

  • Roboy, a 7 year old humanoid robot
  • Lucy, a 8 year old curious girl and
  • Checker, a clumsy but smart drone

Together, they are trying to help Eric, a newly moved in neighbor on the Autism Spectrum to recognize emotions. The tool they’ll discover is based on a real invention: the so-called Superhero Glasses by CATALIN Voss from Stanford University. It’s a Google Glass project that uses the built-in camera and AI to detect and visualise the emotions of people. 

You should definitely take a look at Roboy and then dive into the many cool resources linked to around Roboy & Lucy as well as the superhero glasses – you can find all these info, images and links at kidslab.dev.

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OttoDIY with Camilo Parra Palacio

Camilo is a Product Design Engineer and the Founder of Otto DIY. He’s a Designer by profession, roboticist and 3D printing enthusiast by passion. Born in Colombia a drive for adventure and pursuing his dreams took him to China in 2014, while working in Shanghai for a multinational inflatable toy manufacturer, he wondered upon the very first Hackerspace in China. There he started playing, learning and experimenting with DIY robots. At that time DIY robots were only accessible to professionals, and not well known to the general public. 

After coming up short with finding an easy to make robot for all ages, he realized what he needed to do. Bring to the market an open source robot that anyone can make. He bought a 3D printer and in a couple of months the iconic shape of Otto was made functional.

Since then thousands of people started using Otto all around the world due to it’s simple Do-it-yourself home assembly attributes. 

Otto DIY is headquartered in Czech Republic, the center of Europe where the term robot and the best open source 3D printer was created. Thanks to Otto DIY open source nature, it has become one of the most popular 3D printable robot designs in the world. And by the way: Otto is the first-ever Open Source Hardware certificated project from the Czech Republic!

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Finch Robot 2.0 with Bambi Brewer

I am talking to Bambi Brewer about the new Finch Robot 2.0. Bambi is the director of Engineering at Birdbrain Technologies, the creators of the Finch Robot. Bambi works from the beginning to the end of the development process to design new products, ensure software is reliable and easy to use, and create curriculum pathways to help take robotics projects to the next level. 

She has a bachelor in math and physics from Rhodes College, and a Ph.D. in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University. She has experience in education at all levels and has been designing robotics curricula since 2013. In her free time, she raises a teenager and knits obsessively.

Let’s have a look at the  Finch Robot v2, BirdBrain’s latest creation. It’s of course the successor of the popular first Finch Robot and a big shift is the use of the BBC micro:bit as a computational brain of this robot. The finch is a robot that targets kids from Kindergarten to college and allows them to experience their coding creations in a hands-on, physical way. 

The micro:bit already features quite a few sensors, such as the accelerometer or buttons. But Finch 2.0 adds even more cool stuff: a whiteboard marker holder, color LEDs, buzzer, light sensor, distance sensor and even line tracking sensor. It’s powered by a rechargeable battery that lasts 7+ hours. And little details make it special for me – things as visual markers on the wheels so you can count the iterations easily. 

That’s the geeky hardware bit – the software looks even more exciting with block-based programming in all forms and apps as well as text-based coding supported. We go into details in the interview.

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The Next-Generation Calliope Mini with Jørn Alraun

In this episode, I am  talking to Joern Alraun, managing partner at Calliope, about the next version of the Calliope Mini Single Board Computer: the Calliope Mini v2.

That’s the second time that I interview Joern and the third time we discuss the Calliope Mini – it’s simply a very cool board I guess. 

Jørn is an interaction designer, co-founder of several companies with a focus on developing digital learning toys and he is a member of the Interaction Design Association. As you might recall, Joern is the managing partner at Calliope gGmbH and in the last interview with him about the Boson Starter Kit for Calliope Mini, he already mentioned that a Calliope Mini v2 is coming soon.

The Calliope Mini is an educational board for kids to learn coding – if you need details about the Calliope Mini in general, please be sure to look at the shownote links at kidslab.dev for the specific Calliope Mini episodes. 

So now the v2.0 of Calliope Mini is out, featuring a memory chip which can hold up to 25 programs. Even better, the Calliope Mini v2 already ships with 25 programs, which means the board can now be used right out of the box, without prior programming. That makes a huge difference when you think of a typical classroom situation and want to get started exploring the board. 

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KryptoKids with Birgit Schlotter

In this episode, I am talking to Birgit Schlotter about KryptoKids – KryptoKids is German online project and game about online privacy.

Birgit is an information technologist and educational expert, focusing on media pedagogy. Since 2018, she is working at the office of youth media culture in North-Rhine Westfalia, which is a part of Germany. There, her main occupation is around data privacy and security. 

Images: (c) KryptoKids – used with permission

KryptoKids is a adventure game for kids from 8 years on about privacy. That’s a topic, that is often overlooked and I am so happy we finally cover this topic also when it comes to STEAM education. The game involves digital and analog elements – an iPad app combines these elements, so at some point kids have to scan codes with the iPad in their real environment for example. 

Images: (c) KryptoKids – used with permission

These are the three main topical blocks covered: data privacy, data security and finally location data. All the analog material which is required for using KryptoKids is available free of charge on their website. Other options include the rental of all devices and material needed as well as a professional coach that will help delivering the courses. 

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Solarbotics with Dave Hrynkiw

In this episode, I am talking to Dave Hrynkiw, the president of Solarbotics. Solarbotics is selling educational robotic kits for any skill level.

Dave started out with a Mechanical Engineering background in typical Alberta format – designing down-hole oil tools. As he has always had a fondness for clever mechanics, he educated himself in analog and digital electronics. At that time,  robotics interest was high and he started designing small, well-documented robot kits.

Images: (c) 2020 Dave Hrynkiw, Solarbotics – used with permission.

As the name suggested, Solarbotics specialty is in Solar powered electronics. But they also stock unique parts for robot builders, such as gear motors, solar cells, or just simple parts that you need to know will work.

For example, they are selling the SolarSpeeder v2 which is a model car project kit that can cover 3 meters in under 40 seconds in direct sunlight. The kit requires soldering and assembly – but detailed instructions are provided. 

In this episode, I’d love to focus on electricity and solar-powered project kits. Teaching our kids the possibilities of renewable energies is a great topic and I am happy to explore this topic together with Dave.

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TechnoChic with Natasha Dzurny

In this episode, I am talking to Natasha Dzurny from TechnoChic. TechnoChic Tech-Craft Kits provide resources, inspiration and supplies for crafters to explore technology and techies to explore craft.

Natasha is the founder of TechnoChic and she is using her passion for arts and crafts and DIY tech to transform the way the world understands and creates with technology. 

She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Advertising Design from the Savannah College of Art and Design and a Master of Professional Studies in Interactive Telecommunications from New York University, and has spent her professional career in education and design positions, including teaching Final Cut Pro in the SoHo Apple Store, and designing projects for companies like Brown Dog Gadgets and LittleBits. 

Natasha is an experienced workshop facilitator and teacher, and loves to share her passion with students, crafters, and companies. She’s always looking to collaborate and share tech-craft projects with other makers! 

Images: (c) Natasha Dzurny – used with permission

TechnoChic.net is a great place to go for inspiration for DIY, tech-inspired and crafty projects. The project kits that Natasha sells online are very expressive and I am sure that many kids will proudly use them in their everyday lives once they make them. For example, there is the “Be a Unicorn” DIY kit which includes all materials to create a flashy, LED-lit unicorn headband. Or the “Watch me Sparkle” Kit which turns a reusable shopping back into a flashy art project. 

Natasha is on a mission to shatter conventions around traditional thinking: tech is for boys and creativity is for girls. Hence, “technochic” – short for “Technology should be chic”.   A nod to the fact that most tech is designed by men and therefore masculine, but it should be more chic!

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Bright Wearables with Debra Ansell

In this episode, I am talking to Debra Ansell – she’s the creator of the blog Geek Mom Projects and the founder of Bright Wearables – they sell hackable and customizable accessories for kids.

Debra is a technophile mom of three boys and always looking for new projects to tackle. I love what she wrote in the about me section of her blog: \“I decided to start blogging because, as Adam Savage of Mythbusters says:  “…the only difference between screwing around and science is writing it down.” \“

Images: (c) Debra Ansell – used with permission

So her blog, geekmomprojects.com, is filled with creative projects ideas for those who want to make stuff together with their kids. Most projects include some kind of LED lighting, laser-cutting or the popular BBC micro:bit. The projects Debra shows you to make also look really terrific, check the shownotes at kidslab.dev for the links to the Teeny Tiny Edge-Lit Trophy or the Edge-Lit Pendant for example. Some of the projects will require you to get access to a laser cutter, so now you have finally a really good reason to sign up for the makerspace close to you!

Debra turned her passion into a business and is also the founder of brightwearables.com. There, she is selling bags and backpacks that contain colorful circles of light that you control with code. Kids can code these bags themselves and use their new knowledge of coding to  design and display personalized patterns that reflect their mood. I love the fact that their creations are meant to used in everyday life – as a backpack or as a stylish accessoire you carry around and show others. 

Coding-wise, their kits are powered by the micro:bit and a specially designed, so-called “Bright Board” is the accessory you need to get started with the micro:bit. The Bright board gives the micro:bit access to the RGB leds and also provides power to the micro:bit and the accessory board. 

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The SpinWheel with Bridget Hegarty

I am talking to Bridget Hegarty about the SpinWheel. The SpinWheel is a small, colourful, programmable, wearable kit to facilitate student exploration of physics, engineering, and computer science.

Bridget is part of the SpinWheel Team, a group of volunteers with a passion for teaching science and building beautiful things.  She is a postdoc researcher in Environmental Engineering at the University of Michigan. As a kid, Bridget was always asking “why?” Luckily, her parents put up with her incessant questioning and taught her to love the process of discovering new information. 

Images: (c) Bridget Hegarty, used with permission

Bridget continues to pursue answers to her questions as a researcher, studying the microbes that survive in buildings. Outside of the lab, she shares her love of science and engineering by designing and leading activities that help participants, particularly girls, envision themselves as engineers. Through SpinWearables, she is excited to develop educational kits to inspire the next generation of engineers.

The SpinWheel is a colorful wearable programming kit. It can be “just” a stylish, cool,  accessoire, but can also be programmed to be way more via the popular Arduino IDE. For example you can turn it into a step counter, a compass or an exploration tool for color and vision. No prior knowledge is required to program the spinwheel and it also comes with an educational guide that introduces you to the basics. 

The small, round board features a microcontroller, 8 larger and 12 smaller RGB LEDs, a motion sensor and connectors for power and micro-USB for connecting it to a computer.  Due to it’s small and round form factor, kids can easily attach it to a backpack or even wear it as a ear ring.

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CodeGrades with Nicholas Tollervey

Today on the show, we’re talking to Nicholas Tollervey about CodeGrades but we’re also touching on some of his other projects like PyperCard and the Mu Editor.

I took that from an O’Reilly book author page, but I think it’s a great description for Nicholas: Nicholas is a classically trained musician, philosophy graduate, teacher, writer and software developer. He’s just like this biography: concise, honest and full of useful information.

Nicholas develops software that helps folks learn the skills and knowledge they need to imagine, develop and program the stuff they want. In addition to writing software, he spends a lot of time researching and thinking about how folks learn, use and create with code.

So when it comes to education and coding education in particular, I think the one thing that all his projects have in common is the programming language Python. CodeGrades, PyperCard, the Mu Editor – they’re all about Python. 

CodeGrades – is an educational platform for learners, teachers and mentors – it’s Nicholas’s latest project. PyperCard – is a GUI framework, a graphical user interface framework, for beginner coders.

The Mu Editor is a very popular editor for beginner python projects, it’s also often used for hardware boards such as Adafruit’s Circuit PLayground which can be programmed using Python.

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