My name is Phuong and I have been the Education Manager at Little Robot Friends for four fabulous years! You might recognize my name from your overflowing inbox or seen me quietly hanging around PA Day camp, maybe we’ve even met before in human-form… pre-COVID life. Well, whether we realize it or not, we have shared a very special journey together. I have been the invisible hand that was helped guide your kids through their coding adventures; I have programmed with them, I have crafted with them, and I have most certainly laughed with them. But like every story there is a beginning, middle, and end… I am sad to say that my time at Little Robot Friends has now come to an end. *Cue soft violins*
Photo (left to right): Winnie, Phuong (me), Mark, Jon, Shirina, and Ann at the front!
Over the past few years, whenever someone would ask me, “Hey, what do you do for a living?” I would say, “I work with robots, teachers, and kids!” The reply was almost always about how cool and unique it all sounded - to this, I answer: YES! I have witnessed the many transformations of Little Robot Friends from the time we launched our original Spikey, Ghosty, and Curvy characters to the moment we celebrated their 5th birthday bash. I have been a part of both the rewards and hardships of running a small business in our wonderful East York community. And I have met so many incredible people along the way. My time here has been fulfilling and although I am sad to say goodbye I am also excited to watch this next chapter in the Little Robot Friends' story unfold.
So, before I jet off on a new adventure, I would like to share my most memorable moments with you!
1. My First Soldering Workshop at Toronto Tool Library (2016)
There were only 4 of us back when I first joined the LRF team! I organized my first workshop in collaboration with the Toronto Tool Library. This is where I met Michelle Mishmash - a talented educator and maker (she still teaches with us)! At the time, we didn’t have a visual coding app and we didn’t teach Scratch, so students soldered their own robots and learned how to program in Arduino C & C++ 😅
Photo: One of our many coding & soldering workshops with TTL!
2. Afterschool Program at KaZa! (2018-2020)
One of our longest running programs was with the KaZa Family Centre. We brought STEAM lessons every week for 2 years to the afterschool kids! It was so rewarding to watch the kids improve their coding and technology skills through a longer period of time. We are very proud of far they’ve come!
Photo: One of our KaZa students who was also in our advanced Maker Club!
3. The Coolest Robot Birthday Bash! (2018)
We've celebrated many birthdays at the LRF studio! But my favourite one has to be Spikey, Ghosty, and Curvy’s 5th birthday bash. It was such a joy to open our doors to the East York community so they could come in and join us for free coding workshops and yummy snacks!
Photo: Our jumbo sized Spikey robot for parties and events. It's actually built to work and can sing happy birthday!
4. Earl Haig Spring Robot Concert (2019)
When the educators at Earl Haig asked if we’d help them organize a Spring Robot Concert at their school… we were SO stoked. We taught the students how to program “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake and they performed the song live while waving their robots in the air - and all in front of family and friends!
Photo: The Spring Robot Concert performance at Earl Haig.
5. Canada Learning Code Collaboration (2019)
We had the unique opportunity to design a special edition Cubby Robot for Canada Learning Code. All hands were on deck to build 1000 robots that were shipped across Canada to Montreal, St. John's, Whitehorse, and more! I love these moments because our whole team gets to sit around the table to assemble and pack bots together (yes, we do it all by hand).
Photo credit (CLC): TeacherCon event with Canada Learning Code
6. A Pandemic-Style Virtual Summer (2020)
I suppose every story must end in dramatic fashion! This pandemic has been a challenge for everyone - getting our programs up and running online was not all rainbows and butterflies, but we did it! I’m especially proud of our virtual World Builder Camp. We designed a program that really allowed students to showcase their individuality and creativity, while asking the big question: "how would you design a better world for everyone?" 😍
Photo: 3D printed inventions from our virtual Summer World Builder Camp.
I cannot wait to see the positive impact our little coders make in this world. I will be keeping my eyes wide open! And big hugs to my Little Robot Family for making these four years such a wild and exciting ride. ❤️
(Your former Education Manager)