Join us in this episode of Product Walk Through to a behind-the-scenes interview with Tim Tomaso from Wonder Workshop discussing their online and hands-on educational robots
Interview with Elad Inbar of RobotLAB and Tim Tomaso from Wonder Workshop
Elad: Welcome to our channel again. I'm here today with a Tim from Wonder Workshop and we are going to talk about Wonder Works products, their Dash and the Dot and their online learinng system and all the great stuff that they're having there. Tim, thanks for joining us. Appreciate the time and especially in this crazy times affecting all of us.
Tim: I appreciate you having me and taking the time during this crazy time. And first and foremost, hope you are healthy and safe and everybody who's watching this, you are home healthy and safe as well. And said, my name is Tim. I'm from Wonder Workshop, I'm the channel development specialist. I work with our vendors to help them sell our product across the country.
Basically, if you talk about one workshop, you're talking about a coding solution, a complete coding solution, something we'd like to call it turnkey. When you bring it in, it's basically ready to go. We have robots, we have curriculum, we have accessories. They're designed for your kindergarten through fifth grade audience. We also have a sixth through eighth grade middle school solution as well with its own curriculum and accessories. That's our cue robot and we'll get into those in a little bit of detail.
Wonder Workshop has been around since 2012. So we've been in this space for quite some time. Our owners, CEO Vikas Gupta, started the company basically after he made his fortune to have something to leave to his children. Something to help them get organized in the world, to understand the basics of coding. He thought they needed to learn it at an earlier age and that's why he founded the company. Dash and Dot came out in the market in 2014.
They've been around over since the curriculum has grown, the accessories have grown, but the main two robots have not changed all that much other than internal upgrades since 2014. The robots themselves Dash and Dot if you take a look at them, they're bigger than most robots. All the one up against my head here for a little while.
You know, you can see we've got some weight to old. They're pretty big, 30 by 30 centimeters basically. And you're talking about a very durable robot that has a large battery in it. One of the things we brag about with our product is it's battery life, a full charge of the Dash robot. It'll run for three and a half hours running around the classroom. So you can do multiple classes with it. It's very easy to work with. You can teach a kindergarten or how to run it around the room in less than 10 minutes. I've done that on many occasions.
So, it's easy to introduce to your youngest learners but robust enough to introduce to a fifth grader and give them some sort of challenge, obstacle courses, races and things like that where the kids are, are going to coach to succeed. You're seeing the robot here with one of the accessories.
This is a basic ball launcher that will tell us room. But they had a sort of our basic accessories of our launcher. You could probably see some behind me here. There's this Xylophone so you can make music by programming the robot. There's a gripper kit where you can pick up objects and put them down with the tilt of the head. We have a sketch kit for drawing. There's a lot of different accessories that work with the robots. You can see a Dot robot. This is actually considered one of our accessories.
When we teach conditionals and variables to the children, it's a lot easier when there are two robots in the equation on the wood floor that that is for an hour. So when I'm teaching, if that's what I'm teaching variables, if I have two robots, it's a lot easier. So we provide a Dot robot with all the Dashes that we send out in hopes that these students will learn to use them in unison.
So if Dash sees Dot, have Dot react in some way, shape or form, when Dot hears Dash and if that react in some way, shape or form. So we're going to do that kind of thing using the sensors using the microphone and speaker. And that's how we teach conditionals and variables with multiple robots.
So, you have a Dot robot in addition to the Dash. Our sixth through eighth grade solution. This is a cute robot, basically the same design as a Dash robot, but with more internal components. It has a larger processor in it, so we can do more than one command at a time. It has sensors all the way around the robot as opposed to just the and the back. But it's still has basic action buttons, speaker, microphone, same battery life in obviously a different color, but the same design as the Dash robot running around on treads with pivot wheel.
So, sixth, seventh and eighth grade, the curriculum comes in notebooks, it's project based and the kids are going to have to really sink their teeth into it. Most of the projects that you're going to do with the Q robot are going to take a few days to accomplish, not something you're going to do in one city.
So our project notebooks have the projects themselves with spaces for laying out your code, storyboarding because a lot of this is going to be stories that you're telling with your robots. And of course reflecting on what you've done, this is all based on the design process. There's about 25 projects in each book and there are three books, one for the sixth grade level and for the seventh grade level, one for the eighth grade level. And that's how the curriculum is presented for the Q robot.
There are accessories that go with Q. They're basically the same ones that work with Dash. The gripper kit that I showed you earlier works with the Q robot. This sketch can allows you to Mount a marker underneath the robot where my sketch kid went, might be in the other room. But we can draw it with the robots as well, those are the accessories for Q.
I mentioned this curriculum, what I didn't do and I kind of skipped over was the Dash and Dot curriculum. We send that out in different ways. Our apps, all of our apps, there's a number of apps that we run. They're all free of charge. None of them collect any information. So the very simple and small put on your device. All of the apps have a puzzle system built into it. Basically designed to teach you how the app works and each of the tools that the robot possesses so that you understand how to use them all.
So, the basic Blockly app, our block coding app starts with learning where the play button is. Learning where the delete button is, go forward, go backwards and builds up from there. Eventually you get into loops, conditionals, variables, and you learned all the basic six building blocks of coding.
We reinforced the basic puzzles with what we call challenge cards. Inside here is a set of 72 challenges that tell a little story and then give you the black coding exercise to follow through with. And this is a basic level exercise level "A" on sequences. They will get more complicated as you go along up all levels. "E" I pulled one out here on functions. This one's actually involving obstacles and navigating your way around them too. You're going to use the sensors, you're going to be programming more than a couple lines of code, so that one's going to take a little bit longer. But there's 72 in here for the kids to challenge all the broken up into six different sections for the six basic building blocks.
There's a teacher's guide that comes with that, with all the solutions in it. Follow up questions and more information for you to expand on. Once the students suppressed the basics of the six building blocks and understand our curriculum, we have projects that are online for them to really sink their teeth into where they can go cross curricular and do some math based lessons and science based lessons. The one thing we as a company do is we provide them with more curriculum thing they could ever get through in a year. Our idea is that if they're not calling us for more information, we're ahead of the game. So we give them everything they need. Our bundles are made with that in mind. The robots are going to come and multiples. It's going to come with curriculum and accessories so that all the students in the classroom could be working at the same time as opposed to just station to station.
What else can I tell you? Well I think that's about, that's the 5 cent tour in about 20 minutes.
Elad: So we know when we were working with with you guys, Wonder Workshop for I think five, six years since the very beginning. We got the frustrating back in the aura, San Mateo office when the guys were producing in the back room. We know the product and we have hundreds of thousands of schools using this product. And so far the feedback is amazing. It's great. So a question for you. What would you say is the most exciting feature of the robots or you know, the curriculum or the whole program? What do you see that really clicks in?
Tim: And the quickest sell I think is that it sprays to all fields that we have a product that you can introduce to a preschooler or a sixth grader depending on their level. And it'll serve every level in between that if you are sort of seeing somebody who's in charge of specials, she's the technology teacher and hangs out in the library and the kids come to her, she's going to need a robot that works for more than one period a day; We have that robot. We have a robot that I can introduce to a kindergartener and an hour later have enough charge to the third graders and an hour after that to the fifth graders and move on from there and curriculum for all levels in between.
So we tell folks that we have a turnkey solution. I truly believe that I can walk into the classroom and have your kids coding in five or 10 minutes.
Elad: Yeah, that's great. That's really, really great. So, this wide range or age range that you're targeting, what would you say is the, you know, the outcome that you're trying to to achieve? Is it like you know, start on kindergarten or first grade and go all the way to eighth grade or like every age group has a different outcome or different skills that they need to master?
Tim: Oh, it's, it's a good question. The policy of the company is to serve the kids on a coding journey as young as we can, as though it was preschool or kindergarten. That's where we start. We have a couple of non reading apps that are all icon based for the non-readers where they learn to draw code or play music, simple stuff that introduces them to a basic sequence. And then we build from there. And if that means that you're introducing kids who have English as a second language or some sort of disability of some type and you're introducing it younger, that's great.
We have colleges that use our robots to introduce coding to non English readers so they have an innocent tool to teach basic coding with. So, what I love best about our product and where I think it works best is when you have absolutely zero experience in coding whatsoever and you need to get started, whether you're the teacher, the students, the librarian, or anybody in between. I can teach you how to use this particular product in minutes and you will have a program that will grow and grow.
Elad: That's awesome. You actually answered my next question, which is what are the prerequisites?
Tim: The robots actually come have charged out of the box. So theoretically you can turn it on, putting an app on your device and have them running around the room in a matter of minutes. There's a full charge is obviously better for the day. We have patient, the students working in small groups with our robots. You will actually work more efficiently as a team of two or three students than you will working individually.
Tim: So, the kids are going to cooperate, they're going to work together, they're going to bounce ideas off of each other and if you keep the same teams together, they will compete against one another. And you can have a very dynamic environment where the kids will kind of teach themselves once they get started and it's unique. When a teacher sits back in the room and says, what are they doing? And you can just smile and say they're learning how to code. Just let them go. And they'll do their own thing and they won't ever give up. It teaches perseverance, the teachers too. And it's okay to make a mistake if you don't get the code right on the first try, go back and fix it and give it another shot. And the kids seem to enjoy that.
Elad: Yeah. And this is, this is all the 21st century skills that we want them to develop anyway. I mean, as a company, as an employer, right. I'm telling you, they need to work as teams, right? And they have to share and they have to collaborate. They have to bounce ideas off of each other. And that's the perfect way to learn it by making the robot do something.
Tim: Absolutely agreed.
Elad: It's critical. And I can tell that, you know, we have the millennials, but coming to the workspace now that we're all different and they're all unique and each one of them is independent silo. And we can tell that it's a missing skilled and, and I'm happy to see that you are targeting that then you're pushing more towards, especially as we are 20 years into the 21st century.
Elad: So it's about time.
Tim: It's true. It's one of the unique things about the product. It has a way of softening the kids, they get around the robot, they want to see it do its thing and they want it to see it done correctly. So, they really learn to work their way through the problems on their own or working within their little group.
Often what I train teachers, I will tell them straight up, this is something you should do before lunch, before recess or before the end of the day, because the kids are gonna get into what they're doing. They're not going to want to stop. And if you think you're going to put the robots away and then go read a book, not to work out that way. So, you've got to plan accordingly. You've got something that's going to hold their attention, but it's going to be hard to tear it away from them.
So, a lot of teachers will start with simply using it in the classroom to teach just coding. A good teacher's going to use it to teach everything. I'm going to teach math with it. I'm going to teach the science with it. I've seen book reports and parades and anything you can think of. The art teachers love them, they're durable, the batteries last a good long time. And a lot of what we see from our teachers grows organically. They just figured out what they're going to do next and do it.
Elad: Okay, cool. So you mentioned that especially for the older students, we have different programming opportunities that are not code based. Can you talk a little bit about that? What type of languages, how does it work?
Elad: And you know, you don't have to see them like each speech for each level. The different tools that support them.
Tim: You can scale it up or scale it down
Elad: I'm saying that even within the same class.
Tim: Oh, absolutely. Given two from each of the projects. Actually if I pull it open here, there's four levels to every project. There's a real easy solution to the project that won't take as long. Here, so this is a master plan, I can teach a topic, I could just have the robot talk back and forth and just be teaching something. I can produce a commercial or it can make a music video.
So, each one of those is going to get a little bit more difficult in the amount of coding that's going into it and the amount of time the project is going to take. And you're absolutely right ending on the group's skill level, you can adjust that and have some kids working on the same type of project but a different level. So that's excellent.
Elad: Gotcha. So all these like not books and workbooks are available for educators. Do you have everything online as well? Do they get access to a an online learning system or an app?
Tim: The kindergarten through fifth grade solution dash that currently have a learning management system online. We call Class Connect. It basically tracks the progress through the puzzles. There's 70 some odd puzzles for the kids to work the way through with Dash can with Dot. And our learning management system keeps track of that on a dashboard. Would you like me to share the screen and show it to you? Yeah. Perfect. Okay. You will do that.
So, this is the class connect learning management system, which you're looking at right now is my classroom. Everything, this is a subscription based product that we feed out to our and our librarians that allows them to keep track of what the students are doing in the Blockly app with our puzzles and challenges. So what you're seeing here is basic learning management. All this is is my list of students first and last name.
This is what they actually see on the device. So there's no last names on the device. These are all linked to my classroom. How do I link someone to my classroom? It's done through a teacher code and my teacher code happens to be right here. When I go into a device running blackly, it will ask if I have a teacher code. If I punch in the 10DD that particular device, as long as it's on the internet, will send me a message and I can manage my device. So here you can see all of my iPads and Kindles that are currently hooked up to my teacher account.
So, anytime one of my students on my list uses one of these devices, I'm going to track their progress here in my classroom. So that's how I put the classroom together. This is basic learning management stuff. Nothing special here. You load students, you can do that SV or one at a time. The magic happens when you go to the actual dashboard.
So, now my students are in the classroom and I am tracking their progress through the Blackley challenges. Blackley challenges start with driving school where we learned how to use the simple buttons and functions of the robot. And these are pretty simple exercises but we've got everything all the way down to the farm animal noise machine here, which is going to get into loops and conditionals. So we've got a lot of lessons to unlock here. What's nice about this is I can track my students' progress and as I said, any green checkmark tells me the student has completed and I can even see how long it took them to do that. This is less than a minute. That's a pretty easy puzzle.
If a student gets stuck, I'm going to see the orange exclamation Mark. At which point I opened up by a little window. Here I can see what the student did in a minute, which was made a poor solution. I can see the suggested solution, but more than that we're going to give you the teachers resources. All of the puzzles are broken down into PDF so you could send it home if you had to. This is what Jamie's working on. Let's let's work on, it's more all of our challenge cards that deal with this particular subject matter are outlined as well. So the teacher knows which ones to zero in on for extra practice.
This is all coding level a, we can break that down further if we need to. What kind of concepts we're working on, cross curricular connections if he needed them. What kind of computational thinking skills we're working on.
So, basically the stuff that's going to file the into your alignment is all laid out for you for each and every lesson. So no matter where the students are, no matter where they get stuck or where they're going to go, I can bring up that particular lesson and see where they're going to be, what their solution's going to look like. And if I need more resources, simply click on the button to bring those up and have them at my fingertips.
So, with this tool, I can track the progress of all my students through not only the puzzles but the dot instructional puzzles as well. And there's a whole bunch of goals. You can report out with this via CSV. Again, it's a subscription, something we charge per teacher or per building or per student depending on what works best for that particular implementation. But this is key and this is something that we just came out with this year. We just signed up our first Canadian account, but we've got, Oh, about a hundred of them across the U S that are running currently.
Tim: That's the class connect.
Elad: Yeah, no, that's brilliant. Thank you. Thank you. Thanks for sharing that. What do you see, I mean, going forward, what do you see you know, be the evolution of you know, that's in the future products, a future features or curriculum?
Tim: So what we're coming up with is a virtual robot that works inside of our system. In the Blackley app where all the kids, 85% of our downloads are blockly. It's the easiest app to use. It's easiest app to introduce and it works with the most audience quite quite honestly.
So, basically if you were looking at the blockly screen, half the Blockly screen is where you drag and drop your blacks and you do all your work right there. What they're doing is to take in the right hand side of the screen and putting you in a bird's eye view above the robot. So you can actually do your code, press play and the virtual roll crop will run around and do its thing.
Elad: How do they do a 10 stores in these kind of things?
Tim: Same thing. You use the sensors, it pulls up a punch on your screen that says make a voice talk make a clapping noise. Put something in front of the robot, put something behind the robots and you can actually use the sensors in conjunction with the other tools. It's too that it didn't come out about a month ago.
If we had known we would have a solution for those kids stuck at home right now, which I don't have until this is actually launched. But you know, the way the engineering works, they're working their way through. They want to make sure it does all our puzzles and all that other stuff first. And until that's all ready to call, they're hesitant. They don't want to put it out with, it's got all kinds of bugs in it and everything.
Tim: We kind of changed speeds at work and everybody's, you know, full force to try and get this done. But it's still got some engineering type we go.
So we're waiting on it. But that's what is coming out. That will be released until the plan was around yesterday. Obviously with the big show came around, we were going to launch that is decent speed been moved and probably canceled. So who knows what the timing of this is going to be, but they want it out as soon as possible. Elad: Yeah. So anything else that you want to share?
Tim: I mean, I think what folks should really know is that we take ridiculously good care of our teachers.
Elad: I have to vouch for that.
Tim: Our policy work is simple. You drop everything. If a teacher calls you and says, I'm having a problem with a robot, it doesn't matter who you work with, just set it down, let's take care of that particular teacher. We spoil them. We do anything we can for our teachers and take really good care of them. When somebody buys our product, we're going to stand behind it. We have been around for awhile. We're going to continue to be around. So, they're making an investment. We want to make sure that investment pays off reasonably.
Elad: Oh, that's awesome. And our customer success team is doing exactly the same. We're trying to be the first layer even before they call you. And that's the most important thing because as we all know now is parents, are full time teachers at home. This is the hardest job in the whole world. Trust me, I know that.
Tim: Well what we're doing during this time. I'll send you a link when we're done and thank you. But the virtual summit, we obviously aren't traveling to any shows. So everything we had planned for que out in California and everything else, they all got tossed aside. So we came up with what we call a virtual summit. We're having guest speakers speak every day from the 6th until the 13th of April, all about our products. And we used to kind of use it at home.
We're going to launch some really simple skews, $125 skews with one robot and curriculum to go home to go to a character saying, okay, they're done with the worksheets before lunch, what do I do with them the rest of the day? Here you go, take the robot, take our curriculum. We're going to have a teach wonder course for the parents that's going to be free of charge. Just we'll show you how to use it. We want it, the coding to get home. This is the best way we can think of to do it.
So, I'm going to be sending you some information for a couple of these fuse in a day or two. And those are going to launch with our virtual summit, and we're gonna hopefully put some of these in the hands of the teachers at home, our parents, and so the kids can use them at home.
Elad: Perfect. Perfect. So, thank you Tim. I appreciate your time. And all the great work that you're doing at Wonder Workshop. Yeah, I appreciate everything.
Tim: Well, thank you very much for your time today Elad. You guys good luck. Stay safe and God bless.
Elad: Thank you.
Tim: Take care.