Robbo’s code of learning has no limits
This Finnish-Russian company has developed robotics that enable users to develop their coding skills in the classroom and beyond.
Next time you are standing at the traffic lights, try and resist the urge to restlessly push the button more than once. Contrary to what your instincts may tell you, this actually won’t speed up the process.
“It doesn’t help,” confirms Robbo’s program manager Kristina Z. Karkkonen. “It just confuses the system. Pressing the button sends signals to a timer that will only switch on in two minutes. It won’t start another cycle until the first one is done.”
Delving beneath the surface of such everyday mechanics is part and parcel for the Robbo team. Whilst its roots stretch back to the dawn of the century, it was in 2012 that the company began training its focus on robotic devices and tutorial materials to meet the needs of the current age.
“Our world is built on technologies,” explains Karkkonen. “Most of the appliances at home are robots, like the microwave, refrigerator, dishwasher and toothbrush. We are surrounded by these technologies, but only a few people know how they work.”
Thanks to Robbo’s pedagogically designed tools, users are now able to develop relevant problem-solving skills as they explore life from a programming perspective.
Getting with the program
Helping to untangle the coding process, two different types of Robbo are currently available: ‘laboratory’ and ‘robot kit’. The former is self contained, with the latter more adjustable, allowing the user to build their own robot with sensors.
“Components in both products are programmable,” Karkkonen states. “They start working with a piece of code that you come up with yourself. It’s based on open source technologies.”
Robbo has developed the robots together with the University of Helsinki’s Department of Teacher Education, as well as schools in Finland. This collaboration is a timely effort, as coding is set to become part of the Finnish primary school curriculum this coming autumn.
“Finland understands that this is the real skill that children will need in future,” Karkkonen says. “Personally, I haven’t been using things like algebra in real life since I finished school. But with programming, you can apply it right away.”
Code for expansion
Combining Finnish tech and education in such a way is just the beginning for the company, which was originally founded in Russia, and currently has an office in Helsinki.
“We have two lines of development,” Karkkonen says. “One is programming and the other is engineering. As soon as kids have enough knowledge of physics, they can start building for themselves. Children are intuitive; they have their own logic that works quickly and don’t need guidance.”
Having been anchored by angel investor funding up until this point, Robbo is looking to open an investment round in the near future to enable further growth.
“Next year we are expanding to more European countries,” Karkkonen says. “Now, we have 60 per cent of our sales from Finland, and 40 per cent from Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the US.”
Finally, if all of this technology talk has piqued your curiosity, but you find yourself more young at heart than young at age, Karkkonen is keen to emphasise that Robbo is intended for all.
“We are designed for children between the ages of six to 99,” she says with a smile.
Text: James O’Sullivan