Fair   65.0F  |  Forecast »

The Robot Garage Founders, Sarah and Jonathan Jacobs, a Mom-Dad Team

LEGOs and robots bring this family together – including their three STEM-minded daughters – at their Oakland County hub for science fun and education

(page 1 of 2)

Tucked in a former Birmingham industrial park sits a place unlike any other.

Inside a converted warehouse with clear garage doors, kids of all ages pore over thousands of LEGO pieces. They design and build to their hearts' content, free to explore their inner architect, engineer or just build the latest Star Wars LEGO playset.

Sarah and Jonathan Jacobs

This haven for all things LEGO and robotics is The Robot Garage, opened in June 2011 by husband and wife Jonathan and Sarah Jacobs. After years of working for others, the Jacobses wanted to control their own destiny and do something they believe in.

"I realized there was no brick-and-mortar place where kids could come build or engineer robots," Sarah says, "and for people who really build seriously with LEGO."

The impetus for The Robot Garage, located on Eton Street in Birmingham's Rail District, goes back to Jonathan's love for the colorful blocks. He says he always liked LEGOs as a kid, but they were too expensive. He settled for Fischertechnik, a German brand of construction toy. From then on, he was hooked. As an adult, Sarah says her husband would stay up until 3 a.m. to make robots.

(Even while sitting for an interview for this article, Jonathan was busy constructing – from scratch – a blue-and-gray LEGO brick house. He meticulously and effortlessly finished the building, all the while answering questions and talking about the business.)

"He's like the kid in the movie Big," Sarah, 48, jokes. "He just cares a lot about having fun." Which is why Jonathan, also 48, says he wants The Robot Garage to feel like the fun day in science class, when kids get to build stuff or blow it up before they have to do six weeks of a lab report. His goal, he says, is "not that a kid comes to one class and they're an engineer," but that they have fun and, perhaps, learn math and science along the way. Creating a place for the community to come together, not through a virtual social network, was very important, too, he says.

Family is a major part of The Robot Garage. Daughters Jane, 14, Kate, 12, and Thea, 10, all help. In the business' upstairs, each child has her own office. The girls have roles and responsibilities, whether participating in workshop classes, helping other kids build creations or handling merchandise.

"We used to have friends come over and, to them, we were the LEGO kids," Jane says. "We're the kids who have giant buckets of LEGOs in our basement. We would just go sit and hang out there for hours. Most people don't have a giant pile of LEGOs. I think we took it for granted. We forgot how much fun it is to sit in a gigantic pile of LEGOs and just let your imagination wander."

Jane also loves robotics competitions, which she's done since middle school. Kate, who likes robotics too, is more interested in the design and architecture. Thea isn't as into either, but she's very competent – and quick to help anyone at The Robot Garage.

Mom is the first to admit she's less engineer-minded than the rest of the clan. Instead, Sarah's more the artistic type. "I'm like the art mom in the engineering family."

But that's what makes The Robot Garage – and the family – work. Everyone has a skill, and they're all willing to make it happen.

"The Robot Garage has been a family journey since its inception. The opportunity to take an idea through development and make it a reality – that's a gift for anyone," Sarah says. "To do it together with your family is like no other experience."

The garage holds classes and camps on robotics, architecture and engineering – all teaching with LEGO and other products. For example, seven weeks of camps start on a 10-by-10-foot table. In one, participants have five days to build an enormous LEGO city.

Add your comment:
Advertisement

More »Latest Articles & Blog Posts

Medication Mistakes Common and Dangerous, New Study Finds

Medication Mistakes Common and Dangerous, New Study Finds

Recent findings published in Pediatrics show that nearly 40 percent of parents make measuring errors for their kid's medicine. Why is this happening and what can you do to prevent it?

Craft Roundup: Fun Summer Projects for Kids

Craft Roundup: Fun Summer Projects for Kids

Beat vacation boredom with these four cool ideas from blogs, including Popsicle holders, printable sewing cards, jellyfish handprint bookmarks and more.

5 Tips to Get Your Kids Interested in Cooking

5 Tips to Get Your Kids Interested in Cooking

From picking out ingredients to concocting their own culinary creations, here are a few ways to encourage your children to help out in the kitchen.

Family Picnic Recipes and Ideas

Family Picnic Recipes and Ideas

Head to the park or on a hike and make the great outdoors your dinner spot. Here are six ideas to help you plan your meal – from drink to dessert.

Book Review: Three Fun Summer Craft Reads for the Family

Book Review: Three Fun Summer Craft Reads for the Family

Want a few simple, fun sewing ideas for the kids, projects to brighten up their rooms or maybe just tips for DIY tinkering? These authors have you covered.

Dad Claims African Land, Declares Daughter is a Princess

Dad Claims African Land, Declares Daughter is a Princess

A father from Virginia claims a patch of desert in Egypt, calls it the Kingdom of North Sudan – just so his daughter can be the princess of this region.

Spray-on Sunscreen Warnings for Kids: FDA Investigates Safety

Spray-on Sunscreen Warnings for Kids: FDA Investigates Safety

Parents might want to think twice before using this alternative to lotion sunscreen as the Food and Drug Administration investigates its potential risks.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement