Does your family dig science and tech stuff? Rejoice! The Robot Garage, which opened in June of 2011, has brought Lego blocks and robotics under the same roof to foster innovation and enthusiasm for the sciences.
“We are a year-round place for Lego building and robot enthusiasts of all ages,” says Sarah Jacobs, who co-owns The Robot Garage, which is located at 637 S. Eton St. in Birmingham, with husband Jonathan.
The couple began thinking about a facility dedicated to the two activities when one of their daughters joined her school’s robotics team. “I thought, ‘Wow, if you’re not a kid who’s lucky enough to have a robotics team, you don’t have access to this stuff,'” says Jacobs.
The result is a 4,400-square-foot converted warehouse, decked out in silver paint on the exterior and full of color and open spaces inside. Each classroom includes a table with a huge pile of Legos that instructors help guests dig through to find whatever piece their hearts desire. The building lives up to its name with glass garage doors between the classrooms.
Very much a family business, the Jacobses’ three daughters each have their own offices upstairs. Not only do they help out with keeping the building neat and tidy, but the girls also interact with customers and assist on the business end.
“Our 13-year-old daughter is running the collectibles part of the business,” Jacobs says.
Cool stuff to do here
The Robot Garage welcomes drop-ins and hosts a variety of classes, camps and workshops for kids ages 5 to 17. Kids can build a city, design a robot, construct their own car and much more. Visitors can also browse through the store and purchase what they built based on weight.
“We are not one of those stores that are afraid of people touching things,” Jacobs says.
“The kids right now are working at vehicle camp. Each child has built their own car with their own transmissions,” says Jacobs.
When the kids came upon a concept that they didn’t understand fully, Auto Europe, a local car dealership, volunteered to show them how it worked. After seeing the transmissions in action, the kids were able to apply what they learned to their creations back at the garage.
Kids have also constructed Lego windmills powered by solar panels, Lego creations with motion sensors that are able to follow a line, and a powered Lego city the size of two large tables created by a group of young campers.
Things to see, people to meet
When you visit the garage, you might see the mechanical Ferris Wheel or Ball Machine on display, or perhaps the Statue of Liberty constructed entirely out of – you guessed it – Legos. Lego mosaic pictures adorn the walls in the shop, where families can purchase a medley of funky science-inspired gadgets and toys.
The Jacobses said they hope that their little customers get even more out of their experience than just a really great time.
“I want them to leave with a smile on their face, having seen something new and cool – and I’d love them to leave with a new friend,” says Jacobs. “We think it would be great if every kid in southeast Michigan grew up knowing how to build a robot.”
Hours are 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Saturdays and noon-5 p.m. Sundays (closed Mondays). Visit the drop-in room during regular hours except Saturday, when it opens at 1 p.m. Drop-in rates are $8/child for about two hours of play time.The Robot Garage is located at 637 S. Eton St. in Birmingham. Call 248-723-9100 to learn more.
This article originally appeared in a November 2011 issue of Metro Parent. Updates made to hours and costs in January 2015.