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Artificial Intelligence for Kids

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Description

The educational technology company Robolink is coming out with a new robotics platform for teaching kids the fundamentals of programming artificial intelligence (AI). Hansol Hong is the CEO and Founder of San Diego-based Robolink. Hansol discusses their latest AI education product Zümi, which won an award at the 2019 International Consumer Electronics Show for innovation. Hansol also talks about their Kickstarter campaigns, the ethics of AI in self-driving cars, drones, and more.

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Transcript

Pius Wong  0:00 

Artificial intelligence for kids? Today, on The K12 Engineering Education Podcast. I'm your host Pius Wong. Recently I spoke with Hansol Hong, CEO of the San Diego robotics education company called Robolink. Robolink recently introduced a new product meant to teach kids how to program artificial intelligence, or AI, into a self-driving robot car. Listen to our talk with Hansol, next.

 

Hansol Hong  0:36 

My name is Hansol Hong. I'm the Cofounder and CEO of Robolink.

 

Pius Wong  0:41 

So Hansol, what is Robolink?

 

Hansol Hong  0:44 

Yes, so Robolink, we are a robotics education company. We made so far two different products. One was a robotics product that teaches students how to build and program robots. You can make eleven different robots with one box and then learn how to do programming using something like Arduino. And the second one, we have Codrone, which teaches students how to do programming. And then once you program the drone will be flying the way they you program it. So we provide all the curriculum how to do those, and students can learn how to do those fun stuff.

 

Pius Wong  1:24 

Cool. You're really an educational technology company.

 

Hansol Hong  1:28 

Yes, we are.

 

Pius Wong  1:29 

That first product you mentioned, that's the ROKIT Smart. Is that right?

 

Hansol Hong  1:34 

That's correct.

 

Pius Wong  1:35 

So that product seems to be -- It teaches kids, it sounds like, younger people, how to code and kind of manipulate mechanical things. And your drone, is that more just focused on programming?

 

Hansol Hong  1:47 

That's correct. Yeah, our ROKIT Smart, you can kind of think of it as Erector Set meets Arduino. So like for the old timers, those metal pieces that you put together with Erector Sets, but you couldn't program it. But then we made it so they can learn how to program as well as build. And we provided all the instruction how to do it so that students or teachers can use those easily in a classroom setting.

 

Pius Wong  2:19 

You've built these products a couple years ago, and it sounds like you've had a lot of success, teaching kids with it and getting those robotics kits in schools and after school programs. How did it actually start? How did Robolink start? Why did you even want to do this?

 

Hansol Hong  2:37 

Sure. Yeah. So we are we are currently in about over a thousand schools are using our product now. And how we started was, we started as an after-school program in San Diego. We had a prototype that, you know, we came up with for the ROKIT Smart. And then we wanted to teach students how to build and program robots. So with that prototype, we started teaching students, initially with the five students that we got through a referral. And that five students became ten students, and it became twenty. And for the past six years, we taught over 10,000 students here in San Diego directly. And that's how we got started. And that prototype that we were using for those students became more and more polished, and we put it on Kickstarter. And then that went on Amazon. And then we are now selling around the world.

 

Pius Wong  3:45 

Yeah, it's a real business. Was your initial mission to create a business? Or were you just kind of doing this out of some interest?

 

Hansol Hong  3:53 

Yeah, it was definitely creating a business. And the reason why I was interested in this business was because of my background. So I went to UC San Diego, and one of the things that I wanted to do as an undergrad was, I wanted to do something that's about half engineering and half business-side, and there was a major called Management Science, which I had been told is half industrial engineering and half economics. But it turns out that, actually for the undergrad program it's majorly economics, and then when you go on to graduate school program, then you do more industrial engineering. So after graduating from college, I wanted to do somewhat technical stuff, but didn't have training on that. So I wanted to make sure that students that are interested in engineering, I wanted to provide an opportunity that they can learn engineering in a fun way, in early days. So that's how I came up with the product, and then started teaching students as young as third grade or in elementary school.

 

Pius Wong  5:16 

You said how your first product really grew because of Kickstarter, and you've continued to use Kickstarter. Just as a side thing, I've noticed that there seem to be a lot of educational products and robotics projects on Kickstarter. Is there something special about Kickstarter that lets these kinds of products thrive?

 

Hansol Hong  5:38 

Yeah, so for first time, as you mentioned, that is how we debuted our first product to spread the word outside of San Diego where we are located. We put it on Kickstarter. And second and third time now we are actually having a third Kickstarter campaign going now. But for second and third time, we realized that there's a lot of benefits for Kickstarter. So one, Kickstarter is available globally. So we can tell which countries are actually interested in our product easily, even before when we are having a product. So that was really beneficial thing that we can do on Kickstarter. Second, their SEO search engine optimization is fantastic. So when we actually have our product, and when we put it on Kickstarter, without putting too much advertising money on there, our Google Search becomes really nice. And obviously, before having a product, having the funds to manufacture those is a big benefit for small companies like us.

 

Pius Wong  6:55 

Yeah, because you're only a couple -- not a couple, but you're a handful of full-time, right?

 

Hansol Hong  7:00 

Right. So we are we are a small startup. So, yeah, any of that capital help will definitely help us.

 

Pius Wong  7:10 

You mentioned that Kickstarter tells you who's interested in educational robotics products like this. I'm curious, what countries are the most interested? Is it the USA?

 

Hansol Hong  7:20 

Yeah, USA is definitely a dominant space for our company. And also Kickstarter's demographic, US is a lot stronger. So that is that. Other than US, we actually got a lot of backers from Australia, Germany, and Japan. And some of those came from countries like UAE as well. Some of those backers became our reseller in those countries. So it's a good testing place before launching your product.

 

Pius Wong  8:01 

That makes a lot of sense. And it probably helps that because you're in San Diego, that's kind of a technical town, right? It doesn't have the same reputation as maybe Silicon Valley. But would you say that San Diego really helped you develop a product like this?

 

Hansol Hong  8:18 

Yeah, I think so. We're actually located -- We're surrounded by a company called Qualcomm.

 

Pius Wong  8:27 

The huge company Qualcomm. Yeah.

 

Hansol Hong  8:29 

Right. There's like, I think there's about 50 buildings around our office. So especially within the area that we are at, there's a lot of technical people here. And for many of our project, we've been actually getting a lot of help from the community here as well, like engineer at Qualcomm, engineer at Sony, and engineer at, you know, other places actually helped us here and there after their work. So we definitely did get a lot of help from community here in San Diego.

 

Pius Wong  9:06 

You mentioned that third Kickstarter that you're on. I saw that your third product -- You should tell me about it. But it's already funded on Kickstarter, even though you're in the middle of that campaign. What is this new product, this new robot or kit that you're -- that you've got on Kickstarter?

 

Hansol Hong  9:23 

Sure. So we've been seeing this whole movement with AI and self-driving cars growing. So we actually started from our education space where we teach in San Diego. We started teaching some of the students how self-driving car works and AI works, and it got really good attention from our parents and students. So we decided to make a self-driving car educational kit called Zümi, Z, umlaut, M-I. So it's called Zümi. And we wanted to make sure with the growing of self-driving car and AI, we wanted to make sure students will be learning those in early age, especially at the AI. A lot of people say it's going to be one of the largest invention of human history, even more than electricity or internet and things like that. And not knowing that is scary to me. So we want to make teaching students in early ages a very important mission. So yeah, we created that product called Zümi. And we launched it about two weeks ago.

 

Pius Wong  10:41 

What does Zümi look like if you were to describe it to somebody who couldn't see it?

 

Hansol Hong  10:45 

Sure. So Zümi is a car, and it's a car with the OLED screen. So Zümi has eyes. Some people say, I forgot the name, Harvey or something? The car?

 

Pius Wong  11:04 

Oh, like Herbie?

 

Hansol Hong  11:06 

Yeah. Herbie.

 

Pius Wong  11:07 

From that movie.

 

Hansol Hong  11:09 

So some people mentioned that it looks like Herbie. And then there's that little bit more kid-friendly looks, kind of like the Disney movie Cars.

 

Pius Wong  11:20 

So it fits in your hand?

 

Hansol Hong  11:21 

Yes, definitely. So it's a small thing, and that form factor was very important, because we wanted to have all of our kids or teachers not limited by the space. So it's very small, something that can fit in your tabletop.

 

Pius Wong  11:40 

And it's powered by AI, artificial intelligence. What is AI? And how do you teach that?

 

Hansol Hong  11:46 

Yes, so that's actually a very complicated question. And then I realized how hard it is recently explaining this to people. But in terms of hardware, something that people may be more familiar with to begin with, it has Raspberry Pi and it has a Arduino-compatible board, so that you can operate those. So that's something that people are familiar with. And then in terms of the AI portion, we connected some of the tools that you see used in the real industry like TensorFlow Keras and things like that. And what is AI? I'll say the main purpose of AI is that, unlike traditional programming -- In terms of the education perspective, unlike traditional programming, where if you put an input, an output is somewhat expected. AI would be, sometimes when you give a lot of input with the data, output could be a black box that you don't know. So with the AI you can make Zümi can make decisions, and sometimes unknown things will be happening. But we are trying to teach students and teachers how to maybe better control that AI and understand the fundamentals behind it.

 

Hansol Hong  12:05 

I think that you're exactly right in that it's sometimes hard to talk about, especially if you were to explain it to a kid or someone who's never dealt with programming AI.  What's an example of what Zümi can do with AI that another robot couldn't? Like for example, your Codrone can do some stuff, but it can't do this, because it doesn't have AI.

 

Hansol Hong  13:44 

Sure. So essentially making a decision is the key aspect, and then one of the examples that we put on our website on our video is differentiating two different objects. So there could be a Lego person, which, you know, Zümi should never be hitting. Or there could be like a trash or plastic bag that is probably okay to run over. And then if you were to -- you know, if it's an actual car and then if you're driving 65 miles per hour, and then if there's a person, then you've got to either stop, you've got to avoid, you've got to make sure to do certain actions so that you can -- you don't run over that person. But if there's -- if you're driving 65 miles for an hour, and if there's a plastic bag that's running around, then even though it's an object, probably safer to actually go through and then just run it over. And then it's kind of hard to do it with the traditional programming to differentiate between plastic bag and a Lego person. And that's something that we can do with AI. So for Zümi, she -- once students actually train -- okay, this is a Lego person, this is a Lego person, this is a Lego person, then you can actually differentiate between Lego person -- and also train plastic bag, then you can differentiate between those two and then make certain actions depending on what those are.

 

Pius Wong  15:27 

It sounds like the key part is that training, that you're presenting a whole bunch of different Lego persons to Zümi. And the algorithm itself is figuring out what makes up a Lego person. It's not, like, you, as a programmer, have to program all the details of the Lego person.

 

Hansol Hong  15:46 

That's correct.

 

Pius Wong  15:47 

Okay. You know, you mentioned how -- or I think I read also that part of the curriculum that you provide with Zümi touches on stuff like ethics, and I feel like AI and ethics goes together so much in the news today. How can you teach ethics to young people with something like Zümi?

 

Hansol Hong  16:09 

So yeah, that is also a hard question. And then our team still is actually brainstorming on that. It's just such an important thing. So we put it on our Kickstarter. But for robotics, for example, there's three rules where robot can't hurt other people. You know, there's three different rules that I actually don't remember on top of my head.

 

Pius Wong  16:37 

Right. I think it's like Isaac Asimov wrote that or something, one of those sci-fi writers?

 

Hansol Hong  16:41 

That's correct. So just like that. We want to make sure to come up with a definition of ethics. And then a lot of people ask whether AI will be destroying humans and things like that. We don't want that to happen, but completely ignoring the AI, the potential and this technology, whether we want it or not, it will be coming. So we want to make sure to teach students to the right direction. And then ethics discussion is getting updated every day. And then we want to make sure to teach students the right way. So we wanted to make sure to put those in the curriculum. But right now we are still kind of putting those together. So it's not fully completed yet.

 

Pius Wong  17:35 

I think that's justifiable since I feel like the professional engineers who use AI might not even have a completely solidified code of what's ethical in AI. This is kind of a side discussion, but one of the hot topics that I feel like I've been reading a lot about lately is how AI can be trained to be biased, and how you can ingrain some kind of bias or prejudice in an algorithm, which is kind of a strange thing to think about. Not that Zümi is supposed to teach anything about that, but I'm curious if you as a company, or as a person, if you all have to think about things like that when, I don't know, teaching AI.

 

Hansol Hong  18:19 

Yeah, we definitely do. There's a lot of scary examples that came out through, like chatbots and messengers and computers developing their own language that humans don't understand and things like that. And hearing those is frightening to me. And I'm hoping that, you know, that -- Essentially, I'm an optimist and how I think is, we teach students -- We have more and more students understanding how AI works. And they start discussing this ethics and how to react to those and come up with the protocols and things like that early enough so that we can detect those bad things early enough. But it's such a new area. So it's interesting to see those news coming out and then just trying to see what -- and trying to apply what's best for education. Usually, education field, as you know, is a little bit delayed than actual technology, how fast technology is moving.

 

Pius Wong  19:38 

Right.

 

Hansol Hong  19:38 

But there's still a little bit of time that we have to come up with those contents. But yeah, some of those are very scary and trying to come up with better solutions.

 

Pius Wong  19:55 

Going back to the technical side of things, I know that Zümi, your latest product, and even some of your earlier products, they are geared for younger people, it sounds like. But you mentioned pretty industrial technologies, like for your machine vision, you use OpenCV, you have Tensor Flow, those things you mentioned. Is Zümi and your products, can they -- are they only for kids? Should adults or teenagers or older people, can they learn stuff from using your products?

 

Hansol Hong  20:24 

So for Zümi, there's actually a lot of capabilities. You know, we can expand it a lot. So it could be a definitely used for kids, which we are gearing towards, but it could also geared towards even software engineer who wants to know about AI. But because we are a small company, we can't really do everything. So what we are planning on right now is we make some of the development open so that people who are technical can actually hack around and then do the things that they want. But in terms of step-by-step curriculum and things like that, we're shooting for fourth grade or to eighth grader and primary to begin with, and then high school students to follow by. So we are making a lot of those things easy. So even the machine vision and those AI tools, we are kind of hiding that in the backend so that students can utilize those without realizing it. But we will be slowly opening those so that users will be kind of going towards that direction of using. So we want to make it for youngest students first and then slowly open it up more and more so that other students can use it as well.

 

Pius Wong  21:56 

Okay. Your expertise seems to really be in that educational space. Tou're teaching little kids or people without experience how to use robots and how to program stuff like that. What tips do you have about how to expose young people to technology like this?

 

Hansol Hong  22:15 

So what we emphasized a lot is to make sure these things are fun. When we come up with these, like, complicated missions, you know, robots was a lot easier initially because students, a lot of students that we dealt with, they're just naturally building and things like that. But once we integrated programming, how much programming that we actually go through, impacted how fun students were having. We wanted to make sure to balance those two factors, the giving actual educational benefits, but making sure that these are something fun and this is not another homework that they need to do. So even for Zümi, when whenever we are coming up with the curriculum, we try to balance two different things. This has to be educational, and we try to make real industry-competent. But we don't compromise that making fun. So having those two balanced is very important. And then for teachers, you know, it is hard. So you can either choose the right product which balances those two aspects, or you might have to come up with some fun curriculum that students make sure that they are interested in these when they are going through this STEM education.

 

Pius Wong  23:57 

Some people might say that to measure fun I mean, fun is subjective. It might be different for different kids, different people. Is Zümi or your other products -- Are they better for certain types of kids?

 

Hansol Hong  24:09 

Zümi, we haven't tested too much with the kids yet. But we tested with about 30 students so far. You know, there are certain curriculum, what we test is actually not differentiate the demographic of kids, but to see which one works, which curriculum works better for a majority of kids that we are teaching. And we definitely test out our curriculum. So we come up with something and then test with our students to see if they're having fun or not, and then move to next. So, throughout this time, what we realized was, whenever Zümi was actually moving, whether it was complicated, whether it was simple, students like Zümi moving. And then it was quite surprising that AI curriculum that we came out with, students actually really enjoyed learning those. So it depends. We just test a lot of curriculum to students. And then we just released a fun curriculum that we found out up to our website.

 

Pius Wong  25:25 

And what's the hardest part of doing this kind of education? Because you create these products, and it sounds like you also are running these after school programs. What's the hardest part of all this?

 

Hansol Hong  25:37 

There's a lot of different hard parts about it. But since I covered balancing between fun and educational value, that's one thing that's hard, but also making -- how much control of education experience that we are giving students is also very hard thing. And then what I mean by that is, for us when we were developing this kit, we take engineering approach and then we fail a lot. And then even the failing aspect is pretty fun for us sometimes. Like, sometimes we don't understand why things are not working. We expect things to go right but it doesn't work. But figuring out and then make sure to make things work is a fun process for our team. However, we don't expect our kids to go through that same experience. We want to make sure that students are getting hooked into education. A lot of kids these days are very impatient. So first five minutes of unboxing would be very important. And then once they enjoy that five minutes, then it gets longer to 10 minutes, 15 minutes and 20 minutes. And then later on once students actually go through those, students will be enjoying that process of failure as much as we do. But as a product manufacturer, we shouldn't be expecting students to go through that same experience from the beginning, because once they hit obstacles then they might just give up and not come back to that product, and even moreso, they may not even enjoy STEM, which could be very dangerous thing that we will be doing, so we make sure that at least for first portion of the curriculum, we try to have them do more of the success with a more controlled environment. And students will be going through and then even, you know, so that they can actually success more so they get hooked into it. They enjoy it. Then later on, it becomes a little bit more open-ended so that there will be more unknowns. But in the beginning, we give that more of a predicted curriculum that they can actually get, and then enjoy the curriculum.

 

Pius Wong  28:17 

Another small question that I was thinking about -- I saw in your videos, and you kind of mentioned that Robolink refers to Zümi as a she, as female. Is there a reason for that?

 

Hansol Hong  28:28 

Yeah, so I briefly mentioned that, but we wanted to make sure to encourage more female students to get in. The stats between last six years, we saw somewhere around 13% to 22% female engineers, and it's been changing, but we want it to --

 

Pius Wong  28:50 

Like in the USA.

 

Hansol Hong  28:52 

In the US market. So we wanted to change it and then have more of the female students to get in. And we've been seeing some research that unless we change it before middle school or actually before high school, then it's very hard to change that percentage. So we wanted to impact the society better so that we can have a little more diverse engineering population, and we've been testing a lot of different things. But Zümi we made she so that female students can be more friendlier with Zümi, and then we're hoping that from the small scale we impact the society for the better and having more female engineers.

 

Pius Wong  29:48 

You also have the other products, robotics kits, your drone product as well. Quick question about the drone. This is something thing that I'm interested in, as well. Is there anything different or unique about programming a drone that kids could get, compared to programming a robot that's on the ground?

 

Hansol Hong  30:14 

So Codrone was released back in 2016. So it's been a couple of years, and that's when drone was kind of more coming to the market. So the concept that you can program something and that it flies was just a big interesting point itself. It is a lot more complicated when you are flying things compared to things being on the ground. But that's the main differentiator, that your code will be something, you know, you write, code something that can fly, was the big differentiator.

 

Pius Wong  31:00 

Can we expect to see a drone that has AI in the future and machine vision and all of that?

 

Hansol Hong  31:08 

So each of those concepts are pretty difficult.

 

Pius Wong  31:13 

Yeah.

 

Hansol Hong  31:13 

So making sure that having a stable drone they can program, itself, is a very hard thing. And then now we are experiencing with the AI where doing AI education itself is very complicated topic itself. So, technically speaking, AI meets drone for engineer is not going to be too hard, but for students to control the AI while controlling drones, sounds like a difficult idea.

 

Pius Wong  31:50 

No Kickstarter in 2019 for that.

 

Hansol Hong  31:53 

Maybe not. [laughs]

 

Pius Wong  31:56 

So Hansol, you bring up a point that I was thinking about. The technology involved in all of this is really complicated. I think it reflects technology in society, how it's getting more complicated in general. I've heard teachers say that all the different science and engineering and technology, all the different skills that they might have to teach to their young students, their high school students, it's blowing up. There's just more standards, more opportunities. It can be great, but also overwhelming. How can people -- how can students or teachers -- how can they keep up with all this different technology? Because AI is new, and I'm sure there's going to be more new stuff coming out. What's reasonable about educating young people about all this?

 

Hansol Hong  32:44 

So I think that's a very hard question as well. But essentially, we talk to a lot of teachers, and then it is very hard to keep up because there's new technology coming up all the time. But also teachers are very busy with just keeping up with their work as well. So we noticed that there's a lot of passionate teachers out there, but simply don't have enough time to go through these things. So I think at least for a company like us, I think that's where we can help to make, you know, provide all the curriculum so that teachers don't have to research as much as they should be. I don't know. There's a lot of different technologies, and keeping up is hard. Just learning the programming and coding five years ago was pretty big deal, but now it became a vocational skills that everyone's doing. So, yes, it's not easy work to keep up with. But I'm hoping that there's going to be more and more solutions that teachers can utilize, and hopefully things are not going to be too expensive so that teachers can easily pick and choose what to use in their curriculum.

 

Pius Wong  34:12 

Speaking of expense, I mean, how much are your products? And how can you expand access to your robot products?

 

Hansol Hong  34:21 

Sure, so for our product lineup goes from about $120 to $280. So it's relatively cheaper compared to that is a robotics platform. That price also includes all the software and then the curriculum that we are providing which aligns with education standard, like NGSS or Common Core standard, things like that. So those are something that we've put it out there so that it's not going to break your bank.

 

Pius Wong  35:03 

And you know who else does something like what you do, particularly with AI? Is there anyone that has an educational robot or educational system, I should say, teaching AI?

 

Hansol Hong  35:15 

Not that I'm aware of. So from my research, there's a company called Udacity, which is pretty popular. But it's mainly not for kids. It's for adults. So Udacity is a MOOC type of website where you can learn different things, and they have a strong AI curriculum there. But other than that, there's nothing that I've seen that teaches AI. There's a lot of AI-enabled toys out there, but yeah, not that I'm aware of.

 

Pius Wong  35:57 

But that'll be interesting to see if other folks will follow what you're doing.

 

Hansol Hong  36:02 

Yeah, maybe it's out there. But that's -- So we were at CES recently, and we -- Actually, as a small company, we got a very big award there for Best of Innovation Award under robotics.

 

Pius Wong  36:19 

Congratulations.

 

Hansol Hong  36:21 

Thank you. And I think that might be the reason why we've got that, because as far as I can tell, there's no one that's teaching AI education for kids yet using this type of platform. But I think a lot more people should get into it here. And then because we need to teach AI the right way.

 

Pius Wong  36:47 

That's cool that you're thinking about it. And I have a feeling that yes, your competition will be looking at you closely over the next couple of years. How do you think Robolink is gonna evolve or change from now?

 

Hansol Hong  37:02 

So we have a very big mission. We've been teaching robotics and programming and now AI. AI itself even for the industry is very -- you know, to me it feels very new, although it's been around from 1960s, I think it's finally catching up to the point where we can actually utilize that technology to something that we'll be feeling in the daily lives. So it's relatively new, and teaching that is going to be very important mission. So we have a very exciting year that's coming up, and we're hoping that every school in the nation will have Zümi there and then learning the basics of AI. And in order to make that happen, it's going to be a very busy year for our company.

 

Pius Wong  38:00 

Good luck with that. There's a lot of work I'm sure.

 

Hansol Hong  38:03 

Yes, definitely.

 

Pius Wong  38:04 

You know, you had mentioned to me before that you were not born in the USA. But you studied here, and you're living here now. Do you mind telling me or telling us about where you come from and how you got interested in STEM?

 

Hansol Hong  38:19 

Sure. So I was born in Korea, and then I came here after my middle school in Korea, so I came here when I was ninth grader. And then my father did IT-related work as like a distributor and reselling semiconductor, things like that. So that's how I naturally heard about Silicon Valley even when I was in Korea. So that's how I kind of got into the technology, but I didn't get too much experience for STEM. Essentially I started tinkering around with STEM kits when I was senior. That was like my first time touching Arduino.

 

Pius Wong  39:10 

In high school?

 

Hansol Hong  39:11 

No, senior in college, actually. I didn't get too much experience with STEM and still struggling with a lot of STEM things, so our engineer is always explaining those things to me. But because I struggled, but I was interested in STEM, I am hoping that students that's going up now won't be repeating same experience that I've gone through, and I'm hoping they can actually get into it early so that they can enjoy this fun STEM area.

 

Pius Wong  39:51 

Is there a reason why you weren't really into it when you were younger? Is it something about coming to the US or something in Korea that, like, I don't know, didn't give you the opportunity for that?

 

Hansol Hong  40:05 

Sure. When I was in Korea, especially back then, there were hardly any resources out there to learn those in a fun way.  We have to study first, and then there’s that much after-school activity that is non-academic.  So the resources weren’t there, and when I came to America I was focused on learning the language and learning the social aspect. So I joined sports team to make sure that I can fit into society and things like that, and that become kind of secondary.  I was hoping I could get that education when I went to college.  As I mentioned earlier the major that I chose didn’t really reflect it, so it didn’t work out that well for me.

 

Pius Wong  41:14 

But it’s interesting that you now head up a company that is very highly integrated with STEM and engineering.

 

Hansol Hong  41:26

Yeah. I think it’s a very important mission. Again, I wished I had gone through this experience. Hoping more students will go through more fun experience with STEM, especially as it’s becoming more and more important. It’s fun. I’m learning on a daily basis.  Because we run after-school programs here in San Diego, I see students coming in and them enjoying it. I can totally see them, whether they are going to become an engineer or not, I see the joy in their eyes. It’s such rewarding work that we do here.

 

Pius Wong  42:11 

Alright, thank you for taking time out to speak to me, Hansol. I really appreciate it.  If people want to find out more about not just Zumi but what you’re doing in general at Robolink, how can people find out?

 

Hansol Hong  42:25

So out website robolink.com is probably the best way to find more information. We are going to be running Kickstarter for about probably another month until March. So you can probably get the discounted price for Zumi. It has an MSRP at $180, but we are selling it for $120 right now.  If you can back us, it would be awesome, as well.

 

Pius Wong  42:57 

Alright. Thanks so much.

 

Hansol Hong  42:58

Thank you, Pius.

 

Pius Wong  43:02

That was Hansol Hong, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Robolink.  Links to the Zumi Kickstarter campaign, to Robolink, to the truth about that chatbot that created its own language, and to more things mentioned today are all listed in the episode’s show notes.  Check it out on your podcasting app or on the podcast website k12engineering.net.  Once again huge thanks to you for listening. Thank you for sending me tips on who to talk to, thank you for tweeting me and sending me emails, and thank you to the financial supporters of this show, including all the cool people who have been donating regularly on Patreon. Couldn’t do it without you. The K12 Engineering Education Podcast is a production of my independent studio Pios Labs in Austin, Texas, where I support many different engineering and education topics like this one.  You can support Pios Labs and this show by donating, too. Just go to www.patreon.com/pioslabs.  So stay tuned for the next podcast download soon.