Robotics workshop/lab in Vuosaari, Helsinki

Robotics workshop/lab in Vuosaari.

Stage: idea that is open for all the feedback.

Robotics workshop (aka physical place) where teenagers and adults could build robots or conduct simple robotics experiments.
Aim of workshop to provide a place to hack, simple tools and guidance about project or personal learning. No big tools like 3d printers, CNC or lasercutters.

One way to see it is as a usual hacklab, with only simple tools (soldering station, laptops, screwdriver) and focused on robotics.

Long term aim: free to visit, free tools, bring your own components for robots/experiments. There should be the possibility to borrow some simple components for learning projects (e.g. if a person can’t afford own).
At a minimum it needs one ~15m2 room, to have few tables and few shelves: for components and for work-in-progress projects.
Expected use of the place: small groups or individuals come and learn robotics by creating robots or doing experiments. Once a week, there could be guidance sessions for new participants.
Location: ideally close to Vuosaari metro station. In 5-15 minutes of walking distance, so most of the kids could come themselves, without use of public transportation or parents.

Why is home not suitable? Creating robots is a complex engineering process that requires attention and time. For many people their homes have too many distraction factors.
Why is the library/school may not be a good place? Possibility to come at “any time” is essential. Possibility to store partially completed work for groups would not be possible in libraries/schools.

What kind of experiments?

  • Could I build a car that goes over 1cm obstacle? Over 5 cm? over 20cm?
  • Could we build a hand that grabs and lifts a ball with a single motor?
  • Could I build a robot that will follow the line?
  • Could we build a submarine that could measure temperature 20m deep?
  • Robot that dances in the same rhythm as playing music?
  • Device that could draw ornaments on A4 paper.
  • How much voltage is required to burn these LEDs?
  • Traffic lights with leds and arduino.
  • Writing AI that could win chess.
  • Lego GBC build for exhibition.
  • VEX walker with a single motor.
  • Winning competition at

Workshop could probably provide some components to experiment with (and return after experiments):

  • microcontrollers, drivers, breadpoards, sensors, buttons
  • cheap DC motors and servos
  • wires, leds, resistors, etc
  • lego motors and lego technic parts

Examples of guidance:

  • What are robots and how do they work?
  • What kind of components are required to build a simple robot?
  • What is the difference between arduino and stm32 sensors?
  • How to write the first hello world?
  • Why my led blinking project doesn’t work?

Here are some examples of what I did in the past together with other people. Answering to: why I will not giveup after a year or two :slight_smile:

2016 - 3 small events about coding and robots for 5-7 years old kids (family and friends)
2017 - event in Espoo school to teach coding using nodemcu for ~12 years old students.
2018 - online robotics competition
2018 - ~10 small events for kids 7-11 years old about robotics and logic in East-Helsinki.
E.g. Simple robot set for young students. - YouTube
lego ev3 commander programmer ev3basic - YouTube
2019 - registered Makerobots RY

How much resources I could put myself:
~50 hours per month
~100e per month

What I can’t do myself:

  • marketing
  • social networks
  • guiding in Finnish (and filling papers in Finnish)

What next?

  • find interested people in Vuosaari and organize few small events
  • find persistent place for at least 1 year
  • do fundrasing to cover costs for place, tools and components

Other related links:
similar idea for workshops: Robottikerho lapsille ja nuorille - Plans - Osallistuva budjetointi 2020-2021 - OmaStadi
marketing attempt: Vuosaari Robotics Workshop - Etusivu | Facebook

Random thoughts:

  • Some tools that not everyone has at home could be really good to attract people. A basic 3D printer is only a few hundred euros. A basic laser cutter that can cut plywood is somewhat more but not an impossible amount. I know that if there were a laser cutter I’d be there a lot more often than if there wasn’t :slight_smile:
  • Materials, Arduinos, cheap steppers etc sold at cost or so would make things a lot more accessible - no ordering stuff and waiting for a long time to start building something.
  • At least in Espoo, a shopping mall had empty space and gave it to miniature train enthusiasts who built a huge track in there. Is Kolumbus chock full?
  • Storage space for user storage gets really big really easily (see Hacklab). What’s the minimum needed? How does that affect the number of people who can use this?
  • How about doing first workshops remotely due to Corona? Preparing to open once meeting physically is less of a faux pas?

tjltjl, thank you for your thoughts.

Based on your suggestion I contacted a few places in Vuosaari for reduced rent cost. Due to the pandemic many places are closed, and some spaces are currently not occupied for months.

My vision is that workshop in Vousaari should inspire, encourage and support people to get into robotics. It means that components and tools should be easy to operate, and without need for any special training.
Each tool occupies space, each tool needs multiple people who know how to operate it. 3D printing will additionally require dedicated ventilation. It would be great to offer more tools, but it is important to start with something small.
If we could help 100 people to build their first robot based on arduino/raspberry pi, that would be a huge achievement.
Exploring libraries and frameworks, finding and trying new tools is part of software development. The same is for robotics - searching and acquiring parts and tools is part of engineering.
Helping people to learn not only basic concepts, but the whole lifecycle of hobby robotics would open huge opportunities for them. I believe that some of them could become inventors in the future and improve quality of life for other people.

During remote workshops it would be very hard to help with misplaced pin on breadboard, wrong diode orientation or faulty components. If some part is broken, it may not be possible to find replacement during an online workshop.
If someone is willing to organize remote workshops, I would gladly support him. Some programming workshops could be possible to organize, I’m not ready to do them alone.

Here are some thoughts about membership groups and fees. Assuming that there is a space of at least 30m2

participating in general yearly meetings
voting rights
key access to the workshop
priority for reserving space for groupwork or trainings

Club goers
50e/year for adults (reduced fee for students/etc)
10e/year for kids
possibility to use the workshop space and tools to build own projects (access any time, when there is someone with the key).
support at workshop
some support via chat/screensharing

possibility to come to public event organized in the workshop

Does this make any sense? Anything else that worth to think about in advance?
We haven’t decided about exact fees yet. Higher fee for members will allow to provide nearly free access to youth.
Minimal fee of 10e/year is important to understand who will be really interested to participate.

50e/month for members (or private supporters) is high from their point of view I presume.
Before You start renting space and buying stuff etc.
get sufficient number of members committed.

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50e/month is high. We are also considering 70 or 100 for this year (per month) :slight_smile:
Finding the right amount, to cover at least 1 year of rent is essential for now.
We do have enough members to cover rent of some space in East Helsinki. The discussed amount is not enough to rent place in Vuosaari.

Question is, what would be the easiest and inexpensive way to do invoicing, and could we avoid it? We will open bank account probably in OP. Would it be possible to just accept money to bank account with some text reference (e.g name of the member), and track all accounting manually without making invoices? We decided that for this year, we could have single person responsible and capable of handling all finances.

We just need to agree and sign on our yearly meeting, what would be amount and how we going to collect the fees.

Just a small update (if anyone else tries to build something similar):

Our accountant tried to register time with OP to verify if our docs for opening bank account are correct. First available time was 1 week in advance. She got a call few hours before appointment, that they are canceling visit, and will send us list of required documents. Based on the discussion in irc, we did a fixes to our documents, and I tried to book time myself (which again was few weeks in advance). Just now, less than 1 hour before the appointment, they called me and moved the meeting to end of next week, and a call instead of appointment.

My rant is over, and endeavor continues :slight_smile:

I’m the same person as [sys.robots]
I was using different names on irc/discourse/slack, as my usual nicknames looks similar to other members. This one should be unique enough, and consistent within the community.

Anyway here are some updates.

We decided that we could provide free of charge visits and some basic components already from day one.
If anyone willing to help or participate, he doesn’t have to be a member. We still accept others if they are ready to pay 70e/month membership fee (for 2021, hopefully less next year).
Most help is needed with finding space for rent. 15m2 would be good enough to start.

Question: One company have space for 300e/kk and price include VAT. How will it work? Will we sign the contract, where the price will be without VAT, or we pay VAT, and somehow get these money back from VERO next year?
Ideally we would like to pay without VAT 242e/kk. How price should be marked in the contract.

Other notes.

Finding space. Sites like and do list spaces for months that are no longer available.
There are also bunch of small “kerhotila” or “kellartitila” spaces available from some houses, but finding them is quite hard, as they may not be listed anywhere.

Opening bank account (that gives Belgium IBAN) took 3 days, and was fully online with wise com (transferwise). We still waiting for OP account, as it would be easier for other people.

Regarding VAT (in Finland) as far as I understand:
Most (non-profit) associations are free of VAT.
This means that You need not pay VAT for Your income (membership fees).
If You are free of VAT then You cannot get VAT refunds based on Your expenses.

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So I talked to Vero today. They explained, that when we pay office space rent, contract should have price without VAT, and that we don’t need to pay VAT.

It depends on the landlord. If they have selected to be VAT liable then they will add the VAT regardless of the tenant.
Usually those who rent spaces to business are VAT liable.
If the landlord has selected to be VAT free then the VAT is not added to the rent.
These are usually renting to private persons.

The case VAT or not depends on the seller, not the buyer.

The same case is with Your association. If You are VAT free, then the membership fee is free of VAT, but You cannot deduct VAT from Your expenses. In this case the association can keep all of the 70€ membership fee.

If Your association is VAT liable, then You must pay VAT from the membership fees but You can deduct the VAT from Your expenses. In this case the association must add 24% of VAT into the membership fee if You want to get the 70€ fee.

Private persons cannot deduct VAT from their payments so almost all associations select to be VAT free.

So You should seek VAT free landlords because they should have lower rents.

This how the VAT goes. If You have not been in business bookkeeping then this may sound a bit confusing.

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Next question about donations.
Do we need any permit from anyone to collect donations for our operations?
Basically I planning to donate some euros per month, to cover difference between membership fees and rent costs for now.

Over a month passed, and there was almost no progress. We opened a bank account in OP, and were trying to find a place.
Looking at the toimitilat sites gives some wrong expectations. There are office spaces, but when you call/email, sometimes there are no replies. Few times, real estate agents even agreed to show the place, but on the spot said right away that place is no longer available, and offered a bigger and more expensive place. Original place is still listed as available.

My vision was to open a workshop before summer. Do it with a small group to get results fast :slight_smile: Doesn’t work, so maybe it is time to look at the problem from a different angle.

Is anyone up for a discussion or a call?