The word 'Robot' comes from a 1920s Czech play called “Rossum's Universal Robots”, in which the eponymous artificial beings first served, then rebelled against their human masters. There's a poster for a local production of “R.U.R.” on the window of Robot City Workshop, located on 3226 Sheffield Avenue. The robots inside aren't as likely to rise up and exterminate humanity, but they do teach children and adults alike valuable lessons about programming, electronics, and modern day robotic science.
When Greg Gilla founded Robot City Workshop six years ago, he marketed his store as a supply shop for hobbyists. Facing initial low profits, Greg expanded both the types of products he sold and the clientele he solicited.
Todays' Robot City Workshop sells robots both for play and for learning. Among the toys are vintage tin windup robots, robot kits with motors, wheels, and walking legs, and simple programmable robots that react to noises, obstacles and pre-inputted commands. The front of the shop carries Arduino circuit board kits for hobbyists who wish to create their own custom robots/devices, as well as a bookshelf of primers and guides for people interested in robot design.
Robot City Workshop also offers various classes for kids in after-school activities and for kid's birthday parties, teaching them the “fundamentals of gears, motors [and] electricity”, and helping them build a robot from one of the kits in stock.
Interested adults can show up to Robot Date Night, a couples-themed workshop in which participants design robot kits, compete in robot trivia quizzes, and watch a robot-themed Sci-fi movie with popcorn. For those looking to review their lessons, Robot City Workshop hosts a series of videos on Youtube explaining how to assemble robot kits such as the Robot Duck or Box Robot, described by retail staff member Nick as “short and sweet”.
Robot City Workshop became a successful business by becoming several in one: a toy store, a hobby shop, and classroom. But more than that, it's a social space for lovers of the robots of our culture, friendly and hostile, real and imagined. Peaking in the back, you can see a 'Robot Hospital', shelves and tables filled with vintage robots from the 1980s and 1990s, bought by Greg at garage sales. Most are broken or faulty, but Robot City Workshop's owner invests as much time and effort lovingly restoring them as he does tending to the modern robots his store sells.