Our Story

Our mission is to provide high quality robotics curricula to schools, and to put smiles on the faces of young LEGO-fans. Just ask the thousands of students who’ve graduated from our programs, many of whom now have promising careers as scientists and engineers.

Robot Academy, now a prominent woman-owned EdTech company with partners across the world, was founded in 2008 by three students who’d recently won an international robotics championship.

Michael Vawter (known now by our fans as ‘The Robot Guy’) was the lead roboticist for a FIRST LEGO League (FLL) team called the MindStorm Troopers. His team was the first ever to win 1st place Robot Performance at the FLL World Festival two years in a row (’05 and ’06). Michael was later invited to serve as a Tech Judge at the World Festival the very next year (the youngest ever, at that time), and has continued to serve as a judge for international, national, and state LEGO Robotics championships ever since. Michael has been featured in Popular Science Magazine, Columbus CEO Magazine and the National Gallery for Young Inventors. He published peer-reviewed psychophysics research at Denison University in 2011 and went on to earn a masters in entrepreneurship and innovation. In his ongoing career as a robotics teacher, Michael helps students and teachers to analyze and solve technological problems more creatively by integrating their right-brain and left-brain capacities.

Mark W., a member of the MindStorm Troopers team and a Chess Master, convinced Michael in 2008 that they could host LEGO Robot Summer Camps by mirroring the format of his highly successful chess camps. Together with their peer Michelle W., they founded Robot Academy. As all three of them were under 18 years old, they needed to enlist an adult to greet the parents and provide legitimacy to the project.

Enter Gail Vawter, the former Education Director for a fortune 500 company. Gail also happened to be Michael’s mother, and co-coach of the world champion MindStorm Troopers robotics team. Gail holds degrees in Computer Science and Economics from Denison University, as well as an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University. She has worked in the IT and EdTech industries for over 20 years, and her passion is to help young students get excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). As a teacher and coach of student science teams, she has won numerous national and global awards with FLL, NSTA/Toshiba ExploraVision, Christopher Columbus Awards, NASA Space Day, US Army’s eCybermission, and more. Her teams’ accomplishments have been recognized by the Ohio Senate and Ohio House of Representatives via honorary resolutions.

Gail became our official Education Director in 2014. In 2015, Michael virtualized his teaching role by partnering with Loose Films to create a video curriculum. Michael and Gail later expanded the curriculum for use in schools as a turn-key solution, transforming Robot Academy into an EdTech company.

Michael stepped down as president in 2020, but maintains an active advisory role. He still manages R&D as well as certification training for new instructors. He designed our Arduino LEGO Robot, as well as the LEGO mBot2, and is committed to ensuring that Robot Academy is at the cutting edge of STEM EdTech.

As president and owner, Gail has revolutionized our reach and distribution. Robot Academy is now an authorized MakeBlock distributor for U.S.A. We currently offer on-site camps and events, at-home curriculum kits, online lessons, and turn-key video curriculum solutions for schools.