Wimee the Robot: A Grand Rapids character gaining a national audience

Wimee’s Words, a popular PBS children’s show that reaches 30 million homes around the country, is continuing to grow and engage a larger audience. Led by the character Wimee the Robot, kids all over the world are inspired to use their creativity while learning about science, technology, engineering, art, and math. 

“We are looking to [create] opportunities for kids to recognize that their ideas matter through this lovable character called Wimee,” says Daniel "Michael" Hyacinthe, founder of the children’s media and tech company Wimage, which creates educational and entertaining content such as Wimee’s Words.

Hyacinthe, a veteran who served as a U.S. Navy Seabee, says his passion for veterans and childhood education was what led him to initially launch Wimage. It was initially created to assist veterans with using their creativity as part of the healing process, but the feedback from parents, teachers, and early childhood educators made Hyacinthe realize the immediate need to match up children with this creative technology.

“We pivoted the technology to connect with the kids instead, to become effective storytellers and creators,” he says. 

Hyacinthe realized this meant a child-friendly character was needed to further reach this new target market, so he called on his collaborator on the Wimee app, Kevin Kammeraad, to create Wimee the Robot, a character with universal appeal that could reach future generations. Kammeraad, who has more than 20 years of experience as an educator and presenter, currently serves as co-producer and lead puppeteer at Wimee’s Words. 

After COVID-19 disrupted the success of the program in classrooms, the idea of streaming live shows to social media — one show per day, five days per week — appealed to PBS. According to Hyacinthe, they pitched the show to PBS Michigan, which led them to engage with NY and LA, two of the biggest markets. This led to Wimee’s Words and its reach to 20 different PBS stations.

This growth has brought even more opportunities to the community, including a three-book deal with HarperCollins; through the Grand Rapids-based imprint Zonderkidz, Wimee the Robot will now make its debut on a literary platform as well, Hyacinthe says. The first book, Wimee Creates, is scheduled for release in national retail stores in July. 

“I was first interested in Wimee after watching my two oldest children (ages 4 and 6 at the time) enjoy the videos,” says Megan Dobson, VP of Zonderkidz. “Wimee is vibrant, fun and inviting for children — and the brand’s mission to help children explore, learn and create while recognizing all children and giving them a place to be seen and heard is what first excited my team and I about publishing these books.”

Hyacinthe attributes the universal appeal of the character to its personality, saying although Wimee is a robot, he has the mind of a child looking to learn, looking to be creative and looking to be inclusive — key points that appeal to parents.

In addition, Hyacinthe uses the live shows, which are taped on YouTube and Facebook, to invite kids to suggest their ideas and share their thoughts, recognizing them in real time, so they can see the potential of one day becoming a creative professional in the future. These shows are edited to make them television-ready for PBS.

Hyacinthe says in addition to the upcoming book releases, his company is currently creating animation for the Wimee character and a new line of apparel.

“We are building a media property to make Wimee and his friends become a household brand through all of this merchandise (created) right here in Grand Rapids.”
Wimee’s Words is broadcast on PBS every Saturday morning at 7:30 a.m.

To see Wimee on YouTube, visit: youtube.com/@wimeetherobot

Preorders for the Wimee books can be made at TargetWalmart and Barnes & Noble
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