Fostering a growing community of young learners and creators
Wimee the robot first came into being in February of 2016. The idea for him came from Michael Hyacinthe, founder of the Wimage app, as a fun way to engage kids in their creativity. He turned to his good friend and decades long puppeteer, Kevin Kammeraad, for help. Together, Michael and Kevin worked with puppet builder Joe Emory to make Wimee 1.0.
That Fall, Kevin and Michael offered hands-on workshops where students combined their imaginations with the innovative technology of Wimage to create collaborative visual stories during Art Prize Education Days. Following the success of these, they began providing workshops to preschool classrooms throughout the Grand Rapids area with funding from the PNC Grow Up Great Foundation.
The first year they visited all of the preschools in the Grand Rapids Public School District. The following year they went to every Great Start Readiness Program preschool in Kent County. In 2019 they brought their workshops to every Head Start for Kent County classroom. They also continued offering their educational visual storytelling workshops during Art Prize Education Days each year.
Over the years they also visited many elementary school classrooms to offer workshops to create collaborative visual stories (lower grades) or collaborative books (upper grades). The Wimage app and the character, Wimee, continued to develop and grow. Wimee evolved from 1.0 to 2.0 to now his current form as Wimee 3.0.
Because schools began virtual learning in 2020 due to Covid-19, Kevin and Michael were unable to visit students face-to-face for workshops. As a result, we started Wimee’s Words (co-produced by Kent District Library), a web-based, interactive kids show that encourages imagination, vocabulary building, and storytelling through puppetry, music, and wordplay. We’ve formed many great partnerships and connected with countless kids and families along the way!
Learn more in this interview by Cynthia Canty for Stateside on Michigan Radio
Meet Wimee's Friends
The Wimee’s Words and Wimage teams consist of educators, librarians, technology developers, entrepreneurs, parents, kids, and puppets who have joined together to empower all children to become producers of creative content and not just consumers of it.
Moby is an enthusiastic bird who loves to read, loves to learn, and LOVES to share. Moby is the head of research on Wimee’s Words, and is also Wimee’s best friend. Moby is super excitable and can’t resist spouting fun facts. Everything and anything, from submarines to dirt, will get Moby energized to learn and wonder!
Siblee is an off-the-wall inventor robot who’s always rolling and zipping around. He is continuously coming up with crazy inventions and technical doo-dads. All of the crazy spinning gears, randomizing machines, and various inventions are thanks to Siblee. He loves telling jokes, meeting new people, and keeping the Wimee’s Words team on their toes with antics!
Daniel M. Hyacinthe (Michael)
Michael is the Founder of Wimage, LLC. On the Wimee’s Words show, Michael creates with Wimee in the Grand Rapids Wimage Lab and also contributes the Minute with Michael segment. Michael is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and used his experience with wounded veterans to find a creative and therapeutic outlet for them to express themselves. This compelled him to create the Wimage application, which he then discovered was appropriate for the educational market. Michael is passionate about the vision of Wimee’s Words and is the driving force that keeps it all going!
Nick is a US Navy Veteran with a background in multifunctional organizational leadership and process optimization. Nick sought out Michael after hearing about Michael's efforts on behalf of veterans and, in the process, met Wimee. That meeting ultimately led to a connection with CODE Exitos and the next phase in Wimee's journey. Nick supports Wimage, Inc. as CEO.
Kevin is the Co-Producer and Lead Puppeteer on the Wimee’s Words show and is part of the Community Engagement Team as a Bookmobile Operator at Kent District Library. His experience as a children’s author, artist, performer, and presenter/educator over the past twenty years has prepared him well for this dynamic live show! Kevin is a master puppeteer and has spent his career performing interactive, inspiring, entertaining, high energy shows at schools, family events, libraries, and festivals across the country. Kevin has a degree in Film & Video Production from Grand Valley State University, and he loves using his creative talents to bring Wimee to life on each Wimee’s Words episode!
Stephanie is one of the tech directors and educational consultants for the Wimee’s Words show. She’s also the author of the new Wimee Creates and Wimee Learns series of books published by Zonderkidz / Harper Collins. Stephanie has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology/Special Education from Grand Valley State University. She’s coordinated and taught various classes and camps for kids in preschool through middle school over the past twenty years throughout West Michigan and owned and operated a traveling multicultural children’s book business for many years. She is currently also the Director of Children’s Ministry at a church in Grand Rapids, MI where she lives with her family and their three cats and a dog.
Gwen is the Assistant Producer of the show Wimee’s Words where she helps to facilitate the recording of the live show in the studio with Wimee and all of his friends. She is also the video production specialist for Wimage and works on the creation of promotional content for Wimee. Gwen has a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Video Production from Grand Valley State University. Before starting with Wimee, Gwen worked as a Production assistant at the Grand Rapids PBS station WGVU where she explored her passion for educational programming. Throughout her life, Gwen has worked with kids in many different creative spaces and wishes to continue to do so through the use of children’s programming. Through Wimee, she is able to work on innovative and engaging content that encourages kids to learn and explore their creativity.
Often known as ScribbleJim, James presents the Jim Time segment on Wimee’s Words, featuring collaborative songs and games. He’s also the Co-Producer, lead content writer, tech director, and the lead content organizer of the show. When he’s not playing with Wimee and friends, Jim is writing and performing children’s music with his band, ScribbleMonster. With recordings recognized by National Public Radio, Parenting Magazine, and the Parent’s Choice Awards, ScribbleMonster’s approach to music, learning, and play has earned five #1 songs on Sirius/XM’s Kids Place Live and thousands of live performances at libraries, festivals, museums, and other special events. Jim also teaches creative play music classes for early childhood and students with diverse abilities.
Joyanne is one of KDL’s Bookmobile Librarians. She and her family including dogs, cats, and fish live in the West Michigan area. She loves all kinds of pizza…it should have its own food group. Her one super -power is making up new song lyrics on the fly. In all seriousness though, she lives by her favorite motto from Yoda, “There is no try, there is only do.” Catch her out-and-about with the Bookmobile or during our “Check Out This Book” segments.
Dr. Sara Proano & Lucy
Sara is wife to a local farmer, a mother of 3, and a Latino-American immigrant who has served in the community services field for more than 10 years since her arrival to the US. She serves as the Community Engagement Manager at Kent District Library and also works as a certified trainer for interpreters and translators under community language accessibility initiatives. Sara holds a Clinical Psychology doctorate from the Universidad Cristiana Latino Americana in Ecuador and has two post graduate diplomas in Systemic Theory and Infant Development. On Wimee’s Words, Sara and Lucy have fun working together to provide the Spanish translation in our Language Explorers segment!
Kelaine loves being an information Mythbuster and discovery Influencer after nearly 25 years as a Youth Services and Community Engagement Librarian at Kent District Library in Kent County, Michigan. Kelaine is a perpetual student with a BA in Art History and American History from Michigan State University, a MS in Cultural Tourism and Museum Administration from Eastern Michigan University, and a Master of Library and Information Science focusing on Public Libraries Youth Services and Information Literacy from Wayne State University. She loves mysteries and technology and exploring the internet. Sharing those loves on Wimee’s Words and behind the scenes as an Educational Engagement Specialist is the best part of her day!… when she’s not watching squirrels…
Brody is a young man who enjoys spending time drawing and creating which is why he loves creating the Wimages for the show in the Wimage Lab. He loves writing stories with his brothers and thrift shopping with his sister. He spends his free time volunteering in his community doing fun things like planting trees and helping with festivals and library events. He loves helping others, chatting about video games, and playing with his friends outside. Brody has a great giggle that puts a smile on everyone’s face.
Dr. Paige Dague
Paige has a BA in education and history, dual master’s degrees in Educational Administration and Psychology & Counseling, and she earned her doctorate in Curriculum & Instruction. She has spent her career in education as a teacher, counselor, and principal in suburban Chicago. Her hobbies include prolific crochet and competitive piemaking. She has also authored three children’s books. Paige serves as Educational Consultant for Wimee’s Words and as a second generation German-American, she also delivers the German portion of our Language Explorers segments.
Sparky, Laina & Baby Bumblebee
Sparky’s full name is a mouthful: Sparkle Rainbow Moonstar 5, which is why he goes by Sparky for short. Sparky is a hardworking humda (half-human/half-panda). His human side is known as Cooper Dague. Cooper earned his LTA certification from the American Library Association and puts it to work at his local public library. He loves videogames and is also an award-winning photographer. His sister, Laina Dague, is a full human. She earned her MLIS with certification in Youth Services. She works in the youth department at her local public library. Laina loves reading, playing games, making music, and learning new things. Baby Bumblebee is adorable. She loves to dance, sing, and hum along when she can’t remember the words.
Special thanks to the following folks who work behind the scenes or who’ve contributed to the show in various ways over the years: Elizabeth Andrus, Brock Andrus, Elaina Dague, Grace Miguel Cipriano and Christine Mwangi from Kent District Library, Holly Miller and Carine Roure at the Academy of Art and Design, Karen Blackledge from Muskegon Area District Library, Jon Covington and the Men of Color Read members, Critter, Mr. Grumphrey, Erin and Keller Murphy, Lucas Hyacinthe, Ashlyn and Brinley Pfeiffle, Aluong and Apat, the children’s librarians at the Grand Rapids Public Library, the therapists at Comprehensive Therapy Center, Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou, 123 Andrés, Mi Amigo Hamlet & Alina Celeste, Andrea and Makenna Lewis, the Gorby family, the Berryhill family, and all the other families who’ve shared photos and videos for Where in the World and That’s So Cool, the talented friends who’ve shared of themselves on Wimee’s Friends, and all of the amazing kids who’ve shared their wonderful talents and interests with us on Kid Chat!