Recently I woke up to a Facebook post that went viral with 15,000 shares about a 10 year old who applied for a Paris Innovation fellowship with a project she had made with the Thymio Robot and TinkerCAD. It was an unusual application “amidst mostly computer science Phds and seasoned urban designers”, says the Founding Partner of Five By Five, Kat Borlongan.
“The streets of Paris are sad. I want to build a robot that will make them happy again. I’ve already starting learning how to code on Thymio robots, but I have trouble making it work. I want to join the program so the mentors can help me.”
She cleverly asked for help from the organization’s leaders with programming her robot. Since then, the young girl, her inspiring project and ambitious proposal has been wrote about in Time Magazine, and many other news outlets. Joyfully, this young girl has been accepted for the fellowship opportunity in Paris and will be attending this July.
In today’s world it is most important to display the passion, courage, optimism and confidence to go after opportunities that seem difficult to achieve. It is also important for kids to learn tools that they can master to power their learning and help achieve their goals. If we empower kids to be able to learn to ask the questions that gets them answers that put them in the driver’s seat of their learning then they are able to create their own learning paths. This 10 year old girl is a great example of what we hope for our kids.
Parents and teachers dream about kids getting excited about learning, finding their personal passions and becoming inspired to create amazing things. In today’s world it’s becoming even more important to make technology come alive for our kids to prepare them for the future, and to help in building a better world.
As a female mechanical engineer, I frequently sat in classes surrounded by chairs full of men, and was lucky if there was one other token female. It made me feel conscious that I was a female because of all the second looks and curious reactions that I would receive from my male colleagues. I even started a full time job as a degreed engineer with my male supervisor asking if I “knew how to use a copying machine” and the active assumption that I didn’t know anything. It is vital to have both genders in engineering for a more balanced perspective, to prevent gender bias, and for solutions that will help the greater population.
When it was clear to me that by it would be difficult to create change in the large American corporate organization I was in- because first I had to break down people’s underlying assumptions and biases, I knew I had to start from the ground level and create changes in education.
When I kick off a project with students I start with the goal to “make the world at least a little bit better”. Kids are natural contributors and creators. They are looking to contribute to the world and find their place. They just need the proper help, tools, time, space and someone to remove the obstacles in their way. For the past 7 years I have been teaching kids a combination of design thinking, technology and robotics in the heart of Silicon Valley, having kids create amazing projects.
I founded TechyKids.com to not only have these projects happen in my classroom at Woodland School– but to enable others to do the very same thing. Four years ago I was a pioneer and began using Thymio because of it’s potential, and have used it as a centerpiece for educating students. TechyKids.com serves as a hub to inspire projects of creativity and engineering and helps provide the tools and curriculum needed to start programs in local schools and communities.
When I heard of this 10 year old girl with her Thymio robot project, her questions, big dreams, and achievement I was thrilled. She shares the journey of the students who go through similar struggles and experiences in my classroom. I use this special blend of tools and growth mindset to help guide their creativity, learn from failure and ultimately persevere. It is quite the magical combination, and it is a rare combination. It results in kids straying from what is easy and going towards what is innovative, unproven, and difficult to accomplish. The projects become masterpieces with each project being different than the one next to it- reflecting the strengths of each individual contributor and highlighting a team collaboration. At the end kids reflect in disbelief in what they have just accomplished with a true sense of pride in their work.
I’ve been lucky enough to see the magic happen in my classroom and I’ve been working to replicate it across the world. This 10 year old girl embodies everything I’ve been working towards for the last 7 years, and it unfolds in one beautiful and inspiring story.
While this girl is absolutely incredible… she has been granted many advantages that many of our kids do not have in our current education system. By granting more kids access to the right curriculum and technology tools, TechyKids enables more kids to achieve what this young girl has been able to- a passion and excitement about her present and future.