IBM could indeed help, in fact they go out into the local communities and schools etc demonstrating these robots. They were willing to allow us to come to them. But Uta needed some help from her work colleagues for the day so she sent out some emails looking for volunteers.....and received 25 replies! From these replies she chose six wonderful people to help explain how to programme your own robot to our children.
We arrived at the enormous complex that is IBM last Friday and were met by Uta, her very clever son (who was very helpful to WiiBoy and J) and the six volunteers: Mark, Jason, Liam, Loretta, Simon and Patrick.They made us feel most welcome and we all got down to work. Well, the children did...technophobe Jazzy here and the only other mother to accompany her child (interestingly enough it was all dad's on this trip) kinda slunk outside after a while and left them too it!
When we came back in we automatically whispered. It was so quiet, you see. There was barely a sound....so engrossed and enthralled were the children. Amazing. No tears, tantrums or upsets. None. At all. Nada. From any of them. Truly amazing.
The volunteers were so calm and helpful to the children and there was one at each table. They had thankfully half built the robots in advance so they completed the building with the children and then helped them to programme the robot to do their bidding. So the ideas were all their own. The robot could be programmed to respond to sound (e.g.clapping) or colour whereby a light sensor was added, to speak and even to dance. Fascinating stuff.
Sometimes you have to figure it out for yourself
As you can see from the first photo on this post they did indeed get there in the end. It turned out that they both had different ideas for their Robot so they agreed to programme him to do two separate performances for the final presentation. So WiiBoy, using his creativity, got to work on drawing a maze for his presentation....
They were now ready for their presentation. Please pop over to WiiBoy's Blog to see a small, very badly filmed by yours truly, clip of his portion of their presentation! He'd be delighted to see you over there. Although, be warned....he's a man of few words today.
Do you know, as I looked around the room that day I was struck by the intensity of the children's attention....each and every one of them. This is the future I thought. And I wasn't alone. Every one felt it and one of the volunteers mentioned it in his closing speech. As he looked around the room he saw their replacements in a few years time.
Computer and IT will form a huge part of Ireland's recovery from this recession. The children are our future, we all know that. Children on the Autistic Spectrum can be especially so as they tend to have a huge IT ability, but that ability is not exclusive to them alone. The Government needs to invest in this ability, this raw talent. They need to nurture it and invest in it....NOW.
Recently a friend of mine, Ailish Connelly, wrote an article in the Irish Times entitled Giving it up for the Enterprise Generation. It's a great article praising the innovative amongst us who are no longer sitting around waiting for our ineffective Government to discover their own imagination as regards creating employment in this country. No, they are getting off their own fabulous backsides and creating IT businesses all by themselves. Check out FeePay.ie and the extremely clever itraffic.ie. This are exactly the type of smart technology that our IBM pals were telling us is the way forward.
But like I say, the children are the future too and Ailish also talks about our three local national schools who:
"have started their own co-operative movement to develop an information and communications technology project."
And this is is the clever bit...... they are being funded:
"By pooling leftover department building grants and using the technological skills of the combined parent and teacher body,..."
It's not very often I say this but hats off to the Department of Education and Science for allowing this clever use of leftover funds. Sure, go read the article for yourself!
Now although the Government as a whole need to do more, they should be praised for their Digital Hub Project based in Dublin City. I first mentioned this in my Summer Camps Blog Post for the IAA a while back . The IT generation doesn't just live in Dublin city you know, so I would like to see that initiative and our own local one rolled out nationwide. Now THAT would be forward thinking.
However, following the others lead I too am not prepared to sit around and wait for the Government to invest in my child's most likely future career. I have signed WiiBoy up for WhizzKids summer camp (a company based in Limerick) over in DCU next week. In this camp he will learn, amongst other things, how to to set up his own website. He is gonna love it. I wonder if he'll teach his poor ould technophobe mum here how to set up her own website when he's done? Now, that could be fun! Watch this space.
DCU is the other side of the city to me so I will be traveling every day and living in my car for the week.
Maybe I should check out itraffic before I leave each day? Do they have an App for iphone/touch I wonder? Now, there's another idea!
So for now, it's farewell from WiiBoy and I as we go forward......... to the Future and Beyond.
Maybe we'll see you there ;-)
PS: Many thanks to Lorraine in Triple A for organising our transport to IBM, to Uta and her team of fantastic volunteers and to IBM management for making it all possible. You made some children very happy and perhaps created some new employees for your company in the process.