Google RISE meeting 2013
From June 12th until 14th, Juan Pablo Carbajal and Francis wyffels represented Dwengo on the Google RISE 2013 summit in London (see picture below with our Google host Marielena Ivory). At this unique event Google RISE partners from around the world, of which Dwengo is also part as the first Benelux, were present. For three days there were vivid discussions with one goal: how to encourage young people into STE(A)M, Science, Technology, Engineering, (Art) and Mathematics!? The meeting led to many international contacts and novel ideas which will enhance Dwengo to service the youth even better. In what follows, a summary of the highlights is given.
The Google [x] project
As many people already know, Google will soon launch Google Glass , a wearable computer that offers smartphone functionality in your glasses. It is also not a secret that Google has been developing a self-driving car. These and several other still running secret projects, are the result of Google's [x] project . In all these projects, the key to success is defined by: think big.
Everyone has dreams that might provide an answer to important problems which need radical solutions. Here at Dwengo we believe that with sufficient effort we can give every young person in the world the opportunity to build his/hers own robot. At this moment we are very active in Belgium, but through the Google RISE project we are able to expand world-wide!
In order to find answers to problems, small or big, it is important to think within a team. A technique that can be useful is known as Gamestorming and can be applied by following three steps:
- Think all individually about a problem and generate some broad ideas,
- Interact within your team to come up with better solutions,
- Finally, refine these solutions to something which can work.
On gogamestorm.com you can find out how you can apply this technique to your problem. Additionally, some real-world examples can be found.
Computer Science without computers
Computer Science is much more than word processing. Unfortunately, a lot of policy makers are not aware of this. It is extremely important that children at young age not only learn how to work with certain applications, but also get in touch with the underlying principles of algorithms, programming languages, data structures, databases, principles of secure data transfer, binary arithmetics and much more.
From keynote speaker Tim Bell we learned that one can teach many of these important concepts without need for a computer! A nice example is the concept of parity bits which can be used for detecting errors in transferred data. It is possible to illustrate this concept as a mind-reading game, and you do not need a computer at all. This might stimulate young persons who are not so interested in computers at first sight. Tim Bell bundled many Computer Science related games on csunplugged.org . Which we highly recommend for all ages!
Computer Science in Vietnam: a success story
Nowadays Computer Science is banned from many educational curricula in high school. However, when Google engineer Neil Fraser, designer of Blockly , visited Vietnam, he could observe that pupils start already in 4th grade with the basics of programming. This, despite the little resources Vietnam has available. Based on this experience and interviews with Google engineers, Neil came up with following interesting lessons:
- People should learn computer science as early as possible
- Programming is best taught in the language of the child
- Programming does not require expensive, shiny new computers
- Start with a graphical programming language and link this as soon as possible to a textual programming language
The experience of Neil in Vietnam led to Blockly, a graphical programming language that supports many different textual languages. Note that this philosophy is closely related with Dwengo Blocks . Dwengo Blocks is a graphical programming language which is freely accessible in the browser. The graphical program blocks can be linked directly to C, a textual programming language. Moreover, Dwengo Blocks provide both simulation of and operation on a real micro-controller platform.
The next step
The Google RISE summit inspired us all which gives us a boost for the future. Soon we will launch a comprehensive hands-on training session in Argentina. There, we will teach more than 30 teachers and 100 students how to build a robot in their classroom. Additionally, we will organise a conference for more than 200 teachers and students from the province of Salta. Obviously our activities in Belgium will also benefit from this experience. We plan to expand our activities and want every teenager in Belgium taught how to build a robot. An initiative we will spread over other regions of the world.
You to can help as a volunteer, as a partner organization or financial support. If you are interested, do not hesitate and send an mail to Francis.