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The older I get, the more resentful I feel each time I hear a story about some young person making good. I’ve long left behind the age by which Alexander the Great had conquered enormous parts of the world and yet I still haven’t been able to beat back an incursion into my kitchen by an army of ants or completely clean out my storage unit. However, it is hard to hold on to my misanthropic curmedgeonhood in the face of a ten-year-old roboticist who has just been awarded a Paris Innovation Fellowship for her desire to make the streets of Paris happy again.

The ten-year-old girl, named Eva, was looking for some help advancing her ideas and she openly admitted in her application to not having completely mastered the tools and techniques necessary to bring her idea to fruition. In her own words:

“The streets of Paris are sad. I want to build a robot that will make them happy again. I’ve already started 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.”

fellowHer application had to rise above a large number of others that came from people with solidly established backgrounds and highly refined skill sets. It was her admission of need that really touched the heart of Kat Borlongan, a founding partner at Five by Five and author of Eva’s acceptance letter. Borlongan wrote:

“I am writing to you personally because your application inspired me. There was nothing on the website that said the program was open to 10-year-olds but — as you must have noticed — nothing that said that it was not. You’ve openly told us that you had trouble making the robot work on your own and needed help. That was a brave thing to admit, and ultimately what convinced us to take on your project. Humility and willingness to learn in order to go beyond our current limitations are at the heart and soul of innovation.”

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Robot-made chalk drawing

Eva wants her robots to draw stars, create mazes, outline hopscotch grids, and otherwise enliven the streetscape of urban Paris. Her delightful idea has won not only the fellowship but also the hearts of a variety of others who can contribute to its development. Eva will have the chance to work with an impressive line up of specialists such as a Stanford professor of Electrical Engineering, the president of Maker Faire France, and the founder of Hardware Club. In addition, the president of Thymio was inspired by her idea and the company has offered their president to be Eva’s personal specialist this summer.

It is inspiring to see the resources that have been marshaled to help this little girl not only to realize her vision of the happier streets of Paris, but also as a role model for other young girls everywhere. Eva documents her work with robotics, coding, and 3D printing, and her journey stands as a shining example — it also stands as a reminder of the genius present in youth and energy that is so often ruthlessly squandered in environments that don’t acknowledge the value of creativity.

As we struggle to understand how we can get more girls involved in programming and 3D printing, taking a moment to actually listen to what it is they want help with might just be the very best first step that can be taken. Discuss further in the Ten-Year-Old Receives Fellowship for Robotics forum over at 3DPB.com.

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