Learning while having fun: with robotics you can
30 November 2018 | Written by La redazione
At Futureland we interviewed Valeria Cagnina and Francesco Baldassarre, (very young) entrepreneurs in the Education sector
Robotics will have an increasing impact on our lives: there are many applications of this technology, which will have direct impacts on our lives and in our society.
From November 16th to 25th, the European Robotics Week took place, an opportunity to focus the spotlight of children and young people, but also adults, to the uses and the development of this technology. But there are those who dedicate themselves to these issues throughout the year as Valeria Cagnina and Francesco Baldassarre, 17 and 25 years, who have managed to transform their passion for robotics into a company, which has a positive impact on the lives of many people, very young but not only.
We met them at Talent Garden Calabiana, in Milan, during Futureland and we interviewed them.
Valeria, you are very young. How did you approach robotics?
V: My passion for robotics began when I was very young. I built my first robot at the age of 11 and over the years I accumulated a series of experiences that led me to speak at a TEDx at 14 years old and to go, one year later, to MIT of Boston, at the Department of Robotics, in the Duckietown class as a senior tester. Here, in particular, I had the task of simplifying university tutorials, to make them feasible even to high school students.
Was this one the occasion in which you started dealing with educational robotics?
V: I have been in Boston for an entire summer and I have found out that education can be fun, that you can learn by playing, and so I wanted to bring this thing to Italy too. I started doing simple lessons and at the age of 16, I founded my educational robotics company. The requests were many and so I launched a Call 4 teacher: today we have a dozen teachers and, above all, I have a partner, Francesco, with whom I go to teach robotics in all over the world.
Whom do you work with?
V: We work with children and young people, starting from 3 years, but also with adults: we have organized meetings and events for young people, courses certified by Miur and corporate team buildings with multinational companies. The goal is to convey hard and soft skills through play and fun.
Francesco, what is the reaction of the kids and students you work with?
F: When we do motivational speeches, the first reaction is of amazement, because we tell our stories that are so different but at the same time the same. That of Valeria, as she has just told you, is unique, while I represent more the normality: I have done a course of study similar to that of many others and, despite this, Valeria and I have met ourselves. My passion and my desire to go further and further have led me to found a robotics company just 25 years old.
To get back to the question, the impact with the kids is always very positive. While it is a bit more complicated, at least initially, with business managers.
F: I think it is a matter of age. They see a 25-year-old boy and a 17-year-old girl trying to teach them something. In fact, after a few minutes they understand the value of what we do: for example, we always do lesson without shoes and sitting on the floor and it is very nice to see that these managers, in suits and ties, in a short time get involved and understand our mission.
Let us go back to Valeria. You are 17 years old and, therefore, you are still in an age that you go to school. How is the school changing in Italy changing?
V: In my experience, unfortunately, the school in Italy, or at least the public and traditional one, is not changing as it should. In most institutions, the teachings of subjects such as robotics and coding have not yet entered. With our courses, we are contributing to bring about change and we try to explain how apply these disciplines to many subjects, even if they apparently belong to different worlds.
I always had a difficult relationship with the school, I attended it normally up to the fourth grade but then I could no longer reconcile my school commitments with those of my company, despite the good marks. Therefore, I will give the maturity as a privatist.
In general, I would say that the school should encourage the development and expression of student passions and understand that fun can be the key to allowing children to learn faster and better.
Francesco, what are the skills that children should already learn at school?
F: There is no pre-packaged skills package, we try to train people at 360 °, combining technical skills also with attitudes related to everyday life: the world is changing and the companies need workers with skills like flexibility and adaptability. We must therefore have a series of soft skills that nobody teaches but that are fundamental: leadership, problem solving, team working, lateral thinking, a whole range of skills that are not taken into consideration in the educational world as they should. The business world is different from that of the school, it is the “true” world, in which a person must have an open mind to be able to react to changes, technological and not only.