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An IBM Volunteer’s BT Young Scientist Experience January 17, 2012

Posted by melaniecorr in IBM, open-source, Scratch, Watson.
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IBMer Gordon Keenan talks to us about Scratch and volunteering at the IBM stand last week at the BT Young Scientist’s Exhibition.

Gordon Keenan image

IBM Volunteer Gordon Keenan

My name is Gordon Keenan and I’m a Software Engineer on the IBM Lotus Live team. I have been working for IBM for the past year.

I got involved with the BT Young Scientist’s Exhibition through my colleague Sean Callanan who was promoting the Scratch program. Scratch is an application which teaches children how to program. I had come in contact with Scratch a few years ago so I was familiar with it. I thought there was promise in this application so I got involved.

Scratch is good for kids as it gives them the basis of programming and teaches them different mathematical concepts. It is good for young people to try programming at an early age. At the IBM stand, I observed how quickly some kids took an interest in learning about programming.

For the IBM stand at the BT Young Scientist Exhibition, we created a few different tasks with Scratch. One was to create a bubble, then using programming make the bubble float to the top and burst. There was also a similar task involving drawing a fish. We designed a more complex animation depicting a witch and a dragon but that was mostly to show the potential of what you could do with this program if you were into it.

I was at the BT Young Scientists competition once as a child. It has changed a lot since then. It is now much more technology focused. There seemed to be more of a focus on the physical sciences back then.

The IBM stand was great as it was promoting getting involved with technology from a young age. There were lots of different things to do. The RFID tags drew a large crowd to the stand where they could learn about what IBM does. The Watson game was very interesting.

I spent the day guiding young people through Scratch. I would show them the initial steps and most of them were able to take it from there and play around with the tool. Using Scratch meant we were also able to educate the kids on open source technology; that this program was free for all to download and use.

It is important for IBM to promote itself to young people because while everyone knows the name IBM, not many people know exactly what we do because we don’t sell consumer products. At the same time, IBM technology is all around them without them realising it.

Volunteering at the BT Young Scientist’s Exhibition is something different. I would definitely say to give it a try. It was a hectic day but it was great to see all the variety of activities going on.


What is Scratch? Find out more at our IBM Stand at BTYSTE December 20, 2011

Posted by Kristina O'Regan in IBM, Innovation, open-source, Uncategorized.
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What is Scratch?

Scratch is an application that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art — and share your creations on the web.

As young people create and share Scratch projects, they learn important mathematical and computational ideas, while also learning to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively.

Scratch provides a simple drawing tool to allow you create characters, backgrounds or anything you can imagine.  It also provides simple drag and drop programming tools to allow you make you characters come alive.

Find out more about “Scratch” by visiting their website->

How Open Source can be good for business January 15, 2010

Posted by bodonovan in open-source, ubuntu.

One of the demos you’ll find at the IBM stand in the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition is Open Source Software. The best thing about it, of course, is that it’s free. Some of you may wonder: why is a company such as IBM promoting Open Source Software? If something is that good, should not we not be trying to sell it… or make money out of it?

There are different schools of thought in relation to Open Source Software:

  • Richard Stallman, the founder of the Free Software Foundation thinks that Open Source is related to the fundamental human right to liberty. As computers take on a growing importance to modern society, he claims that it is vitally important that users have the freedom to do whatever they want with the software they are using. This does not mean that is it impossible to build a profitable business from Open Source Software: many companies such as RedHat have built up a very substantial business from providing support and other services based upon this type of software.
  • On the other hand other companies, for example Microsoft, follow a different school of thought. Any software developed by Microsoft is subject to restrictions on its use and distribution, in line with the free market principle.

As Google outlined in a recent strategy memo: in the long term open systems are much more likely to succeed. If a business can only be profitable by placing restrictions, then customers will always be looking for cost-free alternatives. However, if a business allows its customers freedom to choose alternative providers, this will force the business to keep at the leading edge.

What about IBM? What do we think and why?

We believe there are many situations where users are willing to pay for proprietary licensed software because they believe that the software in question contains a significant competitive advantage over any open source alternative. In fact we receive billions of dollars in software license revenue every year to validate the accuracy of this view. However, IBM is also the world’s largest corporate contribution to open source software projects. Until a few years ago most users felt that none of the open source distributions were suitable for use as a desktop operating system for most knowledge workers. This meant that the bulk of the market was divided between Windows and MacOS – both of which were only available under a proprietary license. However, recently both Fedora and Ubuntu have gained praise for their ease.

In short, we feel that it is important to educate users about the choices available to them. We chose to demonstrate Ubuntu at BTYSTE because it has proved very popular among novice users. In addition Ubuntu has a very strong community involvement. For example, the UK Ubuntu Podcast is very popular and this post by talks about recent activity in the Ubuntu Women’s community.

If you want to learn more details about why IBM believes Open Standards and Software are good for business, you can view this 90 minute talk by Bob Sutor, Vice President of Open Source and Linux.

In the meantime, come and see for yourself and get a free copy of Ubuntu 🙂

Our first visitors to our stand January 14, 2010

Posted by bodonovan in open-source, ubuntu.

When we were planning our Ubuntu demonstration we expected that the visitors to the stand would be very puzzled and we would have to explain everything in very simple terms. However we got a surprise when the first visitors to our stand were 2 boys (who are in 2nd and 4 year in secondary school) who had developed their own Ubuntu based operating system called Zorin-OS. It looks to be really cool so why not try it out.

I never case to e amazed by the ability of the young people who enter this competition – this event will be as much a learning experience  as a teaching one.

Slides for the Teachers Seminar January 13, 2010

Posted by bodonovan in open-source, ubuntu.

IBM will be running a seminar for teachers attending the exhibition entitled “How to use Free Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) to save money and improve the quality of your students’ education“. The seminar will be held on Thursday (14/Jan) from 2-3pm and then repeated again on Friday (15/Jan) at the same time. You can download the materials that will be presented at the seminar by clicking here.

Although we tried to customise the content towards the topics that we thought teachers might be interested in, we are not directly familiar with the IT needs of secondary schools. If you would like to see any additional topics covered or if you have a question, please leave a comment here and we will try to answer your questions during the tutorial.

Why is IBM Promoting Ubuntu at the Young Scientist Exhibition December 26, 2009

Posted by bodonovan in open-source, ubuntu.

A few people have been asking why IBM is promoting Ubuntu at the Young Scientist Exhibition when it is not an IBM product. In fact there are a number of good reasons:

  1. IBM supports the concept of freedom and we would hate to think that students (or anyone) would feel locked in to using a particular brand of proprietary software just because it came with the PC when they bought it. Click here to view Bob Stutor explain in detail why IBM cares about software freedom.
  2. Ubuntu provides an excellent quality stable desktop operating system for free, so we don’t want to see people wasting valuable money on purchasing licenses for software when they don’t have to
  3. We think that Ubuntu is cool and we think that the students attending the exhibition will agree when they see for themselves.
  4. IBM employees use Ubuntu internally for their work and IBM also partners with a Canonical and Verde to provide the Ubuntu based IBM Client for Smart Work.

They say that “a picture is worth a thousand words”, in fact a video is worth a thousand pictures and I created this playlist of videos from YouTube to show you some practical examples of why we think Ubuntu is cool and exciting.