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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.