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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.


Facts and Figures about real world issues and smarter solutions from IBM January 10, 2012

Posted by Kristina O'Regan in IBM, Innovation, Intelligence, Smarter Buildings, Smarter Cities, Smarter Enegry, Smarter Healthcare, Smarter Transport, social-media, Uncategorized, Watson.
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What is Watson? December 28, 2011

Posted by bodonovan in IBM, Innovation, Watson.
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One of the exhibits at our stand this year will relate to the Watson system which has been making a big splash in the media. If you read some of these articles and wondered what all of the fuss is about this blog post attempts to explain what Watson is and why we thought it worth including on our stand.

In recent years, IBM researchers have made great advances in building question answering systems and they decided to build a system which could take on a high profile challenge that the general public could understand to prove how far the technology has advanced. They gave their system the nickname Watson after Thomas J. Watson the founder of IBM. The target they chose was to compete in the Jeopardy! game show because:

  1. This game show is very popular in the Unites States and has been a popular show over several decades. As a result most members of the public know the rules of the game and appreciate how difficult it would be for a machine to compete in. Unfortunately the game is not shown on television in Ireland so people might need to check out the Wikipedia page about the game to learn about it.
  2. Unlike a traditional quiz where contestants have to provide and answer to a clear question, Jeopardy! contestants are presented with answers and in order to win they must know what is the corresponding question. Sometimes there are several questions which to which the same answer could be given and contestants are expected to use common sense to judge which question is the one being looked for (e.g. if the answer was “5,280”, the question they want would be “How many feet in a mile?” and not “What is 330 multiplied by 16?”). Teaching common sense to computers is notoriously difficult.
  3. Watson bases its reasoning on a huge bank of information including sources such as Wikipedia. Much of this information is written in normal English text which can often be ambiguous and contradictory. In the Jeopardy! game you lose points for giving an incorrect question, so Watson needs to calculate how confident it is that it has found the correct question before pressing the buzzer.

IBM was delighted when Watson beat two past champions in a televised live game. However, we did not invest all this money simply to develop a system capable of winning a TV game show. We believe that the technical advances that we made as part of the Watson project can be applied to other real world problems and we have established a new division that is currently building such systems. Part of this team is based in IBM’s research lab on the outskirts of Dublin and perhaps some of the Young Scientists might work in this division in the future.

If you are interested in learning more, you can view the video below or even better you can come visit our stand and try out the system yourself and ask our staff questions about how it works.

60 IBMer’s preparing for BTYSTE 2012 December 14, 2011

Posted by Kristina O'Regan in IBM, Innovation, Intelligence, Watson.
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IBM in Ireland are gearing up for BTYSE 2012 with 60 IBM volunteers ready to meet visitors at our stand.  The theme of our stand is “The Evolution of Technology.”

We are celebrating 100 years of innovation! IBM is constantly challenging itself to do what many think is impossible. This vision is leading our engineers and scientists to invent many of the building blocks of modern business and Information Technology. IBM has created 100 Icons of Progress which you can read about on our Centennial portal.  IBMer’s have also marked our centennial through a “Celebration of Service” by volunteering and giving back to their communities around the globe.

Visit us at Stand 26B and see how technology is evolving from those early innovations to ‘Watson’ – a scientific breakthrough in solving ‘natural language’ questions and winner of the Jeopardy! a U.S. quiz show.

IBM today is using this technology to make our world work smarter, by connecting the systems that run our world, and analysing the data from those systems, we have new ways of looking at information and can make smarter decisions as a result in healthcare, education and much more.

To find out more about IBM technology, create a QR code, develop a character using ‘Scratch’ , see RFID in action or to pit your wits against Watson visit on us Stand 26B.

Be sure to check our blog for the latest updates from guest bloggers and will fill you in on more details about our stand activities as we prepare for the big event.  Also follow us on:


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