Last week, R/GA Bucharest welcomed the Spectrum Constanta School to the office for a chance to meet a group of students who have expressed an interest and talent for informatics. This also served as a great opportunity for the Bucharest team to bond with students from this technology-focused school and connect with their university network, all while providing students with a fun and worthwhile experience.
10 students, including three winners from the Romanian Informatics Olympics, were selected from the school to travel the 250km across Romania to Bucharest, and discover first-hand what being a programmer at R/GA is all about.
Knowledge sharing and teaching
“Being able to support an initiative like this is amazing. Each one of us was given a chance at some point in our life, so it only makes sense for us to create new meaningful ones for this younger generation. When you have the opportunity to teach somebody, you challenge yourself, you learn twice over, and you get to live through an exciting, satisfying experience. As the American poet Mark Van Doren so eloquently put it, “The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” It’s a temptation we should all fall for from time to time,”
said R/GA Bucharest’s Ana-Maria Bodgan (General Manager, R/GA Bucharest).
Open standards developers at R/GA Bucharest, Mihnea Belcin and Mircea Georgescu, were responsible for teaching the class how to assemble and connect the electronics, how to code two tank robots, all while explaining to them how the technology works. Each tank used a Raspberry Pi running a node.js server which allowed them to control the tank in real time using socket.io. They used the GPIO pins on the Raspberry Pi as outputs controlling a motor driver that powered the motors. In the end, they were able to use a web browser to control the tanks and battle against each other.
Mihnea championed the idea of this event for the last few months, and worked hard to make it happen. He not only shared R/GA’s story, but also taught the students exactly what a programmer job entails and what it takes to be successful, offering them valued insight into the industry that many students in their position may never get to experience.
“I started my career in web development thanks to my informatics teacher from high school. As an accomplished programmer, I wanted to give back to those that had laid this path in front of me. That’s really how this idea came to life – organizing a workshop to show children what life as a coder is really like. Spending a day with some of the smartest guys from Spectrum School was an amazing experience. I got the opportunity to speak to them about the benefits of being a coder, showcased some cool projects we have built, and talked about the technology behind it. I hope this was just the first of a series of workshops, by the end of which more children will choose computer science as a career path,”
Mircea also served as an incredibly inspiring teacher. He explained to the two teams of students how to build their machine prototypes, taking them through the details of the technology and design.
“This project involved using things like Raspberry Pi and Node.js to build tanks, which the kids could control and interact with via a browser. It was a great way for them to understand what kind of things they could build in a few years using their programming skills. Having the chance to show such smart kids how they can explore these possibilities has been a tremendous experience. It gets you out of your comfort zone and makes you rethink everything you know. It forces you to find simple explanations for complicated things. It’s the kind of experience I wish I had when I was kid! It was very challenging, fun and useful for all of us. I can’t wait to do it again,”
Note: This article was originally published on R/GA's Blog