A two-week workshop to use data and design to improve the lives of Parisians was initially intended for advanced candidates. The fellows will have a slightly different demographic than that, however — the PhDs and professionals will be joined by a fifth-grade student:
The fellowship covers a financial stipend, access to world-class mentors, co-working space, special tools — no strings attached. Over a period of two weeks, this program will equip a small group of 20 creative and talented individuals to begin building solutions to the challenges facing Paris today.
The fellowship offers specific challenges for participants, but they’re also invited to solve problems on their own, using data science, urban design, or mapping.
Not long after the fellowship application period closed, ten-year-old Eva’s pitch to be part of the fellowship surfaced on social media: she wanted to build robots to make the streets of Paris happy again. “I’ve already starting learning how to code on Thymio robots,” wrote Eva (who lives in France) in her pitch, “but I have trouble making it work. I want to join the program so the mentors can help me.”
The founder of the company hosting the fellowship wrote the following back to her and posted it as an open letter online:
The answer is yes. You have been selected as one of Paris’ first-ever Summer Innovation Fellows among an impressive pool of candidates from all across the world: accomplished urban designers, data scientists and hardware specialists. I love your project and agree that more should be done — through robotics or otherwise — to improve Paris’ streets and make them smile again.
I am writing to you personally because your application inspired me. There was nothing on the website that said the program was open to 10 year olds but — as you must have noticed — nothing that said that it was not. You’ve openly told us that you had trouble making the robot work on your own and needed help. That was a brave thing to admit, and ultimately what convinced us to take on your project. Humility and the willingness to learn in order to go beyond our current limitations are at the heart and soul of innovation.
It is my hope that your work on robotics will encourage more young girls all over the world — not just to code, but to be as brave as you, in asking for help and actively looking for different ways to learn and grow. More good news: I wrote to Thymio, the robotics company whose tech you use and asked if they could designate a specialist to personally help you. They have decided that that person will be their President himself. They will also be providing you their latest robot.
Welcome aboard our spaceship, Eva. We’re very much looking forward to meeting you in person.
The 2016 fellowship runs from 18 July to 29 July.