Ten-year-old girl offered prestigious summer fellowship among world-class scientists

Quest to build a robot that will ‘make the streets of Paris happy again’ receives a boost

Eva wanted to build a robot that would make the streets of Paris happy again, but she was having trouble with her coding.

So she did what anyone in her position would do: she applied for a prestigious summer fellowship providing access to world-class mentors. Among the other applicants were data scientists, urban designers and hardware specialists from around the world.

In her application to the Paris Summer Innovation Fellowship, Eva wrote: “The streets of Paris are sad. I want to build a robot that will make them happy again.

“I’ve already starting learning how to code on Thymio robots, but I have trouble making it work. I want to join the programme so the mentors can help me.”

Bright young minds

The fellowship is open to 20 “bright young minds”, according to its application materials. Running for two weeks, it offers funding, tools, space and mentorship for young innovators looking to make a change in their own city.

And, this summer, Eva will be among them.

Kat Borlongan, founding partner of Five By Five, which runs the fellowship scheme, wrote back to the 10-year-old, saying: “I love your project and agree that more should be done – through robotics or otherwise – to improve Paris’s streets and make them smile again.”

She said she decided to write to Eva personally because she was inspired by her application.

Humility and willingness to learn

Ms Borlongan wrote: “There was nothing on the website that said the programme 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 code.”

Ms Borlongan went on to say that she had written to robotics company Thymio to if they could provide a specialist to work with Eva during her two-week fellowship. Thymio wrote back and said that they would be sending the company president.

“Welcome aboard our spaceship, Eva,” Ms Borlongan, adding: “Please ask your dad to call me.”

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