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Video-games for the classroom made by robotics whizz…aged 11
By thinkSPAIN Team Sun, Feb 24, 2019
“EIGHT years old is the best age to start learning programming, because it means you can acquire knowledge of the most difficult aspects at a time in life when you’re most likely to absorb them,” advises robotics expert and video game builder Antonio García from Villanubla, Valladolid province.
And he should know, having been working in the field for five years and given his first TED talk three years ago at Valladolid University.
Wise words indeed from a child aged 11.
“Robotics is the future”
Not yet out of primary school, but already revolutionising classroom practices, Antonio says he has a project under development which will ‘eradicate air pollution’, but that he ‘needs more knowledge of physics, chemistry and a few other things’ before he can bring it to fruition.
To the outside observer, Antonio seems just an ordinary little boy, kicking a ball around on the park with other children from his class – he’s a keen football fan, but doesn’t want to be the next Ronaldo; his future lies in App creation and constructing interactive games – yet his astonishing gift, way ahead of the capabilities of many adults earning living in the same field, is entirely self-taught, and he’s been teaching his school friends, too.
“The first video game I created helped players identify the different bones in the human body,” Antonio explains.
“There was a skeleton on screen with the bones numbered, but not named, and you had to put what they were called.
“I made it with the help of a friend in my year group who’s a bit older than I am.
“A little while ago, I made a video tutorial to help create an App which taught you how to play noughts and crosses, which you could install on your mobile phone. I’ve also made games for my class – one about the Camino de Santiago [northern Spain’s world-famous pilgrims’ route], another about minerals and rocks, and another where you had to control an aeroplane with a joystick to enable you to land properly.”
“When I was eight, I sent a video to the TED Talks organisers [Technology, Entertainment and Design] explaining in it what I did. They liked it a lot – not just because of how little I was, but because I was trying to motivate more children to learn programming,” the youngster reveals.
He gave his first conference shortly afterwards, and since then, has taken part in numerous talks in the world of programming and joined in Spain’s first-ever successful technology effort to reach the Guinness Book of Records, the software class with the most pupils in the world, at 585.
Antonio and his sister started the ‘El Páramo de Villanubla Programming Club’ among his friends at school, which currently has 54 members, aged between six and 15.
“Programming is important to help you understand how things that depend upon robotics work – in the future, everything is going to be centred on this,” Antonio predicts.
“And if you learn it when you’re little, once you’re in high school you can already immerse yourself in more complex programming language and learn everything much more quickly.”
“It helps you develop logical thinking skills”
Antonio’s proud mum agrees with him that robotics should be a core educational subject from primary school onwards.
“I learned about the ‘six degrees of freedom’ in robotics were long before we started to learn about them in school, because I needed to know about them for programming. I didn’t find it difficult, especially as it was something I enjoyed and was interested in anyway. Programming and robotics should be taught as a school subject, because it helps you to develop logical thinking skills,” explains Antonio.
“When you’re programming, you can invent whatever you want. In my case, I decided to make video games to help me learn what we were being taught at school, and in a more fun way. All my classmates love it and it’s improved their lives.”
The little boy brushes off comments about how he is a child genius, seeing his astonishing skills as just as hobby he has manage to turn to his friends’ and his own advantage.
“I’ve always been curious about how things are made. I was wondering how video games were made, and we saw there was an event at Valladolid University on programming for beginners, so my sister and I signed up to it,” Antonio said.
The open day and workshop were aimed at children and parents alike, and proved to be the springboard for Antonio’s passion – even though he was only six years old at the time.
And, naturally, programming, robotics and inventing is where his future lies – the youngster has already said he wants to continue with his hobby as a career when he grows up.
Photographs of Antonio at his desk, and programming with his sister, taken by the young robotics whizz-kid’s family
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