Making cool robots—and making a difference
Belén Guede has never been one to wait for good things to come to her. On her seventh birthday she hid the dolls she’d received and went after her twin brother’s new remote-controlled car. She told her confused family, “Barbies don’t do anything!” Now that she’s a little older, she channels that single-minded drive toward making other things that go—as well as powering up opportunities for young people in her community.
“You may think that you have to grow [up] to make something or go to university to start making a change in the world. But you’ve gotta start in your community or with your friends to make this world a better one.” That initial interest in a toy has translated into a passion for robotics. This Chilean engineering student first learned to create, not just use, technology in a tech camp called Chile Va!. But when Belén wanted to continue creating with tech, she found the opportunities back at home were almost nonexistent. So she created some.
Belén helped local schools organize “Hour of Code” events where students tried computer science for the first time using Code.org Spanish language tutorials. But while the students loved it, her heart belonged to robotics. Belén started a robotics club in a neighborhood library, seeking equipment donations from local technology companies. She then taught children everything she could about hardware, programming and the exhilaration of watching a machine you made go. Soon enough, children from her community were piecing together metal parts, writing basic code to instruct their robots and solving the problems they encountered just like their mentor, Belén, has always done.
Changing the world one community at a time
Belén is determined to help others now—not later—even if it means starting a project from scratch. “You may think that you have to grow [up] to make something or go to university to start making a change in the world,” she says. “But you’ve gotta start in your community or with your friends to make this world a better one.”
The teen dynamo has also taken her passion for building and powering robots on the road. She has competed internationally through FIRST Robotics competitions, traveling with teams from Chile to demonstrate how their creations can navigate obstacles and follow directions. Now she’s helping others reach for that same dream. She is a mentor for not one but two robotics teams, including one from a low-income public school. All that effort doesn’t only make cool stuff like robots; it also makes a difference. And she says that everyone has that power—which is one more reason why she is helping create the next generation of thinkers, creators and doers.