Yesterday I had the chance to listen to a talk by Fiorella Operto, Vice President of the School of Robotics in Genoa, which she co-founded in 2000. Robotics, as she said, is somewhat unlike other technologies because (outside of SF) it has not yet confronted a crisis: it hasn’t yet had its own Chernobyl, its Bhopal, its Exxon Valdez, its Hiroshima. And we should try to keep it that way.
How so? one way is to develop the field of roboethics. The other is to demistify robotics by teaching it to young people. Specifically, to young girls. This is the mission of the Roberta project, an initiative started at the Fraunhofer Institut to train teachers in teaching science, technology and IT by having the kids build and program real robots. It is a long-term investment in trying to close the gender gap in scientific education, and Fiorella Operto is spearheading it in Italy.
Operto’s academic path started in philosophy, and she was active in science dissemination before turning to the challenge of robotics. Yesterday, she was chosen as the “Technovisionary 2008” and awarded the “BlackBerry Women and Technology Award” within the Women and Technologies conference. Go Fiorella!