On parenting

Whilst I consider myself a relatively good Mother (I have moments), and generally dont doubt my decisions relating to the welfare of my kids and, feel really blessed by having two really great sons, who do well and mean well in everything they do, but then, I really, REALLY feel rather let-down when I read something like this.

CT whizzkid in race for top award May 30 2011 at 12:47pm By WENDYL MARTIN

It was the perfect present for Tamboerskloof, Cape Town, wunderkid Luke Taylor when, on his 15th birthday, he found out he had been named a finalist in the Google Science Fair.

“It was great. I was sitting in my bedroom, refreshing the Google blog, when my name popped up. I flipped out, fell back on my chair and then ran around the house,” Luke told Weekend Argus about the news he received on Monday.

He will join a select group of 15 young scientists, wittled down from 7 500 original entries and then 60 semi-finalists, at Google’s California headquarters for the final round of judging on July 11.

His entry is a computer programme which enables a robot to understand instructions given in English.

The robot is able to follow instructions from commands like “drive forward” and “reverse” .

“I hope it can be used for bed-ridden patients and follow instructions like ‘Robot, go fetch a cup of juice,’” said the Grade 9 pupil from the German International School.

Luke will compete against four other young scientists in the age 13-14 category, all from America.

If he wins his category, he will scoop prizes including a $25 000 scholarship for further education and a personalised Lego colour mosaic set. He will also be the second or third choice for an internship at one of the competition’s participating organisations, including Scientific American magazine and Cern (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research).

If he wins the overall competition, he will win prizes including a $50 000 scholarship and be the first choice for an internship.

“I really want the internship at Google. It’s very difficult to get in there,” said Luke.

Meanwhile, he is working on improving his design.

“I am feeling the pressure, of course, but I’m doing my best and trying to keep it cool. I am allowed to modify the project and am working on voice recognition.

“I have been working on this since the beginning of the year, spending hours typing out lots of algorithms and testing it. But it’s worked, and made me happy.”

Luke is not only interested robotics, though. As a watersports enthusiast who likes to bodyboard, surf and swim competitively, he hopes to extend his stay in California, saying: “I want to see Mavericks Beach, its a great wave spot.” - Weekend Argus


Well done to this young man, and I wish him all the best in his endeavours. He will be watched I’m sure.

You lost me there Faerie: Why do you feel let down?

:smiley: Not really, its parental envy! My kids are great, and I certainly dont feel let down at all, its once one starts COMPARING that you (as a parent) wonder whether you really did everything you could to stimulate your children and encourage them to greater heights. My youngest is the same age but this kid obviously has found his focus and talent quite early and he’s going to do well for himself in due course, and in all honesty, I wish him well.

We all suffer from parental envy at some point or another regardless of the love and pride you have for your kids, you see it daily around the sports grounds of schools and on honours evenings at year end. Its a social problem especially in the more status concious environments.

Don’t stress Faerie - that whizzkid probably doesn’t clean up his room, or hang the towel on the towel rack, or do the dishes after supper, or take out the dustbin, or walk the dog, etc. like your or my kids do. Jokes aside, and no offense to programmers, if you can code like that at the age of 15 maybe you are not getting out the house much! :slight_smile:

Agree with Wandapec. Some wise guy (Noel Coward?) once said “comparisons are odious”. Good Luck to Luke Taylor but don’t doubt yourself or your kids…(we all do at some time I guess); look at some kids that don’t have it so good (orphanages for example) and feel ‘blessed’ by the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

you’ve given your kids a helluva head-start by not pushing jebus down their throats. so kudos to you. i think there may be a thin line between pushing your kids to greatness, and pushing them away. thus hordes of resentfull adults that will never touch a piano/clarinet/tennis raquet ever again. if kids are interrested in some thing, then the best you can do is show your support as far as you are able. if you cant afford a R10 000 trip to some camp or overseas trip for them, then such is life, they must understand.
it’s cool if a parent shows interrest in their kid’s hobbies, but to push them into what they believe the kid should be doing, is just wrong. you may see potential in the kid that they dont, but it doesnt mean that kid wants to be an olypmic runner, he would rather be grounbreaking programmer instead. so if your kid wants to be a pale geek, as opposed to a sunburnt stud, then it’s completely their decision.

And you’ve got parent envy…! (wtf!!) :slight_smile:

We like talking about stuff a lot??? :smiley: I do have a good relationship with my lads, and we really do talk about a LOT of stuff.

I do have a good relationship with my lads, and we really do talk about a LOT of stuff.
Wow that's great....one day they'll think back to those special times with you!

No offense taken. But I would like to comment…

I wouldn’t claim to have coded something like this when I was 15, but I could code up a storm for sure. AFAIK there are still small apps I wrote in HS in use today in a business or two… The problem is the QUALITY of the code you produce at that age isn’t the best. There’s something to be said for understanding the theory properly, understanding software design, and having industry experience… Sure a kid could build a go-cart, perhaps with a working engine, at a stretch all by himself. Your average adult can tell the Go-cart is functional, but not the best, but they have no idea by looking at a piece of software… So the kid’s ability gets blown out of proportion (I’m including myself)… Would it pass an industry standard barrage of QA tests? Would the engineering be sound? Would it fall apart after 5 weeks?

Software is similar. I also had a big head as a kid about being a good programmer at an early age, and to this day I can say I “impressed” myself doing certain things at that age. BUT, if I go back and look at the QUALITY of the code I was churning out, I would say they were nice one-off experiments and loosely slapped together functionality that worked just right when the moon was at a certain angle and you burnt the requisite number of black candles. To translate that into “engineering” takes years more of effort, study, wisdom, understanding people and requirements, and understanding the need for proper procedure. Things a kid generally will just scoff at as “old timers being too serious/boring”.

That being said, starting at an early age like that does give you a significant boost in later years when your peers are scrambling about trying to understand the basics and you can focus on the higher level aspects. Generally, in the programming circles I move, If you ask a young-ish programmer (esp varsity grad) “How much did you program before your 18th birthday”, and they say “nothing” or “just in CS class”, you can already tell this person probably hasn’t gained a good understanding yet, or doesn’t care enough to acquire it. Becoming a programmer is not a “decision” you arrive at after graduating high-school. You have that innate fascination, or you do not. (Feel free to slam me, my industry experience bears it out time after time). Interest as a child in the field, and exploring it yourself with NO other motive than brute interest, does a lot to breed a great programmer later in life. As this guy will be if he can keep his head out of the clouds. - A programmer who thinks he knows it all as a 15yo will have his little brain smashed to bits in a business environment.

As to us “not getting out enough”, it’s one of those things that seems to be an American stereotype that doesn’t hold true so much in SA. We have sunny weather and this kid does list surfing as one of his hobbies. Me, I played sports every day of the week as a kid, and when I got time later in the evening I’d play with the PC. It’s a balance thing we tend to get right and generally “geeky” SA guys aren’t as sedate or anti-social as you’d expect.

@BoogieMonster - My S/O (also a programmer and very “into” it from a young age), basically said the same thing last night, and was wholly unimpressed with this achievement. Which just go to show, anything can appear impressive if you’re ignorant of the workings thereof.

It’s almost an instance of Clarke’s third law.

If this young man worked out a novel signal processing technique that enables better speech recognition and then programmed it then that would be a remarkable and noteworthy accomplishment. This would require a deep understanding of several areas of mathematics and physics (and possibly engineering too) that it would be astonishing to find a 15 year old having mastered. It seems more likely that he cobbled together bits of off-the-shelf code using a rapid application development (RAD) suite and eventually hit on a configuration that works for his case. AFAIK, speech recognition is still at the point where one must first “train” the software to recognise a limited set of commands for specific users, and complex grammatical constructs are still beyond its capabilities.

As for programming, the (almost) lost art of Assembler is frowned upon as no longer relevant from many quarters. This, I think, is debatable. When writing fast, robust, numerically intensive solution engines for scientific or engineering applications, one can of course do this in a high-level language but the programmer has a significant advantage if s/he knows what the compiled code looks like at the CPU’s level. Compilers often blindly add bits of library code that the programmer may not even be aware of and that are unnecessary for the code in question. Also, CPU-specific optimisations, like effective multi-pipelining of concurrent instruction streams or instruction set extensions, are often lacking even from the best compilers. It comes down to an understanding of what the code does at the CPU level, which understanding can help in eliminating a host of problems and inefficiencies before they occur.


Split to http://forum.skeptic.za.org/off-topic/on-programming/

It took five years since I started this thread, but all the mommy-guilt and parental envy I have experienced whilst my kids were growing up melted away with a single phone call from my now 24 year old eldest son…

“Ma, I called to say thank you.
Thank you for listening to me, thank you for being there for me. Thank you for helping and advising and telling me what to do and what to say when I dont know how or what. I wouldnt have been able to do anything without you.”

All I did to bring this on was to advise him yesterday morning to call the bank as money was being deducted from his account, it turned out to be a case of card skimming and it was managed accordingly and his money is being refunded.

I did pretty much ok as a single atheist mom trying her best. My boys turned out spectacular.

You should have told him “It was all just through the grace of God,” and then sat back and watched his jaw drop. :slight_smile:

It is a sweet day when kids first show signs of appreciating their parents. Many never do.