Skip to main content
Celebration of Service

IBM volunteer helps young students program robots for a "Mission to Mars"

Francesco Davidde began volunteering five years ago because of his daughters

Francesco Davidde, a manager at IBM’s Tivoli development laboratory in Italy, believed his two daughters were capable of much more than a typical elementary school science education. So he set about introducing them to his own passion, computer programming.

After his daughters' delighted response, he offered to share the same information with his daughters' classmates at Lola di Stefano Elementary School in Rome, Italy. Five years later, Davidde is still offering daily tutorials to more than half the students in the school, on some decidedly atypical subjects like object-oriented programming language and programming a robot as part of a "Mission to Mars."

Davidde now devotes at least an hour at the beginning of every school day, motivating students to use their imaginations and growing computer skills to prepare for life beyond elementary school. To make this possible, the school received powerful personal computers provided through IBM Community Grants—a program that provides IBM employees and retirees with technology grants or cash awards for the organization where they regularly volunteer.

In addition to working with 240 of the school's 400 students, Davidde finds time each school year for three sessions with parents on Internet safety, using IBM’s On Demand Community's Internet Safety for Kids solution. "I show the parents the whole plan of what we'll be doing with their children, so they realize the goals we want to achieve," he says. The On Demand Community is IBM’s strategic global online community that combines the skills of over 160,000 IBM employee and retiree volunteers with the power of access to innovative new IBM technology, resources, training, and support.

Davidde typically starts working with students in their third year, beginning with a computer programming class that continues through their fifth and final year in school. "I teach them the basics, and keep going," he says. In addition, he works with teachers, introducing them to the Science Experiments available in the IBM TryScience experiment toolkit and increasing their overall comfort level with computing. "Our teachers have also improved their own understanding of computer science, so they're able to properly challenge their students."

Aided by IBM's donation of two personal computers for each year of his volunteerism, Davidde has helped equip Lola di Stefano School with a computing capability that he proudly feels "is driving huge, bold changes in the education provided to its students."

"Some people don't believe teaching such technical concepts can be done at elementary school," Davidde says. "But I teach children how to think, the kind of thing that will be useful when they go to university. I teach problem-solving techniques so they can understand a problem, analyze data and represent the problem in an easier way. So they learn to focus on the process to get to a solution more than on the solution itself."

"Teaching children is like working in your garden," he says. "If you work with passion, your flowers come up. Just as every flower is different, every child is different. But they can all do really well. They will learn, and you will get to see the results. It is very interesting and satisfying."

IBM is marking its centennial year with a worldwide celebration of volunteer service. Throughout 2011, IBM invites everyone to join our global community of employees, retirees, families and friends as we support the communities where we work, live and learn together.