Ioannis EmmanouilidisThe Scientist: Class of 2013
Ioannis always tells people that the computer is one of the most brilliant gifts of science and technology. We see them everywhere, he says, from a simple calculator to a very complex system like a robot. When he thinks about the exponential technology advancements accomplished in the last century, he just can't stop wondering about the role of computer technology in the coming decades.
Computers have always fascinated Ioannis. His involvement with them started at the age of 8 when his father brought a desktop computer home in order to continue his work from the office. He never liked playing games. Instead, he intuitively craved knowledge about how these machines worked and what benefits they provided to us. Over the years, he evolved from disassembling, reassembling and repairing computers to creating and solving problems over and over. What started as mere “clicking” has now evolved into programming software, microcontroller circuits and fully functional operating systems.
In addition to studying in the demanding IB Diploma Program at Pinewood, Ioannis is highly active in the field of Information and Communications Technology. He enjoys both short and long term ICT projects. As he says, small projects require little effort and ideally solve everyday difficulties. With today’s re-programmable circuits, he can build fascinating projects, such as a pocket sized motion detector, with very little cost.
One of Ioannis’ long term projects has been his involvement in the field of robotics. He and his 3 teammates, who placed 1st overall in the National Robot Olympiad in Greece, have just returned from the World Robot Olympiad in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where they placed 9th in the world for the creation of a very unique robot.
When we asked Ioannis about his inspiration for creating a robot for autistic children & his team’s subsequent 1st Place win at the National competition in Greece and top 10 worldwide placement, here’s what he shared with ua:
Around the globe, children often use computers from a very young age and it is important in today’s world for children to participate in various well-balanced activities that promote critical thinking. This is achieved through educational programs that have been designed specifically for this purpose. But what happens when a child with a pervasive developmental disorder such as autism interacts with a computer?
Simply stated, the computer, the educational program and the way an autistic child must interact with these systems is far too complicated. Thus, the result is no interaction and extreme nervousness. This was our motivation for creating a type of system that must be very simple to avoid nervousness and one that addresses the restricted and repetitive behavior of children with autism.
The EERI Robot (Educational and Entertainment Robot Interaction) that we built from scratch and based on an NXT-platform interacts with autistic children in an entertaining and engaging way to show them how to behave socially in their environment. Importantly, it also teaches them about the environment itself that surrounds them (i.e. colors, shapes). It was a great success for us to win FIRST PLACE in the National Robotics Competition in Greece, which in turn qualified our team for the World Robot Olympics in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Before we went to Malyasia, we tested our robot at a local school for children with autism in Epanomi and it was notably effective with them, even for a prototype model of this scale. After we tested it, we made the final upgrades before starting our trip to Malaysia.
The experience in Malaysia was unlike all other trips to countries I have visited in Europe and the United States. In fact, I met a totally different culture compared to Western countries. But, in my experience, two characteristics describe the people of Malaysia: kind and dynamic. Greek people have similar personalities and I think this is one reason why I make new friends so easily from many countries in Asia. One of the fundamental characteristics of any Olympiad, whether for sports, robotics, mathematics or any other, is to engage with your teammates in a community of people of different nationalities with the same goals – to compete with your best self and make new friends. In addition to earning NINTH PLACE worldwide in Kuala Lumpur, meeting new people is a gift in itself and also made our trip so special. I think Steve Jobs was right by saying “Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” And this expresses the feelings of my team while we were returning to Greece, exhausted but with smiles in our faces.
In the last 2 years, Ioannis has also focused his attention on a more challenging discipline of IT: Bioinformatics, a cross section of Biology and IT that deals with analyzing biological data, such as DNA sequences. Today, he is working on predicting the structure of proteins that are responsible for causing medical conditions and terminal diseases like cancer. By understanding the protein structure, one understands how this protein “behaves” at the molecular level.
Ioannis plans to study Molecular Biology combined with Bioinformatics at university in the United States. His IB extended essay, an evaluation of genetic and anthropological factors causing spinal disc herniation, is proof of his motivation to study this field. I am confident that his continuous interest and active participation in the fields of ICT, Robotics and Biology will help him build a successful career in Biomedical Research.
We wish you the very best of luck, Ioannis, in your endeavors this important field of study!
Links to articles related to Ioannis’ robotics participation:Enikos.gr Greek National School Network (Sch.gr) Kastoria.gr Official Press Release for World Robot Olympiad Press Release in English