What's common between Sputnik and robots?

Do you remember that story about Sputnik - first human-made satellite launched by USSR? Along with cold war-related fears, it inspired thousands of people in the United States, adults, teenagers, and children to dream about space exploration, to study science and technology, to experiment with home-made rockets, to make things.
Then, of course, personal computers became the focal point of makers community. People played with circuit boards, with operating systems, with programming languages. This gave birth to new hacker movement, where people tinkered with software to make it do what the wanted it to do. Internet added some fuel to this situation by allowing people share ideas, information and technologies much-much faster than before. Internet propelled new industries into existence: online gaming, online shopping, online banking, online everything became commonplace. Thousands of adults, teenagers and children became inspired to study computer science and technology, experiment with their home computers, tinker with code, create programs, games, web sites. Of course at the same time millions became addicted to online and console games, and parents and educators became concerned by how such addiction sucked life, health, and energy out of young people. Many game addicts replaced real-world activities, learning and values with pseudo possessions, pseudo skills and pseudo friends accumulated by them in virtual worlds of online games.
And then, something different happened. Robots. It did not enter our lives abruptly like Sputnik, no. Instead, technological advances in microchips gradually made building robots an affordable activity. Building robots became no longer the privilege of high-tech companies. More and more people started discovering that building a robot in your garage and even at your desk has suddenly become a reality. And one no longer needs to be a top electronics guru to do it even though certain level of technical literacy is of course required. Eventually, educators took notice, in colleges and in schools. Nowadays, school kids participate in robotics summer camps and nation-wide competitions on a regular basis. Kids got excited about building. Local Makerspace organizations where people meet to learn, collaborate, share knowledge, tools and skills and build things popped up everywhere. Robotics movement became as wide-spread as rocket-building euphoria triggered by Sputnik launch. For some kids, online gaming addiction is replaced by pure passion for building and programming robots.
Here in Williamsburg, VA we are not immune to that. A number of local volunteers joined forces with Williamsburg electronics store called "GizMoes" and started meeting at the store weekly, on Saturdays, to teach all kids who are interested the soldering and programming skills. The goal is to give Williamsburg kids, teens and adults, ages K-12 and older, opportunity to find out how much fun robot-building can be. The hope is that some of the kids who give it a try will make a beautiful discovery that will influence their whole lives and careers. I believe that MinuteMen Makers - that's how these volunteers call themselves - is becoming an important part of Williamsburg community. They donate their time and skills (and GizMoes donates space, equipment and expertise) to inspire local kids, to give them skills and passion that they can take with them all the way to college and beyond!

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