I would eventually go on to combine my mom’s love of teaching with my dad’s passion for hands-on tinkering in my life’s work. I started Hackidemia, a non-profit STEM education organization, in 2012. I’d earned my first master’s degree in Media Engineering for Education and worked for Google’s Search Quality Team in Dublin for a year, before deciding I wanted to further pursue my passion for education and have a more immediate impact. I left Google and went to Cambodia to volunteer in an orphanage outside the capital of Phnom-Penh for four months. Here, I worked with kids of all ages, teaching them everything I could: math, English, literature, how to use computers and the Internet, photography, fixing things. The older children would then pass on their knowledge by teaching the younger children.
It was during this experience that I discovered how powerful it is to enable children to learn by teaching and to work on hands-on projects that are relevant in their local communities. After joining CRI, an interdisciplinary life-science research group at Paris Descartes University, I decided to start running similar workshops in French schools. While I was in the process of applying for a PhD at CRI, one of my friends told me about a summer program for social impact at NASA, called Singularity University (SU). At SU, I also met one of the people who inspired me the most in pursuing my dreams, roboticist and former astronaut Dan Barry. Dan tried to become an astronaut 10 times before he finally succeeded. When I met him, he was in charge of the hardware lab at SU and was still as joyful and as excited as child every time he got the opportunity to hack on hardware. Dan encouraged me to start running hardware prototyping workshops, and taught me how to solder and program microcontrollers for the first time. At the end of the program, I remember I got offered a very tempting job, which I ended up refusing in order to build my own organization. I still remember Dan’s advice: “Think where you want to be 10 years from now and make sure you dedicate every single day, every single minute to get there and not get distracted along the way.”