The story of the 160 tablets reaching the 160 children in our Future Acceleration Program, or how we understand to act towards ensuring equal access to online education during the pandemic

It’s official, the leaves are golden and there is a distinct aroma of autumn in the wind. Of course, it’s all made complete by the laughter, giggles and fun of the first weeks of school. Youth are reconnected and their stories of summer adventures just pour out in clouds of giddy enthusiasm.

Even though the state of things is far from normal, given the threat of pandemic disease lurking in the shadows, school bells still joyfully reunite friends and open doors to knowledge and learning. The general context pushes for a fast-forwarded digital transformation and this does not leave schools out.

The digital journey begins

Our journey begins with an idea, the one to provide kids in vulnerable communities with access to the digital world and all it entails. Our focus is education and alternative education, with a digital twist, of course. This is the tale of the journey of our 160 tablets set to assist the 160 kids in the Future Acceleration Program. To anthropomorphize, for the sake of the story, we’ll pick one of these devices and call it… Alfie.

Alfie and his brethren reached their first stop on a hot summer evening and were greeted by the helpful UiPath IT department. These guys gracefully put in a lot of work hours, somewhere in the span of 65, both evenings and weekends (those guys are awesome) to get Alfie and his buddies up and rolling.

The configuration process, though long and tedious, was a complete success – Alfie learned how to keep his kid safe from the ugly underbelly of the internet by getting safety apps (like vaccines for tabs) and a few nifty locks. He also got a brand new SIM card – with internet access, so that he can take his kid surfing safely in the journey to knowledge at any given time.

Back in the box, Alfie had all the first day of school jitters. Will he live up to the task? Will it be too much for him? Will he get along with his kid? What if he freezes? That would be so embarrassing.

The big day finally upon him, Alfie (and co.) was delivered to his new partner in thought. Kids from all parts of Romania taking part in the Future Acceleration Program, be them in Bucharest or Cluj, Vaslui, Galați or Botoșani counties and irrelevant to their school’s teaching scenario, received tablets to help out with their studies and allow them to participate in the Virtual Kids Camp.

The meeting

Alfie set quietly in his box as the UiPath Foundation team and local coordinators explained how everything works. It was time!  If his buttons could have shacked, they would have as his camera met the big round eyes full of hope and wonder. He was instantly enthralled and started mesmerized in the getting to know each other process. He was excited every time his kid intuitively found the right path within the interface but he was also proud when it took a while to get there and his user learned diligently how to get the sought-after response.

What followed for Alfie was a journey of discovery and symbioses. They were very much in tune with each other and soon after their first meeting, they seemed to speak the same language. Anything the kid wanted to learn, Alfie would display. In their spare time they played games and every now and again Alfie would have to shake his safety features in dismissal of a more naughty inquiry.

Alfie went back to the wizard (to be read – IT specialist), by way of the internet,  in order to get some extra boons and new app related skills in the more formal educational realm. School is tough but with Alfie’s new classroom savvy, the kid can now handle learning in any schooling scenario, either in the classroom or at home.

On to school we go

As school started, Alfie was happy to welcome more friends from his parts. The kid received a cool kit that contained a new place for Alfie to hang (a backpack), some eager to learn buddies (school supplies), swag for the new year for his BFF (clothes and shoes for the kid), and of course, super important, safety and hygiene items to stop the spread of joyless COVID-19.

Their days easily fell into a pattern of play and fun alternated with school and study (which was sometimes fun – at least for Alfie who got a kick out of his friend’s progress). Alfie loved to facilitate learning, it is how he was configured, he guessed. So when the time came for digital Romanian and math tutoring sessions on Zoom or Google Classroom, Alfie was over the moon to be able to help the kid catch up on lessons and lost learning.

But his absolute favorite was yet to come, his buttons were tingling in expectation of the English sessions with the British Council people, he thinks his OS might have been in English in another life.

Though their relationship was tight, sometimes Alfie either felt that he was pulling the kid from non-digital playtime, or felt depleted of energy as the kid sometimes forgot to plug him in. It was not all roses and sunshine but they did make it work. Their temperaments sometimes clashed, Alfie sometimes froze from discontent but he always tried to provide a good learning experience and do his part in the evolution of the one he cherished more than any.

Do tablets dream of a better world?

At night, when he was plugged and happy and the kid was safely tucked in, Alfie liked to look in on news from home – from UiPath Foundation. Thus he learned about teachers, about the partnership with Teach For Romania and the 10 teachers that work with about 800 kids. He went on to read about the 450 scholarships granted to teachers in the UiPath Foundation partner network so that they can learn digital competencies (a course developed and implemented by Digital Nation). Alfie was super excited to know this stuff as his kid might benefit from it all and it might shape an exciting future for all his fellow Alfies with their own wards.

Alfie rejoiced in the fact that his community of devices only grew stronger by the day as UiPath Foundation kept making good on its commitment to support schools in vulnerable communities. 55 reconditioned laptops and PCs made their way to schools in the program after being donated by UiPath employees and helped along by the company’s IT department and the nice people from AFF (Ateliere Fara Frontiere).

A walk down memory lane

Alfie and the kid loved looking back to the summer of going digital. They rejoiced in the memories of the Virtual Kids Camp (from 7th to 11th September) that gave them both the drive to connect and learn, and was, as storytellers might put it, the inciting incident of their friendship (as it was the first organized activity that had together).

It was during this time that they grew closer while they learned how to edit photos and make them pop, they discovered a new way to communicate as the kid was introduced to Scratch Junior – a process that was introspective and philosophically challenging for Alfie, but he did wish that they could connect on a higher code plane.

Alfie rejoiced in taking pictures of the kid’s projects in the Virtual Kid’s Camp: there is one of the kid drawing something cool, here’s one while building up a model house, like a young architect (with materials delivered by the UiPath Foundation at their doorstep), and here they just learned that they won a competition. Such good times!

Alfie was thrilled with the kid’s interest in RPA and the realm of possibility laying at one’s fingertips, an interest sparked by the summer RPA workshop (there were 7 instances of this event, for all the kids) provided by UiPath volunteers. They don’t know if they will keep up with it but it is good knowledge to have and an interesting subject to investigate.

The road is long and full of perils but having a strong ally is a key point on the road to victory. Alfie knows this and plays his part, opening up the digital world, making things as functional as possible, and providing support whenever needed so that the kid can journey safely to a self-build digital-based future.