Home / Ramblings / Making a Difference…

Making a Difference…

It’s not often that I get a shout-out like I did when Eric Smalls mentioned me in his TEDx talk.

How do I know this young man?  It all started back in 2010 when he posted a question on the forums


He never stopped asking questions and I tried to help him as much as I could.  Thanks to his persistence and hard work, he has racked up a very impressive and inspiring list of accomplishments:

  • In 2012, President Barack Obama featured Smalls in a campaign video about the importance of STEM education.
  • Prior to studying at Stanford, Smalls participated in the Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science, a six-week residential program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and was a contributor to Carnegie Mellon University’s Multi-Robot Research Project.
  • He also interned at the University of Pennsylvania’s General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception Laboratory, a robotics lab where he developed computer vision software for autonomous drones.
  • In his first year at Stanford, Smalls founded the Stanford Robotics Club, which has over 100 active members.
  • His current projects include creating a robotics major at Stanford and building Compass, a web application to help students navigate their time at Stanford.

I am very happy to have been a small part of his journey.  So remember, answering a simple question by an unknown new user on that forum that you frequent can make more of a difference than you think.  The only stupid answer is the one you didn’t bother to give.  Share you knowledge and experience; you may inspire great accomplishment in others.

Eric also has a very cool Youtube channel, which features quite a lot of his earlier stuff, like the CMU Multi-Robot project.

STEM education video:


About Xander

Xander Soldaat is a Software Engineer and former Infrastructure Architect. He loves building and programming robots. He recently had the opportunity to turn his robotics hobby into his profession and has started working for Robomatter, the makers of ROBOTC and Robot Virtual Words.