This is how Terysa Ridgeway is using toy robots to develop the critical thinking of young minds

BY Preta Peace Namasaba July 1, 2024 3:00 PM EDT
Terysa Ridgeway. Photo Credit: YouTube

Terysa Ridgeway is the Technical Program Manager, Mergers and Acquisitions at Google and the author of the popular Terysa Solves It book series. Recently, she launched Alilo the Explorer, a toy robot that teaches children to code. By incorporating learning into play, Ridgeway is developing critical thinking in young minds.

From an early age, Ridgeway was fascinated by the progress of technology. The daughter of teachers, her imagination and curiosity were supported. When she was seven years old, her mother brought home an Apple computer during summer break. Through her interactions with the computer, Ridgeway developed problem-solving skills and acquired an infinite passion for computers and science.

Growing up in a small town of only 2500 people, Rigeway’s career aspirations were limited. Excellent at Math and Science, she knew she would become a teacher. On account of her math curriculum including a computer science course, Ridgeway realised she could have a career in computer science. She changed her major, a preface to her future.

“Introducing technology to kids, you see the fear in their eyes. You see the shyness in their eyes, but then you see the excitement grow. It’s like watching a butterfly being born,” Ridgeway said.

In college, she joined Raytheon Missile Systems as a Software Engineering intern. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College in Baton Rouge, she was hired full-time. While at Raytheon, she discovered her passion for Program Management. Ridgeway went on to work at the company for 11 years, transitioning into a hybrid Program Management and Software Engineering role.

Ridgeway then worked as a Financial Applications Supervisor and later Financial Applications IT Manager at Lafayette General. In 2020, she joined Google as a Technical Program Manager, Partner Onboarding. She continues to work at Google and currently works as a Technical Program Manager, Mergers and Acquisitions. Here, she supervises strategic project roll-outs, develops long-term strategies, and leads large portfolios of projects from end to end.

Inspired by seeing bright minds at work, tales from her children’s incredible imagination, and her own vivid dreams, Ridgway became an author. In 2021, she created Terysa Solves It, a book series aimed at introducing young girls to STEM. The series evolved around her adventures as a curious eight-year-old girl who delighted in solving technical problems with her computer. To enable girls to advance in STEM, the book comes with a color book and an interactive digital e-book.

Delighted by her book series, parents directly requested an interactive and educational tool from Ridgeway to boost the impact of storytime for kids. Consequently, Ridgeway has partnered with Alilo to design Alilo the Explorer, a toy robot that teaches children as young as three to code. In collaboration with the leading edutainment toy company, she has created a learning tool that uses both entertainment and technology to advance the young mind’s creativity and imagination.

The robot employs puzzle pieces infused with infrared sensors that when connected, issue commands to the toy. For older children, the program uses block-based programming which erases the challenging syntax in coding. This way, they can program the robot to sing songs, move in different directions, and do other activities. Its plugged and unplugged activities enable children to interact with technology at a tender age, thereby developing critical thinking and algorithmic programming skills.

“Teaching children to code is like giving them a superpower: It unlocks endless possibilities and creativity. With the release of ‘Terysa Solves It presents Alilo the Explorer,’ I hope to further inspire a new generation of coders and show them just how exciting and fun the world of programming can be,” she explained.

Alilo the Explorer is now available through an exclusive mobile app on Android devices. Ridgeway plans on making it accessible via Apple devices and Google Play in the future. The perfect combination of entertainment and education, Ridgeway is including young minds in technology.