11-year-old robotics prodigy - Mike Wimmer

Listen to this episode on Anchor FM

The guest of this episode is child prodigy, Mike Wimmer. This 12-year-old senior in high school is the CEO and Founder of Reflect Social, a huge robotics fan, and loves technology and artificial intelligence. He is an incredible example of how a number doesn’t limit ability. Listen to learn from this amazing kid!

You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in...

  • Early beginnings in tech [02:22]
  • Advice to young robotics fans [05:33]
  • Mensa’s influence on Mike’s education [09:39]
  • Robotics shaping the future [14:38]
  • Working with the U.S. Special Operations Command [16:41]
  • Mike’s biggest obstacle [22:08]
  • Changes in education [28:07]
  • How to show what you know [33:37]

A young programmer

When Mike was 18 months old, he used a stylus on an iPad to learn letters and geography. From there, he learned how to use the iPad using advanced interfaces and started to wonder what was behind the cursor. When teaching himself computer coding, Mike realized that programming was limitless. He could create a robot and teach it to do anything he wanted.

Mike has always wanted to understand what’s behind how things work. That’s the basis of how he’s learned his whole life. When starting in robotics with Lego Mindstorm when he was 4, he thought the Lego set would be the same as any other one he’d had. Mike was surprised to find it could be programmed like his computer. That’s where he started on the hardware side of programming. After a while, Mike had maxed out on Mindstorm and moved to Robot Infinite, where he learned to combine hardware with software. That’s what drove Mike toward robotics and AI.

Equal playing field

Mike is the first minor ever awarded a position and hired by the United States Special Operations Command. USSOCOM was looking for a subject matter expert in artificial intelligence. Mike’s work had been noticed, and he was chosen to help in think tanks. Walking into a room of military personnel and alpha subject matter experts was quite an experience for him. Mike made it through that difficult time by always following the motto his parents taught him to “show what you know,” which is showing what one can do to gain respect. That’s what he did at these military events, which ended in respect for his knowledge and ideas on an equal playing field to everyone else.

Mike needed a field that would be limitless. Technology would mean he could learn anything, and he wanted to learn at his own pace. He credits his parents with supporting him in whatever he wanted to do. They provided him with exposure to whatever that thing was. Sometimes it was music, and sometimes it was robotics. But, he was drawn to robotics because it had no limits.

The three-letter word

Mike’s most significant obstacle to getting opportunities has been age. There were always people who have had a difficult time accepting that just because he’s young doesn’t mean his abilities are lower than everyone else’s.

Don’t look at someone’s age as a determining factor for their abilities. If people continue to draw conclusions based on age, then the country will lose some of the best and brightest. There could be a kid stuck in a tunnel of limitations with the ability to find a cure for cancer. Age shouldn’t be the determining factor for a person’s abilities. Mike has had to face that sort of barrier many times in his life, not just in school. He’s been excluded from robotics teams because of his age. A helpful thing would be to have tests to place children in the right programs rather than basing their education on the year they were born.

Resources & People Mentioned

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