Computer whizz kid is set to make some ‘net gains’

Robin Donaldson has invented new computer software that marks students essays.

Robin Donaldson has invented new computer software that marks students essays.

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A computer genius who worked for an American

internet company as a teenager has invented new software which marks students essays.

The Milngavie and Bearsden Herald featured Robin Donaldson from Bearsden when he signed a contract with New York based company Blah Blah aged just 15 years old.

They had spotted a website that he’d set up for computer game lovers which had been accessed by over 6,000 people and wanted him to come and work for them.

Robin (31) struggled with dyslexia as a child and became fascinated with computers.

He found it so hard to write his essays at primary school that he was given his own laptop computer as a learning aid.

However, he flourished at Boclair Academy in Bearsden, and went on to study for a degree in software engineering at Glasgow University and a Master’s at Cambridge.

Then he was a research officer at Stanford University, the elite US college and birthplace of Google, and chief technical officer for a US firm.

Robin, who now lives in Berkeley, California, bought himself a book on programming with his pocket money aged 12 and taught himself the basics of programming.

It’s something that he finds quite visual and he thinks that’s why he’s better than average at it.

His friend Jamey from Glasgow University became an English professor and they thought they should put their skills together.

They came up with the idea of trying to create a programme that could grade any student essay.

Robin said: “I wasn’t sure it was possible - but we decided to give it a try.

“Eventually we met up in Las Vegas in 2014 and spent four days in a hotel going through dozens of student essays.

“Jamey told me how he’d grade them - and I thiught about how I could turn that into software.

“We worked seven days a week and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding.

“I’m a bit of a geek but this is about trying to provide better education opportunities and trying to reach all corners of the world.

“It’s as applicable for people learing English in Asia as it is for high school or university students in the UK or America. It’s about using technology to help people learn.

“We don’t change the essay and it’s not an auto-correct. The software just gives observations on aspects of the essay.

“It’s the equivalent of going up from a B to an A.”

The software has been deemed good enough for Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The invention - named Ecree.com - has already proved to be very popular.