The model for child entrepreneurs has come a long way from the lemonade stand. Technology has lead to online endeavors, and business has moved from the curb to the computer.
Just ask ODA fourth-graders William Lahners, Charlie Kempton and Evan Lagassee. This group of best friends has pooled their creativity to found their own business, called Internet Progress, which builds computers, robots and operating systems and performs minor electronics repairs.
William, the company’s president, says the idea was born out of a shared hobby.
“We bumped into each other, and all three of us liked programming and robotics,” he says. “And we all like inspiring people.”
Two years ago, William was inspired to build a robot of his own, and he and Charlie began working together on the weekends. When the two met Evan, they added him to the team, and the boys discovered they had a well-rounded staff.
Each member brings a certain level of expertise to their specialized role within the company. William is the president and does most of the programming; Charlie is the engineer, who assembles most of the projects; and Evan designs and plans the robots as the architect.
After months of gathering parts and supplies, the three boys began what they consider their best project yet: a remote-controlled robot made from recycled goods, named ROB. E.
The robot, which was inspired by R2D2 and WALL-E, is programmed to drive forward and backward and can be controlled using William’s iPhone.
“My dad was amazed when he saw this thing moving,” says William. “It was amazing for all of us. We brought it to our school assembly, and the other kids were amazed that we could make it.”
The project now sits in the school’s library for other students to admire, and the boys also show off their work on their website, InternetProgress.moonfruit.com, through which they earn money based on page views.
The group is currently planning its next project: a voice-activated robot, which will recognize their voices and respond to commands. The boys hope to someday be a part of something big, much like their role model, Steve Jobs. But, for now, Charlie says the group is happy with the way things are.
“We always wanted to build robots and electronics,” he says. “We’re starting that now. The best part is being able to work with your friends.”