Phil Guido Brings ALJ Students Inspiring Messages (And Dancing Robots)

IBM Robot "Pepper" declares the smartest man at Arthur L. Johnson High School. Credits: Jamie Tracey
ALJ Alumnus Phil Guido returned to Clark on Friday to introduce students to the IBM robot "Pepper" Credits: Jamie Tracey
Phil Guido "then" and "now." Guido is a member of the ALJ Hall of Fame. Credits: Jamie Tracey
Credits: Jamie Tracey
Students asked Pepper questions about the school's history. Credits: Jamie Tracey
Credits: Jamie Tracey
Credits: Jamie Tracey
Credits: Jamie Tracey
Credits: Jamie Tracey
Credits: Jamie Tracey

CLARK, NJ - Last Friday morning, Arthur L. Johnson High School students got a glimpse of the future in the form of two cutting edge IBM robots, Pepper and her “little brother” Nao. Students were wowed by the technology, but IBM’s Phil Guido wasn’t just there to show off Pepper’s dancing skills – he came with a hopeful message for the future.

Phil Guido is an ALJ alumnus and member of the ALJ Hall of Fame. After graduation, Guido traveled the world and finally became the general manager for IBM Global Technology Services for North America. He’s met three presidents, opened the NASDAQ Market Bell, and even met Leonardo DiCaprio.

School Principal Richard Delmonaco wants the school’s current students to know they too can reach their dreams after graduation from ALJ.

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Guido had strong advice for the students. “Be a lifelong learner,” he said. At IBM especially, he knows the world is always changing, and one has to learn and adapt constantly.

“Be bold. Go big,” he encouraged. He referred to IBM and other tech giants like Netflix and Google that started out small, but rose to be household names.

“It’s okay to fail,” Guido said. “You learn from it.” He told the students education is gift, because those that are successful are curious and always learning. Even Pepper is still learning, he said.

Using IBM’s Watson (who famously competed in Jeopardy! in 2011), Pepper can read 800 billion pages a second. She is a sleek white robot with arms that gesture while she talks, and eyes that focus on whoever is speaking to her.

Pepper came on stage to show her skills to much applause and a few “wow”s.

She answered questions from the students about the history of ALJ and who the smartest person in the room was (Principal Delmonaco, of course) and even danced. Nao is a smaller robot, about a foot tall, which showed impeccable balance while it did Tai Chi.

After the assembly students were able to take pictures with Pepper and Nao and ask their handlers more questions.

“I want to be a computer engineer,” Marlone, a freshman, said. “It’s cool learning about the innovation.”

Cari, a senior, agreed. “It was awesome learning how technology is growing,” she said. Cari has an interest in auto visual communications, and might even work at IBM one day.

Guido believes Cari and Marlone or any ALJ student can reach their goals.

“The future is unlimited,” Guido said. “It’s time to write your future. Clark has always been home,” he said. “Life is a journey, but it always brings me back.”

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