HeroesLab - Computational Thinking for Social Change
Our free app enhances computational thinking in children. Through mentoring & fun challenges in Spanish they learn key skills for the future
Pitch us on your solution
Approximately 61% of the world’s workforce relies on informal employment, 700 million workers live with less than US$3.20 per day.This global situation shows that there are not enough opportunities to get a decent job.For an underdeveloped country like Colombia where 56% of the population neither finishes high school nor has valuable skills for the labor market, it's almost impossible to escape the poverty cycle or have a quality of life.We propose to develop a new generation of children characterized by computational thinking, self-learning ability and passion for knowledge.Our first step is an app: a free, easy to access and fun way of informal learning. We designed challenges in Spanish that enhance computational thinking and strengthen collaborative work between a mentoring network and children. Since Colombia has similar conditions to the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean, our solution can be replicated and generate huge social development in the region
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What is the problem you are solving?
The scale of our prototype is based on 480 families, as the group is composed mainly of vulnerable populations. In Colombia, 73% of the workforce relies on informal employment and 59% of the population does not finish high school. In Latin America and the Caribbean, 50% of the workforce relies on informal employment; in the case of young people, this percentage increases by up to 60% with 20% of non-insertion into the labor market. As a result, more than 140 million people are affected by this situation.
Here are three contributing factors to the problem that relates to our solution: First of all, 78% of the population has a smartphone, it makes our app easy to access, without having to commute or meet a schedule, children can progress during their free time. Our solution is essentially a game, they are not aware that they are gaining computational thinking or scientific skills, they are just playing. Secondly, our app is completely free, money will not be a requirement. Thirdly, we developed an amazing mentoring network that supports each process. Mentors will inspire children to go to the next level, providing clues, solving questions and promoting self-learning and collaborative work.
Who are you serving?
To understand their needs, we carry out a process of continuous mutual learning, in which we know each other and make connections.This process is carried out through meetings whose main objective is to build trust, we also present activities such as dream maps to share what is relevant to each one, and begin collaborative work, committing ourselves to follow up and participate in achieving the dreams of others. We include two more activities:One, to build collective stories in which through imagination we discover the qualities and knowledge of others.Two, design thinking, in which we learn to identify problems and generate solutions.Our community has a strong social fabric, in which, despite not having abundant resources, it enjoys sharing what it has with others. They are very insecure about their knowledge and skills, however, when specific problems arrive they generate very recursive solutions.We identify cultural barriers that we faced through the use of entertainment technologies.Our solution is a free application for them to have access, it is a game to eliminate cultural barriers with a network of tutors to support the difficulties of the process and, it develops computational thinking to give them access to job opportunities for the next technological revolution.
What is your solution?
We propose to develop a new generation of children characterized by computational thinking, self-learning ability and passion for knowledge. Our first step is an app with these characteristics: free, money will not be a barrier; easy to access, we have a mobile application that creates the possibility of learning at any time available; fun, our solution is essentially a game, users are not aware that they are gaining computational thinking or scientific skills, they are just playing; informal, users do not require to follow a restricted schedule or program; easy to use, our app has a friendly design and it is totally available in Spanish. In addition, we find that the role of the mentor is vital to the success of the learning process, not because their role is to transfer knowledge, but because their company and guidance inspire children to go to the next level, provide clues, and promote self-learning and collaborative work.
We use a process of learning based on challenges and games, and we use two technology tools: an app and a smartphone.
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Where our solution team is headquartered or located:Bogota, Colombia
Our solution's stage of development:
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
Our solution meets two characteristics of innovation: first at all, it is a new application of existing technology, with a simple smartphone we remove time and location barriers, children can develop valuable skills and access the opportunity to get a decent job in the upcoming tech industry. Second, we change the process of learning, without having to commute or meet a schedule, children can progress during their free time, not as an obligation but for pleasure and curiosity. We changed presencial teachers for remote mentors who guide more than transfer knowledge.
Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?
We are inspired by Scratch "a free programming language and an online community where you can create your own interactive stories, games and animations". Each day, Scratchers from around the world upload more than 1,500 new projects to the site, with source code freely available for sharing and remixing. While Scratch users or Scratchers program and share interactive projects, they learn important mathematical and computational concepts - as well as how to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively - all essential skills for the 21st century.
Select the key characteristics of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean your solution serves (or will serve).
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?
We are serving a community of 120 families that are located in the same area, even though they are mainly a vulnerable population, we have children from all the socioeconomic levels in this area which give us an idea of what can be an implementation in our city. They are neighbors to our university and also involved in the urban renewal process, which is convenient.
In one year we will cover at least all the neighbors (480 families). Once we get the expected results from our pilot, we can massively replicate. In five years we can replicate around Latin America and the Caribbean serving at least 10% of the children in the region, almost 20 millions.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
Our goals within the next year are:
1. To have 30% of children from our community frequently using the app (for more than two hours per week), and showing improvements in the game's levels.
2. To have a mentor's network of at least 100 trained members who could support the app growth and provide successful mentoring to the Children.
Our goals within the next 5 years are:
1. To have 20 million children in Latin America and the Caribbean frequently using the app (more than two hours per week), and showing improvements in the game's levels.
2. To have 100.000 Colombian children showing signs of computational thinking, self-learning ability and passion for knowledge.
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
The barriers that currently exist for goal accomplishment are:
1. Colombian and Latin America and the Caribbean culture. People do not give value nor enjoy computational thinking behaviors, it is also uncommon to expend energy on things that are not related to work, TV or sports such as football or soccer.
2. Technical limitations for the implementation of challenges or user coverage.
3. Emotional barriers regarding children's motivation for the app.
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
1. We will build a scientific culture, sharing histories of famous and recognized scientists and programmers who changed the world; mentors will work on creating value around the use of time for personal growth.
2. We are learning from international solutions to be prepared for the expansion stage, we also will significantly increase the automatic support mechanism.
3. Mentors will focus on children's inspiration, their key objective is to promote a passion for knowledge. Besides, they will be looking for opportunities to improve the app.
If you selected “I am planning to expand my solution to Latin America/Caribbean,” please provide an overview of your expansion plans. What is the market opportunity for your business or product in Latin America and the Caribbean?
We want to partner with universities in Latin American and the Caribbean to replicate the solution. On the other hand, we are very interested in a partnership with initiatives as Scratch by MIT and Anton from Germany to learn from their experiences and get mentoring.
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How many people work on your solution team?
Our solution team is composed of 2 full-time members, (1 electrical engineer and 1 psychologist), 1 part-time staff that is a system engineer and 5 volunteers, (an environmental scientist, a physicist, a sociologist, a psychologist, and a programmer). We have partnership with the Electrical and Electronic Engineering Department of University of the Andes, and the opportunity to link up students and teachers as volunteers, and mentors.
For how many years have you been working on your solution?
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
Our amazing team is ready for success:
1. All the team members are passionated about changing the world through learning.
2. We have experience implementing social development projects based on engineering and science (2 members has more than 10 years of experience working with recycling workers, and 1 member has international experience in learning projects as les petits débrouillards a french association specialized in scientific vulgarization).
3. We have diversity (scientists, entrepreneurs, persons from humanities, men, women, young and experienced people).
4. We know the community, most of us grew up near to the community, We did our university studies in that neighborhood, and our main focus since the initial stage has been to build trust and understand the community needs.
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
We have a partnership with the Electrical and Electronic Engineering Department of the University of the Andes, they share resources with us (facilities, administrative staff, etc) and participate in the planning and development of the solution. Additionally, we work with the Center for Sustainable Development in Latin America to fully implement our solution in the urban renewal process developed by the university.
What is your business model?
This is our business model:
Key resources: the app, mentor´s network
Value Proposition: to develop a new generation of children characterized by computational thinking, self-learning ability and passion for knowledge.
Segments: Colombian children from 7 to 16 years
Key Activities: enhance computational skills through fun challenges
Value proposition: develops computational thinking to give children access to job opportunities for the next technological revolution
What is your path to financial sustainability?
We will need USD$ 125.000 for the first implementation year, we are building a combination of resources: 20% from donations; 70% from project implementation and international resources and 10% from competitions as Tprize. We have been working with the University if the Andes to be included in the budget for the urban renewal project that they are implementing in the neighborhood
Why are you applying to the TPrize Challenge?
We are applying to Tprize because it allows us to belong to a huge collaboration network, where we will find a lot of experiences to learn from, specialists an innovators for tech, human and social development areas. We will be also visible for key investors, volunteers and partners.
If we win Tprize we will make the first show the idea to the community and the fact that an international institute as MIT will recognized us, as a growth opportunity for them. It will generate an important change of mind in the community and also will give us more visibility with the University of the Andes, our key partner in the initial stage.
What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?
With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?
We want to partner with universities from the Latin American and Caribbean region to replicate the solution. We are also very interested in a partnership with initiatives like Scratch by MIT and Anton from Germany to learn from their experiences and get mentoring.