The skills taught in the traditional learning system are unfortunately not enough to help individuals with cognitive disability gain independence. This is a problem that millions of families agonize over, and most of them are forced to cut down or quit work to ensure their loved ones gain the skills that they need. These cutbacks cost families an average of 20 thousand dollars in lost wages and therapy fees. The problem lies on the lack of affordable, effective, and easy to access educational resources.
KibiTech co-founders, Karina Gonzales Ramos and Pablo Amaya experienced this problem first hand. Pablo is from El Salvador and his sister has Down Syndrome, while Karina is from Peru and for years was a caregiver for her cousin with Down Syndrome. Meeting up at the Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology (MBET) program, they both decided to tackle this problem by creating a unique learning experience called Elevate.
Elevate is a game-based learning platform that is looking to help individuals with cognitive disabilities to become active members of society. Elevate’s core embraces interactive engaging games where individuals can simulate daily life experiences, such as taking the bus, going to the bank or going to the grocery store. Therefore, learning how to perform these activities and become more independent. In addition, the system will track the progress of each individual and tailor the education to each individual, while providing valuable insight to parents and caregivers.
However, before the creation of Elevate, we first had to understand and validate the problem. The MBET program provided us with the necessary framework, skills, and tools to fully understand the problem and validate it. MBET was a huge enabler to our business, not only for the academic resources but also because the Conrad School opened opportunities and doors to create new partnerships such as the one with the Waterloo Down Syndrome society.
- Karina Gonzales Ramos, Co-founder of KibiTech
With the skills gained through MBET, Karina and Pablo were able to get in contact with approximately 80 families in the area. Through those interviews, they were able to confirm that current solutions, such as therapy specialist, occupational therapist and mainstream software, are simply costly, time-consuming, and not engaging, which in result makes them being simply ineffective. Elevate tackles all of these problems through the use of technology and games, creating an affordable, easy to access and engaging platform. Now kids can get all the training they need from the comfort of their home while playing the games that they truly love.
Since the inception of the idea in December 2017, the team has been able to make important partnerships. By February 2018, the team won the Big Idea Challenge competition, and later joined the social incubator, St. Paul's Greenhouse. In May 2018, the team was able to hire two co-op engineers through the BETS program at the Conrad School of Entrepreneurship and Business. With the help of these engineers, the team has been able to design and create a low fidelity prototype of the game. Furthermore, the team was able to partner with an organization of volunteer engineers called Blueprint, who focused on completing the development of the full prototype and has begun testing with families in the area.
The MBET program provided Pablo and Karina with the network, the skills, and the tools necessary to conceive Elevate. With the help of mentors and volunteers, the team has been able to secure funding and complete the first prototype of the platform.
Karina and Pablo continue to work hard on Elevate and hope that one day they will be able to live in a more inclusive world by helping individuals with cognitive disabilities to achieve their full potential. Their vision is to build an inclusive society where all our members have access to equal learning and job opportunities.