Category: Education, Assistive Technology,
Organization name: Zyrobotics, LLC
Launched Date: 2015-10-01
Who has created it: Johnetta MacCalla
Problem statement and how the Accessible Innovation solves the problem.
Recently many schools, both domestically and internationally, have begun to utilize tablet devices in the classroom environment. Educational studies have shown that tablets can provide an interactive experience that has revolutionized learning for children. Unfortunately, while these tablet devices are intuitive to utilize and easy for many children, those students with motor disabilities tend to have difficulties due to the fine motor skills required for interaction. As such, as tablet devices are increasingly being integrated into the classroom environment, there is a measurable demographic of children that are not being given equal access.
In addition, current trends in special education law has moved away from segregating students with special needs. Instead, there is a movement toward educating special needs students and typical students together. Today, the best practices involve the inclusion of special needs students with typically developing peers to the maximum extent possible. In the area of math and science (i.e. STEM) education, the current approach for mainstreamed students with motor disabilities is the utilization of a buddy system whereby a typical child is used to provide manipulative control and physical aid to the motor impaired. For a child with severe disabilities, who is not mainstreamed, the focus relies heavily on a functional life skills curriculum rather than a pure educational curriculum, where current teaching processes emphasize the importance of massive practice of functional tasks in various contexts while providing sufficient performance feedback.
In either case, the primary goal of STEM learning is not being met for children with motor disabilities. Instead, children, even those with high cognitive abilities, are cast as spectators instead of being given appropriate access as participants equal to typical children. Some children can learn STEM in this non-interactive way, but most cannot. In fact, in the K-12 space, approximately 13% of school-aged children have a reported disability and yet these students took fewer science and mathematics courses than those without disabilities, generally due to the unavailability of information in accessible formats.
To deal with this need, we have developed a solution for inclusive STEM education of children with disabilities that combines accessible manipulatives with visual aids in the classroom environment. By developing an accessible solution to enable access to mainstream STEM curriculum Apps through physical manipulatives, we engage children with disabilities fully into the educational system, thus increasing their opportunities for future success. We call this solution the Zumo Learning System.
Tell us who is the target audience and how the accessible innovation will benefit them. Please specify the different target audiences groups and provide numbers and statistics of your current clients as well as what is the potential number of people that the innovation can impact and empower:
Our market derives from the requirements that, in the US, all states must provide appropriate education to all students, including those with special needs. In the US, there are 6.4 million children with special needs, 13% of all public school students. In 2015, the $12.6 billion federal request for special education represents 18% of the total education budget. Of this, $800 million was spent on assistive technology devices, which is growing at a rate of 20% per year.
Our customers include students with a motor disability (user of the product), the parent (who might purchase the product), and the special-education teacher/school occupational therapist (who recommends purchase of the product). Additional customers, with respect to the public funding route, include assistive technology purchasers/influencers for the school district and OEM distributors of assistive technology products. We have sold our previous assistive technology products to each of these segments, specifically:
- Special Education Teachers/School Districts: Gwinnett County School District
- Occupational Therapists: Rehab Institute of Chicago, Anne Carlsen Center of North Carolina
- Parents: Apple iTunes Store, Google Play Store
- OEM distributors: Tobii/Dynavox
How is the accessible innovative solution different from current practices or ways of solving the problem?
The Zumo Learning System combines adaptive learning with an accessible interface focused on STEM education for children with motor impairments. Our system uses unique patented technology and a multimodal learning approach to address the needs of children with differing abilities. Our competitors have e-learning systems or assistive technologies, but do not provide accessible education through pervasive technologies for children with motor disabilities.
How is the accessible innovative solution new, different or unique in terms of the technology or implementation?
The Zumo Learning System consists of adaptable STEM apps plus a unique physical manipulative with embedded sensors. We provide multimodal learning (tactile, auditory, visual) and an initial set of math apps developed for K through 3rd grade. We couple this with cloud-based learning analytics and reporting to provide a personalized, interactive portal to customize engagement. Our unique competitive advantage includes patent-pending technology; extensive background in education, games, machine learning, and assistive technology; and a highly experienced team in research and development, hardware, and software.
How do you get the innovative solution to reach the target audience? Please elaborate on the your go to market strategy and which geographies do you currently work in and what are your future plans for marketing your innovation.
The primary challenge in bringing the technology to market is exposing our approach to a sufficient number of customers to ensure market penetration. We have begun our marketing strategy by pushing forward a national campaign addressed to the disabilities marketplace. Our marketing includes three primary channels to reach target customers:
- Direct Sales Channel (to top school districts): We will employ a direct sales channel to top school districts. We have begun in the Atlanta/Southwest home region and will expand to other districts having large populations of special needs students.
- Conferences (to reach new customers): We have determined that purchase influencers, such as special education teachers and therapists, can be efficiently reached through a number of venues, including: conferences, trade shows, and professional meetings. By exposing our product to key influencers, we can effectively get buy-in for individual school purchases as well as purchases from non-profit community agencies and foundations.
- Social Media: We employ an active Social Media strategy that leverages the Internet to help us retain and gain new customers. Methods employed include on-line banner ads, facebook ad posts, and email blasts to opt-in occupational/physical therapist lists.
We place special emphasis in our marketing on the fact that our accessible cloud-based reporting apps provide an educational framework that is tied to educational standards. This approach will appeal to both the disabilities market as well as early childhood educators and the home-schooled segment.
What is the potential impact of the innovative solution on the lives of the target audience? Please elaborate by providing statistics of the current impact and the potential impact.
As tablet devices are increasingly being integrated into the classroom environment as a powerful tool for learning, there is a measurable demographic of children with disabilities that are being excluded from active participation. With the growing emphasis on school accountability, evaluated by student assessment on achieving certain standards, and the requirement that even students with special education needs are required to demonstrate mastery of these standards, there is an increasing concern that children with special needs are not being given appropriate access. To overcome this barrier, the Zumo Learning System provides impact by enabling access to the growing world of educational Apps that can contribute to achievement of their educational goals. By embracing the current use of tablet technology, while also enhancing its ability to provide access and stimulate skill development, our technology meets an unmet need in our society. To this end, our learning system will provide an innovative approach for engaging and implementing STEM education tied to common core standards.
Although most states do not keep annual data on the isolated cost of special education programs, during the 1999-2000 school year, over $77 billion was spent on special education support costs, accounting for almost 20% of the $404.4 billion total spending on elementary and secondary education. In 2014, federal grants to help States pay the additional costs of providing special education and related services to children with disabilities was estimated at $12.2 Billion, up $5.6 Billion since 2001. In 2015, the $12.6 billion federal request for special education programs represents 18% of the total budget for the education department, up in total dollars but down in percentages. Recent guidelines in 2014 also highlight using these funds to expand use of assistive technology devices that maximize accessibility to the general education curriculum for students with disabilities.
Stories of how the Innovation has touched lives.
“Many thanks for coming up with a solution for our problem. As I write, [my child] is busy putting out forest fires and is in his glory. He just finished putting out all the fires without crashing and he is so proud.” –Parent of Child with Special Needs
"I have a 10 year old Autistic son and he absolutely loves the game. Surprisingly it held his interest, I played the game first and decided to let him try it. Great job so far , glad to see some sensory games available with hand eye coordination to help Autistic children learn. It's more than a game it is a learning tool.” - Beta Tester
“Zyrobotics has done it again: created another great app that makes practicing math facts a little more fun.” - Smart Apps for Kids, Reviewer