Students develop education app to solve literacy crisis

They are only 11 to 14 years old and they’ve developed an education app they believe will help blind children and adults learn how to read Braille.

“Since only 10% of the blind population knows how to read Braille, we decided we would make an innovation to fix that crisis in literacy,” said 13 year old Sebastian Villate, one of the programmers for The Classy Cyborgs.

classy1The Classy Cyborgs.  Back row (L-R): Disha Prashar, Sammy Emamian, Sean Lloyd, James Andrade, Vera Cotturo, Isabel Neufeld. 

Front row (L-R):  Sebastian Villate, Rhys Binnie, Logan Maier 

The group is made up of 6 boys and 4 girls from Lester B Pearson Public School in Aurora, Ontario.  The Classy Cyborgs have been recognized by the CST Inspired Minds Learning Project as having one of the Top 15 Most Innovative educational programs in the country.

“It started out several months ago when the kids found a real world problem that affects the blind community,” said Lisa Andrade, parent lead for the team.  “They’ve come up with an innovation that doesn’t exist in the world today and they’re just passionate about making a difference.”

The youth have created the “Treasure Box Braille” system which is a first of its kind prototype.  They have  programmed tablet-based learning software to teach the Braille alphabet.  An external sensor is attached to a person’s finger which will indicate the alphabetical letter.  The students believe using a game format, will make learning fun.

classy2The Treasure Box Braille system:  app simulator and treasure box.  Learning Braille can be fun and rewarding!   

“It’s a way that blind children at a young age can learn to read and write like we do in kindergarten,” said Jenna Pezzack.  “We have games like Leapfrog and Disney to learn how to read and write but the blind children, they have wooden blocks and flash cards.”

The Classy Cyborgs have worked with the CNIB and presented the Treasure Box Braille system to people who are blind who have helped give te team feedback, “They say they wish they had this when they were learning Braille,” said Sebastian.  “Just as sighted people need to learn how to read to do basic things, blind people also have to know how to read Braille.”

The group is working with engineers at York University to help make the prototype a reality.  The kids are also collaborating with Dr. Ayanna Howard, a scientist with NASA who helped develop the MARS Rover.

“It was really cool,” said Sebastian, “when we first Skyped with her all my friends were so jealous, they were like, ‘What?!  What do you mean you’re talking to a scientist from NASA?!’  It was really fun.”

classy6On Thursday, June 18, 2015, The Classy Cyborgs were the only children among more than 400 medical professionals attending the MedEdge Summit in Richmond Hill, ON.   


In the CST Learning Project competition, the team’s idea was a $10,000 winner in the Mission Globalization Category.  It is the first financial commitment that will help bring this revolutionary technology for the Blind to market.

“CST has given us a platform to jumpstart our production innovation process,” said Andrade, “We really needed the cash infusion to be able to really move forward at an accelerated rate, so thank you, CST.”

“We were all really surprised,” said Jenna.  “We really appreciate it!”



Jennifer Palisoc

Jennifer is a blogger for Parentwise Canada and a former CST employee. Jennifer loves getting to the heart of a good story. As a former television news reporter, she knows great stories are shared when people truly 'connect’. Jennifer also enjoys spending time with family and friends. A proud auntie to her niece and nephews, she can be found carpooling or chasing them on the playground! You can also catch her on the volleyball court, on Social or planning her next adventure!

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