An incredible year of learning and opportunity thanks to the CST Learning Project

Learning Project - Cheque Presentation - Classy Cyborgs

My name is Jenna Pezzack and I am one of 10 students from Aurora, Ontario who are part of the Classy Cyborgs team.

We are on a mission to help solve the Braille Literacy Crisis.  Last year, we discovered that only 10% of people who are blind can read Braille because there are so few Braille teachers who can teach it.  We also found out that there is very little technology on the market to help kids learn Braille on their own.

Today, we are developing the Treasure Box Braille Learning System which is learning software for children with vision loss.  We are connecting our software with a portable Braille simulator to teach these children the Braille alphabet and basic math.  

To get our idea off the ground, we worked with Dr. Ayanna Howard, a NASA scientist, who was on the team that developed the Mars Rover.  She helped us develop our initial prototype via Skype.  It was a pretty cool experience!

Classy Cyborgs

The Classy Cyborgs ( Back row L-R):  Lisa Andrade (Co-Coach), Rhys Binnie, Logan Maier, Tony Maier (Co-Coach), Disha Prashar (Middle row L-R):  Jenna Pezzack, Isabel Neufeld, Sebastian Villate, Vera Cotturo (Front row L-R):  Sean Lloyd, James Andrade, Sammy Emamian

Updated Prototype

Early version of the Treasure Box Braille System:  App simulator and treasure box.

Last April, the Classy Cyborgs entered the CST Inspired Minds Learning Project  competition.   We were excited that we won the Mission Globalization Award and received $10,000 to put towards our innovation project.

Classy Cyborgs

Receiving our CST Inspired Minds Learning Project cheque at the 2015 CNIB National Braille Conference.

The money that we were given was used for many things such as patent fees, website costs, marketing materials, conference fees, and buying items necessary to build our prototype – some parts came from overseas like China and Germany.

Last year, we received a US Provisional Patent which is expiring soon so we need to apply for a full patent.  We are working with lawyers who are generously donating their time and giving us advice on filing for U.S. and Canadian patents, as well as an international patent called a PCT. One of our goals is to eventually file patents around the world, especially in developing countries where the majority of the world's blind population lives.

With the help of Lassonde School of Engineering at York University, we have been able to turn our home-made prototype into a real functioning one. Linar Ismagilov and Nicolas Casali are Mechanical Engineering students at York University who are working on building it with their special machinery.  They are really great and we are lucky to have their help.

York Make Something Cool

Inspiring messages throughout the Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence at Lassonde School of Engineering at York University

Updated Prototype

Updated prototype!

Working on prototype

Team members hard at work!

On top of that, we thought it would be a good idea to create marketing materials to help us raise awareness and promote our product.  The fund support from CST has allowed us to buy business cards, promotional post cards, professional shirts, as well as a pop-up banner to show at events such as conferences and trade shows.

Last year, we were guest speakers at MedEdge summit, the CNIB National Braille conference, ventureLAB AGM and the Ontario Innovation Celebration.  We also had a booth at the TAVES Consumer Electronics Show.  At these events, we met people who want to help us with our project.

Consumer Electronics Show

Our booth at the TAVES Consumer Electronics Show.

Ontario Innovation Celebration

Classy Cyborgs giving a presentation at the Ontario Innovation Celebration.

One of the highlights this year was meeting the Co-Founder of YouTube, Chad Hurley at the OCE Discovery Conference and presenting our ideas the Ontario Minister of Research and Innovation, the Honorable Reza Moridi.

 Youtube Founder

Up close and personal!  Meeting Chad Hurley, co-founder of Youtube at the OCE Discovery Conference.

The team at ventureLAB is also helping us.  They helped us build our Business Model Canvas and are connecting us to people who can help us.

Now that our prototype is complete, we’ve started wireframing the software.  Wireframing is the baseline of an app design, like the skeleton of a story.  We are making sure that our software will meet accessibility standards as well.  We are creating a pirate adventure story for our software and researching sound effects and rewards for the learning game. 

Working on prototype

Classy Cyborgs working together!

We hope to start testing our software and Braille simulator with children with vision loss soon.  The CNIB is helping us connect with the right people in the blind low vision community.

This is where we are now.  If it wasn’t for the grant given by CST, we would not be as far as we are right now.

Thank you CST!

Jenna 2015 (MedEdge) Jenna Pezzack 14 years old and a member of Classy Cyborgs.