Since becoming one of the 20 Semi-Finalist FIRST® LEGO® League Global Innovation Semi-Finalist teams and being inducted as a FIRST LEGO League Innovation Ambassador at World Festival in April 2015, the Classy Cyborgs of Aurora, Ontario, Canada, have made great strides making their FIRST LEGO League WORLD CLASSSM Innovative Solution, the Treasure Box Braille Program, a reality.  Their invention uses haptic technology and a touchpad that simulates Braille on the fingertip and enables blind children to learn on their own. Interacting with tablet software, the program provides an entertainment and reward based learning experience for students.

Team member Sammy Emamian was recently profiled in the Toronto Star, representing the whole team in the paper’s 12 Under 12: Toronto’s Wonder Kids feature.

App Simulator and Treasure Box

The Treasure Box Braille Program prototype.

The Classy Cyborgs continued to meet diligently over the summer. One big accomplishment is that the team incorporated as a business. Team member James said, “I never thought working on our project at the beginning of the season – that one day we would be a company.” Coach Lisa Andrade noted, “We didn’t realize this at the time, but the work that went into preparing for the Global Innovation Award was setting us up to become entrepreneurs. Learning how to give pitch presentations, building a working prototype, and learning how to implement our ideas gave our team the tools and confidence to transition from a FIRST LEGO League team to a corporate entity. Being a Semi-Finalist enabled us to attract corporate partners and investors.”

The team has continued to have a busy fall as they have designed an organization chart, established value propositions, researched distribution channels, and more. They were the keynote speakers at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) Braille Conference, where attendees included representatives from the Ontario Ministry of Education, Braille teachers, blind youth, and community groups. CNIB staff committed to help the team meet key stakeholders in the blind and low vision community to discuss development of their invention, field testing, and funding. The Classy Cyborgs were also surprised with a $10,000 check at the Conference from the Canadian Scholarship Trust to further development their invention.

Check presentation National Braille

The Classy Cyborgs with Coach Lisa Andrade (left) and Dave Ellis (right), Director of FIRST® LEGO® League in Ontario.

In October 2015, the Classy Cyborgs also showcased their invention at the Consumer Electronics show in Toronto and demonstrated their product to 6,500 attendees. Team member Isabel enjoys being out in the community as a FIRST LEGO League Innovation Ambassador. “Our team is proud to talk about FIRST LEGO League and our Project in the presentations we give to the public. We feel that if we can talk about what we are doing to other groups, especially kids, they may be inspired and not be afraid about making their ideas real,” she said. In November, the team was honored to present their Project to The Hon. Reza Moridi, Ontario Minister of Research and Innovation and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister, Daiene Vernile.

Selfie with CTV News

The Classy Cyborgs pose with local news station, CTV.

Next up for the Classy Cyborgs?  They completed their simulator in December 2015, and will be programming in the new year, launching their testing phase with blind children in February and March 2016.

To learn more about the FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award, presented by XPRIZE®, click here.

Classy Cyborg Advice

How can new FIRST LEGO league Coaches guide their team’s innovative thinking?

In the innovation process, one of the best lessons a Coach can teach their team is perseverance.  All teams experience setbacks and it’s discouraging. We need to teach our teams that failing is a good thing. It means that team members are trying to solve a problem and learning from their mistakes. The trick is to bounce back and find a different way around the problem – innovators call this shifting. As a result, the team’s innovation improves with every adjustment.