Filipa Rocha, LASIGE PhD Student, is one of three finalists in the second edition of the Young Inventors Award that the European Patent Office (EPO) created to inspire the next generation of inventors. The initiative recognizes young innovators aged 30 and under who have developed technological solutions to solve global problems and help achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The inventor’s work on improving access to education contributes to SDG 4: Quality Education and SDG 10: Reducing Inequalities.
Approximately 90 million children and teenagers worldwide live with some form of sight loss, according to the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB). Teachers and parents of children with visual impairments have difficulties finding mainstream educational tools and toys that they do not have to adapt to. Filipa Rocha has invented a block-based coding system to tackle the issue while democratizing access to digital education.
Block-based coding is a programming language where the developer builds sequences of instructions by dragging and dropping blocks on a monitor. The blocks are decorated with 3D foam icons. These icons represent directional movement or speaking functions used to command a robot’s behavior. Using these blocks, children with visual impairment can control the robot, as if they were playing a drag-and-drop computer game. Filipa Rocha calls this invention ‘Block-based Accessible Tangible Programming Systems’ or BATS.
The prototype of the BATS learning tool took less than a year to create. It was tested remotely with five families of visually impaired children between 6 and 12 years old during the Covid-19 pandemic. Having almost no funding for the project, Filipa Rocha relied on building relationships with schools, associations, and families to bring her concept to life. Participating families suggested adding more blocks for training other concepts, like geography or mathematics. Her work has made significant strides in making computational thinking accessible to all, particularly visually impaired and blind children.
Get to know more about Filipa Rocha’s work here.
LASIGE is really proud of this nomination and is already cheering for Filipa!
The winner will be known on July 4, 2023, at the live broadcast ceremony that will take place in Valencia, Spain.