Today’s education system is flawed. Since birth, children have been told to learn by doing and being curious. Once at the age of 5, this all changes. Children are pushed into classrooms and are expected to consume spoon fed information, instead of learning it themselves. This causes children to grow out of this innate method of learning, and are left with an unnatural and ineffective method. As they age, many children lose their innate curiosity for knowledge,and are now are no longer excited to learn.

The statistics are evident. In Canada, 4 provinces are significantly below the national mean grades in science. Science is a subject that revolves around a person’s drive to ask questions about the world, and due to our current way of learning, it’s no wonder why children are not interested in this field.

For this reason, we wanted to make an educational application that doesn’t teach. Instead, it promotes the innate curiosity of children to reignite. Using an app we created, Curio, children can discover new aspects of their world, based off of what they are curious to know.

Our mission

Our mission is to motivate children to be curious and ask questions. Some of the most brilliant minds within our world grew up searching for knowledge instead of being spoon fed it by others. Using Curio, children are not forced to learn; instead they are encouraged to. By searching through our everyday world, children can discover new information that they may not have otherwise searched for.

Target audience

Our target audience is 8-12 year olds. These children are young and are either about to be introduced or have just recently introduced into science as a subject.

How it works

Curio is a smartphone application that has the ability to scan objects in your environment using augmented reality. Once an object has been found, the user can click on the object to learn curiosity sparking information about it (such as composition, environmental impact, how it’s made, etc.) as well as to earn XP. After specific object types have been scanned, the user may be prompted about a challenge to further promote exploration. If completed, the user will obtain XP. The amount of XP the user accumulates will be put on a leaderboard to compete with friends. This gamification element keeps the user engaged and continuously wanting to search for new items and information.

Intentional usage

We intended for our app to be used outside of the classroom. Teachers can either give this app as a tool for children to at home (with no expectations as to what they find or use it so that it does not become homework), or for parents to encourage their children to use at home.

How we built it

We started by looking at several tools such as TensorFlow plugin for Unity in order to fully utilize the capability of camera-based object recognition. We then explored the possibility of using ARkit for iOS to build our project on mobile devices, finally after some consultation and research, we ended up using the VuForia to build our object recognition logic and pattern since the tools they offered was the most intuitive and disposable to us at the time. Additionally, the object scanning tools were easy to use and recognize using the scanning platform software.

Challenges we ran into

Picking the right tools based on our build objective and our design goal was the primary challenge of this Hack. We spent some time researching and determining the right tool used to implement our design vision. After some initial research and testing we’ve concluded that learning algorithms may have had limited fidelity in terms of object recognition for what we wanted to include to our project. Subsequently, we’ve decided to use our implement our own version of object recognition and object scanning through the use of Vuforia, this way we could control the object recognition, it’s implementation to a more fine and granular level. This allowed us to record and implement several objects we thought were useful and appropriate for our project.

In addition to this, we also reviewed some of our design choices along the way while we were implementing our UI/UX, we asked ourselves if our design was sound and followed the vision and core of the original design objective. This meant that there were several choices and features that were modified or completely omitted after some consideration.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We are proud of the fact we were able to implement a functioning object recognition tool based on AR. The object recognition portion of the tool is relatively high in its fidelity and design and we were able to get consistent results when we tried object recognition again and again.

Also, we are also proud of our ability to delegate tasks and workload amongst ourselves. We had a team with a wide range of abilities and skills. During this project, we were able to utilize everyone’s skills and capabilities for most of our design process. This meant that everyone had an important part to contribute to our design and build.

What we learned

One of the main concepts that we learned during this project is that there’s a fine line between teaching and offering information. If the information that is being offered is not interesting to the user, it gives the effect that the app is trying to teach. However, if the information is interesting and unknown to the user, then the app will spark the user’s curiosity to find out more information. Due to this reason, as we created the app, if we did not step away and reconsider what we were making, we would begin to stray away from our initial goal.

What’s next and the future of Curio

In the future, we would begin by creating a library of found objects. From there, we would also increase the number of objects that can be detected by Curio. We would also add other gamification challenges that would engage the user to continue to keep playing. Finally, we would implement the social aspect of Curio. This would include leaderboards, friends, etc.

We believe that Curio has a bright future ahead of it. In the classroom, Curio can become one of the main tools for learning instead of assigning homework. As an example, teachers can have an optional challenge within the app that gets rewarded every friday. From there, science based businesses can even make use of this tool. For example, science museums such as Science North can make Curio a tool to discover items around the museum. The children could then use their XP as cash to buy science based objects such as rocks, plants, etc.

The business plan

We will be offering the use of this app free of charge to users who sign up and provide basic information such as location, age, and user interest. The plan is to use the app to gather data in an ethical way and analyze it to provide insight to educators and career counselors about the users interest, engagement and level that are closest to their location (school/educational facility). The analysis and data provision services would be subject to a subscription fee for schools and educators wishing to obtain analytics and insight for users and students that are attending their institution. Additionally classroom packages and trials can also be offered and be introduced to schools who are interested in exploring the possibility and capability of the app. Lastly we will also work with online education bodies and learning platforms to provide an opportunity for our users to fully engage and learn in their ecosystem.

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