Winner of the KPCB Build for Good Prize at HackMIT September 19 - 20, 2015

Inspiration

Most students in third world countries are disconnected from the Internet. They don’t have the privilege to learn languages from educational websites such as www.duolingo.com. So we went with the best alternative: placing Duolingo at these students’ fingertips via SMS.

Original KPCB “Help Improve Our Teacher Training Program” Prompt http://kpcbfellows.com/challenges/scaling-literacy-education-in-rural-schools

How it Works

Students interact with our server by texting “Begin” to a specific number. The server then replies with a sentence to translate. After the student replies with a translated answer, the server sends instructional feedback, and repeats the process. Meanwhile, the server also keeps track of the students’ score, gamifying the process.

Implementation

We used the Twilio API to send and receive text messages. Because Duolingo didn't have an API, Kevin problem-solved a way to mimick the browser’s GET and POST requests by passing in the browser’s cookies.

Setbacks

During the morning of submission to the hackathon, Duolingo’s servers crashed. When our team investigated further, we learned that AWS (Amazon Web Services) servers had crashed on the East Coast. Therefore, we cached some data locally for presentations during the hackathon. The judges understood and were impressed with how quickly we were able to adapt.

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