## Inspiration Perhaps the biggest factor stopping members of lower class families from getting jobs is illiteracy. Most kids are taught how to read and write in school, but what about those who need extra help. Furthermore, what hope is there for adults who have minimal resources and no teachers to teach them to read. The illiteracy rate among adults in Detroit was recorded to be 48% and we as a team find that to be unacceptable.
Phonetically helping educational language learning system or PHELLS for short is an electronic based educational tool that matches words to sounds for its users. Targeted towards both adults and kids, PHELLS offers an efficient yet simple way to learn how to read English. Controlled by a Raspberry Pi 3, this python based program works offline and interacts with the user via an LCD display and 4 easily operated buttons. What more? This project requires nothing more than a battery to use.
Other than condensing the entire English language into a simple, easy to use program, this program also features an intelligent unit that follows certain linguistic algorithms to enhance the learning experience. When a user takes a reading test, PHELLS comes up with similar looking and sounding wrong answer choices faster and more reliably than a human can. This along with a full interface and an interactive display help make use of the complex background programs installed on the raspberry pi unit.
How Expensive is it?
More like, how inexpensive is it? 1 unit alone would cost at most $50-60 and in mass production this novel product could cost as little as just $30 dollars. That's just under the price of a full tank of gas.
Challenges we ran into
Any project attempting to mix several skills will inherently breed challenges. Our case was no different. The mixture of a compressed linux OS on a raspberry pi with embedded python running and storing data in mongo db was not initially a harmonious one. The programs reacted poorly to each other and caused a number of setbacks due to mysterious errors with no apparent cause or solution. The pi itself was actually a challenge because, despite many of us having worked with linux and python, the nuances brought into play by the tiny board caused some dramatic delays. Finally, we actually lost an LCD screen, and we were saved by our ability to adapt all of our code to a display of different size withing the last 6 hours of the project.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
The AI unit knows english better than most of our members. Several different, varied technologies, such as embedded python and mongodb, were mixed to achieve a functional and actually usable product.
What we learned
There were so many takeaways from the project. From the message to never trust your hardware too much to the fundamental concept of planning before you execute, there were a ton of things to learn. But, the most important thing that we learned is that there is always more to learn, and that if you don't know something, you can always look it up or find something about it, just like if you don't know how read, you can always use PHELLS
What's next for PHELLS
The impact that PHELLS can make by teaching people English is way too significant to keep away from the rest of the world. We hope to add new languages and voice preferences in the future, as well as to begin simplifying it and packaging it in such a way that charities may begin to take interest