Michigan-based edtech startup Alchemie earns $1m grant for accessible learning for STEM
Alchemie, an educational technology company based in Troy, Michigan, announced it has received a prestigious one-million-dollar Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant from the Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), to bring to market the Kasi Learning System. SBIR grants are awarded to startups building game-changing technologies with the potential for positive impact on society.
Kasi is a system which uses multi-sensory augmented reality to create pathways for all students, and especially those with blindness or low vision (BLV), to explore and learn chemistry and science.
The Kasi system is a web-based software application that combines tactile manipulatives with computer vision algorithms to allow the manipulatives to "talk" to students to provide guidance as students learn STEM concepts. Instead of a mouse or a touchpad, the Kasi manipulatives, embossed with braille and other symbols, provide an alternative user interface for Alchemie's interactive learning software.
The goal is to create a learning system that is "born accessible," and deliver accommodations for differently abled learners as a key feature, not as an add-on to the product. Since most BLV students are more likely to receive instruction in mainstream classes, Kasi helps to build inclusiveness and confidence for BLV students and increase academic persistence in STEM courses.
Julia Winter, Founder, Alchemie: "With the shift to all-digital learning tools which rely more on visual interactions, blind science students have an even more difficult time keeping up with content. With the STEM skills learned from tools like Kasi, BLV youngsters are more likely to have the confidence to continue on into good science-oriented careers."
Through partnerships with leading education publishers Alchemie integrates their innovative learning tools, including Kasi, into content and homework systems, creating a truly accessible learning experience for all students. With $125,000 in additional funding from the Michigan Emerging Technology Fund, the Alchemie team plans to design and manufacture inclusive packaging and the Kasi tactile pieces in the Traverse City area of Northwest Michigan.