Thursday, July 7

Peru: A Peruvian robot will help teachers who teach in prisons | International

Walter Velásquez during the delivery of Jovam to the authorities of the National Penitentiary Institute.
Walter Velásquez during the delivery of Jovam to the authorities of the National Penitentiary Institute. INPE

In the Andes of Peru, rural secondary school teacher Walter Velásquez has not stopped thinking about how much can be done for education from technology. In 2020, at the worst moment of the pandemic, he created Kipi, a robot that speaks Quechua and complements the education of schoolchildren in rural communities who cannot take distance classes because they do not have access to the internet or television. This time, at the request of an NGO, she has given birth to a new robot: Jovam. The new device, which took six months to create, will help in the work of teachers who educate in prisons, where the Internet is prohibited for inmates.

”[La organización] DVV International presented us with a challenge, so to create Jovam we have manufactured a Huancavelicana motherboard, it has its own chip and its sensors ”, explains the teacher via telephone from Colcabamba, in the Huancavelica region, more than 3,500 meters above the level. from sea. “In Peru there is no industry that generates screens, cables and speakers, so we have recycled mobile parts and electronic waste; and for the body, 3D printing with corn fiber, therefore, if they bury it, it is biodegradable “, he details.

Velásquez founded 13 years ago a science laboratory in the Santiago Antúnez de Mayolo public school, in a poor and isolated province nestled in the Valley of the Apurímac, Ene and Mantaro rivers (VRAEM), known for its production of coffee and cocoa but also for the coca.

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The new robot was possible thanks to DVV International, which has been working in Peru for ten years and which, according to its director in this country, Walter Quispe, promotes adult education, especially to those who are imprisoned.

Professor Velásquez highlights that Jovam is going to be the first robot to enter a prison and describes it as a didactic complement, a motivating tool. “All teachers need resources to teach: chicken soup is tiring every day. We are developing Jovam’s ability to record songs or poems and studying various algorithms that allow it to recognize whether the speaker is a man, a woman, a child or an adult ”, he says.

Jovam was donated to the National Penitentiary Institute (INPE) on Christmas Eve. You can autonomously scroll back and forth, wave your hands, answer questions about sustainable development goals, and also speak German. “Unlike children who are more accumulators in the teaching process, the adult is more analytical and interprets,” says Velásquez, about some differences with Kipi, his previous creation.

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“It is an interesting development because it digitally connects his brain with his face: when he speaks, opens and closes his eyes and his mouth, we have achieved a synaptic connection, a kind of neural network: smoke has come out of the laboratory to achieve it”, says the professor , who has been honored with multiple awards since 2012 for his innovative work.

For teaching with Jovam, there are ten question cards that facilitate interaction with teachers and students, but the rural school teacher has received a request from the prison authorities to equip the robot with a multimedia projector. And that’s what he’s doing these days. The robot will have its pilot experience in Peru’s largest prison, Lurigancho, which houses 9,270 inmates, 1,110 of whom are studying, says INPE vice president Omar Méndez. Of these, 330 have classes in basic education and 780 in technical-productive education, that is, in cold and kiln ceramics, carpentry, metalworking and clothing manufacturing. In total, 48 teachers work. “Jovam can be very useful in technical-productive education, as a repository of designs and images to improve the production capacity they have and to awaken the momentum when seeing that it is being sold today in the market. Not only will it be a novelty, it will also be useful, “says the vice president of INPE.

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Future robot factory

According to the director of DVV in Peru, the training of teachers to incorporate the robot in the classrooms of the Lurigancho prison will take place in the coming weeks with a view to the announced return to face-to-face classes scheduled for March. Quispe estimates that after the pilot experience in the Lurigancho prison, the NGO will commission Professor Velásquez’s laboratory with other robots for the education of youth and adults in prisons in Ecuador and Colombia. For the specialist, the paradox that the adult educational robot has not arisen in the host country of his organization, Germany, is due to the fact that “where more needs are seen is where more ideas come out.” “Jovam has been created in an area where there is not much technology and that has been important so that the robot, even though it does not operate with the internet, has quality content”, he adds.

“Perhaps there, adult education is well covered and supplied, but there is already an invitation to Jovam to visit Germany,” says Quispe, who highlights that some 18 million adults do not have access to education services in Peru. Meanwhile, Professor Velásquez maintains the dream of opening “a robot factory”, an educational company with his former students who cannot find employment opportunities in the Huancavelica region. At the moment he has already patented Kipi and is looking for funds to do the same with his older brother, Jovam.

“I see pedagogy for the common good and in Jovam we have put a social perspective because being deprived of liberty does not mean that they will stop educating themselves or have a mission in life. Perhaps after this experience (the inmates) not only make carts, but also become programmers or add value to their products, ”Velásquez hopes.

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