Kipi is the first Quechua-speaking robot programmed with the school curricula to help elementary-school students in rural areas of Huancavelica where kids still cannot visit a school. Kipi screens videos through its eyes, answers questions from the kids and even sings.
In 2020, schools all over the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and all switched to online education via the internet and TV. However, in the poorest Peruvian regions, the lack of internet access, a computer, or even a smartphone, made online education a true challenge. One of these regions is Huancavelica.
Despite that, a local teacher turned their circumstances upside down. When Walter Velasquez realized that his students could not continue studying due to school closures, he decided to build a robot to help him reach the students who needed him the most. That is how Kipi, the Quechua-speaking robot, was born.
Kipi is made of recycled materials and runs on solar power. This robot has been previously programmed with the school curricula so Walter can raise the attention of the kids curious to learn and interact with this robot while continuing their elementary studies. Kipi can screen videos through its eyes and interact with the kids through questions and answers. Soon, it will be able to have artificial intelligence and speaks more native languages, like Kokama.
Walter’s idea was very authentic and powerful; that’s why he was recognized as the “Promoter of Sciences in Peru” by the National Council of Science and Technology and awarded by the Peruvian Parliament. But above all, what encourages him the most is to keep improving the robots and reaching more communities. It is the joy of the kids while they learn and interact with Kipi, the robot, that makes him tick.
How does it work?
Walter built his first robot on his own, using his money and the help of the locals and his students. Each robot costs US$1000. Currently, Walter has received the support of a private company for building 7 additional robots that will help him bring education to more students in rural areas. However, there is still a long way to go since half of his students don’t have the internet at home and cannot receive a proper education.
Due to the area’s geography, Walter travels by foot to each remote house in the mountains of Huancavelica with Kipi carried in the back of a llama or a donkey.
Peruvian Soul, the Spirit of Big Five Foundation and Kipi
Walter, a Computer and Design technician who graduated in biology and chemistry and a postgraduate degree in Educational Sciences, is, above all, a teacher with a genuine vocation for providing high-quality inclusive education to kids in his beloved Huancavelica, one of the country’s poorest regions, which has been hardest hit by terrorism up to this day.
Besides this, the area known as VRAEM, in the same region, is the central cocaine-producing region in the country. Many young kids are manipulated to work on these illegal activities since they represent a cheap and risk-free way of transporting cocaine through different areas of Peru. Having said that, investing and supporting education projects like Kipi is one of the best ways to support a better quality of life and opportunities for hundreds of kids and fight against narcoterrorism.
That’s why we partnered with the Spirit of Big Five Foundation to support this fantastic project and help Walter fulfill his goal: to allow students from remote areas to receive interactive education at home. Thanks to this alliance in 2021, Walter developed a new version of his robot, Little Kipi. Since it is a bit smaller than the original one and just has the essential features for kids’ education, Little Kipi costs around $300, saving resources to build more robots. Six months have passed since then, and thanks to the support of Big Five travelers and the Spirit of Big Five Foundation, we were able to support the construction of 12 new Little Kipis.
How can you help?
When you travel with the Big Five in Latin America, you support Walter Velasquez and hundreds of kids that will receive, through Kipi the robot, education in Quechua, the most widely spoken indigenous language in Peru.
If you wish to donate to support the project through your trips with Peruvian Soul or help them directly, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll be happy to help you.