Edmonton Examiner: Edmonton entrepreneurs behind Alieo Games honoured by Mitacs Awards

A couple of Edmonton entrepreneurs are helping Canadian students become stronger, more confident writers.

Neesha Desai and Kit Chen are being recognized for creating a “first-of-its-kind” game that encourages kids to write, while making it easier for educators to assess the abilities of their students.

The game is being launched through Desai and Chen’s company Alieo Games, which was launched in February of 2015 while both were working towards their PhDs in computer sciences at the University of Alberta.

Their first product, COW, is an online web app designed to improve writing fluency using a series of fun prompts and incentives.

“A lot of students feel ashamed of their handwriting and won’t write at all if they have a piece of paper in their hand, but they will write on a computer,” said Chen, adding that COW can be used for any type of writing assignment, whether that is logging daily observations on a science experiment, essay writing or poetry.

The COW program works by starting a session with students and providing highly motivating prompts that aid in keeping the students’ creative juices flowing. The more a student paricipates, and completes bonus assignments, the more credits they earn. These credits allow them to customize their individual gaming avatars.

Educators are also able to use COW to analyze written work with instant access to word counts as well as frequency of verbs, adverbs, nouns and prepositions. The program can also differentiate between uses of tense and allow work to be displayed in a sort of online digital class book shelf.

“Not only are students writing something they want to share, but all of a sudden they have an audience of people who are willing and wanting to read what they wrote, which makes it all that much more exciting,” said Desai.

The program is in more than 30 schools nationwide and earned Chen and Desai a Mitacs entrepreneurship award. For more information about Mitacs awards and a full list of winners, visit www.mitacs.ca. 

By: Aaron Taylor