The Edmonton Journal: U of A students recognized for educational startup

Two University of Alberta students are being honoured on Tuesday for an educational game they created that encourages kids to write. 

Neesha Desai and Kit Chen, both working on doctorates in computer science, run a startup company, Alieo Games, where they developed a web app, known as COW, that uses prompts and incentives — like in a computer game — to improve writing fluency.

“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,” Chen said in a release.

Since launching in Feb. as part of an internship with Mitacs, the company has licensed its first product to over 30 schools, reaching over 1,000 students. Twelve schools in Edmonton are using the program.

The games can be used for classroom writing assignments ranging from essays to poetry to science projects. The program also helps teachers analyze the students’ work, for example, by counting adjectives or assessing verb tenses.

They’ll also market the game to schools in the United States on an upcoming trip to Silicon Valley as well. Chen and Desai founded Alieo Games with former teacher Chris McMahen and artist Joel Koop.

On Tuesday, Mitacs — a national non-profit that helps to promote innovators through training and by promoting partnerships with industry — will present the two students with their Entrepreneur Award. Desai and Chen are among a group of four being honoured in Calgary.

By: Rachel Ward