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RFID to Bring Literacy to Down Syndrome Children

The Kiteracy system, designed by researchers at universities in Costa Rica, Spain and Ecuador, displays words and plays audio files when a child places a tagged toy on a reader.
By Claire Swedberg

The team connected the reader to a laptop and developed software to link each tag's ID number with the corresponding specific object, as well as display the picture and present how that word sounds. They conducted a test of the system at a school for children with Down syndrome in Valencia, Spain, which involved 12 students between the ages of four and eight, and approximately five teachers.

The researchers used a 3-D printer to create a variety of plastic toys, such as farm animals, each with an internal space that could accommodate an RFID tag, and also purchased low-cost toys that could be disassembled and fitted with a tag. In addition, the team tested various materials, including aluminum, glass, iron, paperboard, plastic, porcelain, rubber and wood, that could be used to make tagged toys. "We noted that the presence of some materials—for example, rubber—near tags can degrade the performance of the RFID [system]," Jadán-Guerrero says. Orientation also affected the read results, he noted. "The radio wave sensor works well when the tags are placed parallel, but the identification decreases when the tag is in a vertical position." Utilizing two readers, rather than just one, resolved this problem.

For the test in Valencia, Jadán-Guerrero and his team used Tertium's IceKey HF reader with various HF tags and inlays supplied by a Spanish company named Coderco.
The researchers also tested the system with tags attached to flashcards, each printed with a picture of an item. Although the tags on the flashcards could be successfully read, Jadán-Guerrero reports, the children responded more favorably to the toys than to the cards.

The testing began in September 2014 and ended in March 2015. Jadán-Guerrero then brought the resulting data to the University of Costa Rica, where he is currently preparing his dissertation describing the results.

Some of the learnings from the test included the features that made the system most desirable to children. The researchers determined that the physical object's color must match that of the displayed word on the tablet, and that the system's voice should be female. They also found that children needed confirmation when an object was recognized, so they implemented an audible beep along with the displayed word, in the software.

For the test in Valencia, Jadán-Guerrero and his team used Tertium Technology's IceKey HF reader with various HF tags and inlays supplied by a Spanish company called Coderco. Ongoing testing performed in Costa Rica employs a Phidgets LF 125 kHz reader with Phidgets ABS key fob (model 3902), clothing button (model 3903) and credit card (model 3008) tags. However, Jadán-Guerrero says, he has yet to decide which RFID reader device will be included in the kit that will be sold.

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