Highlights from the HRSA Word Gap Challenge Demo Day


Highlights from the HRSA Word Gap Challenge Demo Day

By Michael Contreras

In 2015, SensisChallenges launched a government challenge for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). In particular, HRSA sponsored a challenge aiming to narrow the ‘word gap,’ the glaring disparity between the number of words young children are exposed to who grow up in low-income families compared to high-income households. Children from low-income families hear 30 million fewer words than those from high-income families, and the ‘Bridging the Word Gap Challenge’ hopes to eliminate this discrepancy by supporting a tool designed to assist low-income parents and caregivers in exposing children to more words. The challenge completed its third and final phase with a virtual demo day for the final five participants to showcase their solutions to a panel of judges and experts. Here is a summary of the demo day pitches and their proposed interventions for bridging the word gap:

  1. Beginning with Babble

A mobile application that sends parents tips about how to best communicate with their children at their particular age. These tips are written by linguistic experts, designed for children of any age between 0-5, and their delivery can be adjusted around parents’ busy schedules.  

  1. Háblame Bebé

An app designed for Hispanic families that promotes bilingualism for parents, caregivers, and children. This app sends fun facts, videos, and interactive games to emphasize the importance of bilingualism while also exposing children to a high volume of words in both languages.

  1. Starling

A wearable device created by VersaMe. This gadget tracks and tallies the number of words spoken to a child in real-time, which can be visualized by an online dashboard.  

  1. Talk Around Town

A mobile app that uses location-based intelligence to offer individualized and real-time communication messages and tips for parents to better communicate with their children. The goal of Talk Around Town is for parents to interact better and more often with their children while outside the home.

  1. Word Gap App

This mobile application and tracks gamifies the communication between parents and young children to encourage more frequent interaction. In addition to a points-based system, the Word Gap App provides tips, alerts, and videos in both English and Spanish.

After almost a year and a half since the challenge’s launch, the final winner will be announced. In the end, HRSA will have awarded up to $300,000 in cash prizes. To learn more about the HRSA Bridging the Word Gap Challenge, please visit the site.