The UARPIE project, started in 2013 by an inter-organizational team of researchers based in Portugal and Canada, focuses on the development of assistive technologies to support children with disabilities integrated in regular classrooms to participate in academic activities that require the manipulation of educational items.
UARPIE stands for “Using Assistive Robots to Promote Inclusive Education”. The project was led by CATÓLICA-LISBON’s Pedro Encarnação from its inception. This work resulted in several scientific publications, and also in the development of resources which are free to explore and use, available from this page.
Project Summary and Main Results
Students with manipulative and communicative disabilities are sometimes left out of some academic activities that require abilities they may not have. This project centred around the introduction of assistive technologies to the classroom enabling children with disabilities to participate in all academic activities along with their peers.
Physical robotic systems had been used before as tools for supporting manipulation but they required students with concurrent communicative difficulties to put aside their augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices to control the robotic system. For the UARPIE project, researchers developed a physical and a virtual Integrated Augmentative Manipulation and Communication Assistive Technology (IAMCAT) that these children could use to manipulate educational items while still allowing for the use of their AAC system. The physical IAMCAT version consisted of a Lego Mindstorms robot with a gripper and a pen, which could be controlled through cells in a The Grid 2 AAC software board. The child controlled it through their usual computer access method. The virtual IAMCAT, a digital robot running on a computer screen, was developed as well to try to lessen costs and make the technology easier to access and to use by people without a technological background.
Nine children with disabilities included in regular classrooms tested the physical and virtual versions of the IAMCAT while their classmates performed similar tasks with other tools like paper, scissors and glue. Students’ academic achievement was evaluated with and without use of the IAMCAT. Teachers’ perceptions were also analysed to assess the impact of the technology on the disabled student and on the classroom as a whole.
The results of the project showed that the robotic systems were considered a useful resource by teachers, and had a positive impact on children with disabilities’ level of participation, communication and manipulation of educational items. The academic performance of the participants was mostly satisfactory, and both teachers and parents found the children’s accomplishments surprisingly good. The use of these robotic systems in a classroom setting also alerted classmates to the difficulties that children with disabilities were facing.
At the end of the experimental stage of the project, workshops were organized to disseminate the project with different target groups including occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech and language pathologists, medical doctors, psychologists, teachers, and rehabilitation engineers.
Find more information here (opens as PDF).
- Católica Lisbon School of Business and Economics
- Escola Superior de Educação de Lisboa - IPL
- Centro de Reabilitação de Paralisia Cerebral Calouste Gulbenkian - Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa
- University of Alberta - Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine
- Anditec - Tecnologias de Reabilitação
Below you can find instructions for installing and using the different programmes necessary to experiment with the virtual and/or physical robotic systems, as well as some examples of possible activities that can be done with the IAMCAT in the classroom.
P. Encarnação, T. Leite, C. Nunes, M. Nunes da Ponte, K. Adams, A. Cook, A. Caiado, J. Pereira, G. Piedade, and M. Ribeiro (2017) Using assistive robots to promote inclusive education, Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology: 12(4), pp. 352-372.
T. Leite, C. Nunes, P. Encarnação, M. Nunes da Ponte and M. Silva (2016) A robótica no apoio à inclusão de alunos com NEE, Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs: 16(S1), pp. 106-110 (oral presentation at the 8th Inclusive and Supportive Education Congress, Lisboa, Portugal, 2015).
P. Encarnação, K. Adams, A. Cook, M. Nunes da Ponte, A. Caiado, T. Leite, C. Nunes, G. Piedade, J. Pereira, M. Ribeiro, A. Martins, M. Silva and A. Londral (2015) Development of an integrated manipulation and communication assistive technology to support academic activities, Oral presentation at the 6th Beit Issie Shapiro's International Conference on Disabilities, Tel Aviv, Israel, July 2015.
P. Encarnação, K. Adams, A. Cook, M. Nunes da Ponte, A. Caiado, T. Leite, C. Nunes, J. Pereira, G. Piedade, M. Ribeiro, A. Martins and M. Silva (2015) Using assistive robots to promote inclusive education – first user trials, Proceedings of the RESNA 2015 Conference, Denver, CO, EUA, June 2015.
P. Encarnação, K. Adams, A. Cook, M. Nunes da Ponte, A. Caiado, T. Leite, C. Nunes, G. Piedade, J. Pereira, M. Silva and A. Londral (2014) Training on the Use of an Integrated Augmentative Manipulation and Communication Assistive Technology for Academic Activities, Oral presentation at RAatE 2014 - Recent Advances in Assistive Technology & Engineering, Birmingham, UK, November 2014.
P. Encarnação, K. Adams, A. Cook, M. Nunes da Ponte, A. Caiado, T. Leite, C. Nunes, G. Piedade, J. Pereira, M. Silva and A. Londral (2014) Cultural Issues in Implementing an Integrated Augmentative Communication and Manipulation Assistive Technology for Academic Activities, Proceedings of the ISAAC 2014 Conference, Lisboa, Portugal, July 2014.