Peruvian educational robot Kipi gets a second life

Lima, Jun 22 (EFE).- As the pandemic began, Walter Velásquez, like many teachers, found himself asking, “What now?” From his personal corner in the Peruvian municipality of Colcabamba, situated nearly 3,000 meters above sea level, his answer was to create Kipi, a robot girl that brought education to isolated communities and now experiences a second life.

Kipi, which means ‘to carry’ in Quechua, has multiplied and today there are seven. Velásquez’s visits to communities in the feared Apurímac, Ene, and Mantaro River Valley (VRAEM), the last stronghold of the Shining Path and the cocaine epicenter of Peru, have led to the robot girl becoming a vital educational tool in a system lacking ample support.

“I thought it would only last during the pandemic, but the students in the community have embraced it so strongly that more children started to return to schools (and demanded it),” Velásquez told EFE.

On his journey to success, he encountered a company named Kallpa Generación, an energy provider, which asked him a direct question: “What do you need to make more Kipis?”

“I need more materials,” Velásquez replied, stating that it was a wonderful experience to join forces. Following this, he received ample supplies to construct seven more robot girls and send them to the most remote communities in the VRAEM.

The initial Kipi, made from recyclable materials within his reach, provided education to 30 children. Today, 500 students across seven schools have benefited from this initiative.


The choice of Kipi being a girl is not coincidental. Velásquez explains there was “a time when you would see a high percentage of boys but not girls in the school classrooms in the community.”

Seeing a female robot and teacher encourages the girls to stay on the educational path and break down all barriers in their way.

“I wanted my female students, looking at Kipi, to say that it’s a robot that knows and goes to school, so we should all go to school,” he said.

His story reached Lima, where Sonaly Tuesta, a communicator and audiovisual director, believed Velásquez’s initiative and the robot girl needed to reach far beyond Colcabamba.

“I was completely taken aback (…) especially that this robot was a girl, inspired by a girl. That’s when I decided to get much closer to the project and then, after talking with the protagonist, the teacher, he was eager for this story that has been progressing to be told,” Tuesta said regarding a documentary, “Mission Kipi,” that tells the story of the original project that began in April 2020.

Currently, the documentary is in its final stage of production and is advancing thanks to the support of the Ministry of Culture, the Swiss Embassy in Peru, Kallpa Generación, and the association Somos Das Perú.

In its production, Tuesta has visited the communities where Kipi is already a star and has found that it is “a very valuable educational tool that has brought school to the community.”

“It wasn’t virtual classes; he (Velásquez) went to find the children, because out of the 60 students he had before the pandemic, 30 could connect, but the other 30 went to the communities and never returned,” she recalls.

From there, Tuesta adds, Kipi, a Quechua-speaking robot, has grown and now “collects not only the lessons dictated by the educational curriculum but also gathers the wisdom of the people.”

The result of this success is a family of robot girls traversing the Andean heights of Peru, living up to their name by carrying solar panels on their backs for power between the hills, sparking educational curiosity in the communities, and gathering their wisdom, myths, and legends. EFE


(photo) (video)

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