Mary Gates Endowment For Students

SparkLing™ Product Development

Faculty PI Name:

Dr. Patricia Kuhl

Project or Start-Up Company Name:


Lab/Project Website:

Work Location:

I-LABS / Remote

Work Hours (include times of recurring group meetings, special events, etc.):

Monday – Friday, 8am – 4pm

Overall Program Goal:

Speaking more than one language is associated with numerous benefits, ranging from increased communication and long-term employment opportunities, to cognitive, social, and health advantages. While years of research have demonstrated that infancy and early childhood represent a unique time window for learning two languages, most children in the U.S. are not currently afforded that opportunity. Furthermore, young children who come from bilingual families or who speak one language at home and another at school (dual language learners, DLLs) often do not receive adequate support in both of their languages in the classroom. There are currently no organized approaches to delivering high quality bilingual language support to children birth through 5 in the U.S. To address this need, I-LABS is developing SparkLing™, an online product designed to equip early learning teachers with the skills and tools necessary to support children’s bilingual language development. SparkLing™ is based on six research-based principles of language learning, and includes a teacher training and certification program, professional development resources, a suite of daily, hour-long lessons to implement in the classroom, and a toolbox of classroom materials.

A pilot version of the SparkLing™ program, tested in Madrid, Spain, was successful in producing English language learning in Spanish-monolingual 0- to 3-year-olds. We are now preparing to expand and adapt the existing product for the U.S. market, which will include creating new content for 3- to 5-year-olds, adapting existing materials to cater to both monolingual English-speaking children and Spanish-English DLLs, and developing Spanish curricula. To prepare the product for commercialization, we will also need to build the new version of SparkLing™ on a web-based Learning Management System (LMS) that can support a large number of users, and test the useability of the new platform.

Intern Project Description and Responsibilities:

The intern will assist in a variety of tasks related to product development, depending on their specific strengths and skillsets. The work will be focused on creating new content for the SparkLing™ training and classroom curriculum in English and Spanish, developing the program on a new LMS, and performing in-house user testing of the new content and platform. Responsibilities may include, but are not limited to:

  • Developing, designing, and editing online teacher training materials
  • Editing, adapting, and testing the SparkLing™ classroom curriculum; developing new classroom activities
  • Researching and compiling classroom materials for the SparkLing™ toolbox
  • Translating and adapting online content from English to Spanish
  • Researching web-based LMS platforms that are well-suited to the needs of our product (the current version uses WordPress in combination with LearnDash, but we are looking for alternatives)
  • Adapting and modifying the interactive features of the online training
  • Facilitating in-house user testing of the LMS; gathering and analyzing feedback on useability


The position is open to a variety of academic backgrounds. Students from Human Centered Design and Engineering, Computer Science, Education, Speech and Hearing Sciences, Linguistics, Psychology, or Neuroscience may all be a great fit.

Required skills:

  • Must have excellent time-management skills, attention to detail, and strong writing skills.
  • Must be familiar with Microsoft Office Suite.
  • Must be able to work well independently and as part of a team.

Also strongly desired:

  • Bilingual (native-like proficiency) in English and Spanish.
  • Background or interest in linguistics, education, early childhood development, child development, or bilingualism.
  • Experience with video editing, Final Cut Pro.
  • Experience with Adobe Photoshop Suite.
  • Experience with WordPress plugins, esp. back-end administration of WordPress sites.
  • Basic knowledge of front-end web development languages (like JavaScript, HTML, CSS).
  • Experience with front-end Quality Assurance and Quality Control testing.
  • Experience with data visualization software such as Tableau.

Level of Independence:

The scope of work for this position is well-defined, though the focus may depend on the intern’s specific skill sets. The intern will work directly with Dr. Melanie Fish, the lead researcher on this project, and will work at I-LABS alongside other researchers and research assistants. The intern must be motivated, reliable, hard-working, and fairly independent.

Learning Opportunities:

The intern will learn to synthesize and simplify complex scientific information while maintaining scientific legitimacy. They will gain experience working in one of the world’s lead laboratories on infant and child development, and will gain experience product development and usability testing.