PI:  Dr. Patricia Kuhl

Start-Up Company Name: SparkLing

Lab/Project Website:

Work Location: I-LABS (

Work Hours: Monday-Friday, 8 am – 4 pm

Overall Program Goal: Bilingualism offers a wide range of benefits, including increased communication and employment opportunities, as well as cognitive, social, and health advantages. I-LABS research has shown that infancy and early childhood represent a unique window of opportunity for second language learning. Parents in the USA and around the world would like their children to be bilingual but lack the ability to speak to their children in a foreign language.

We recently developed a pilot version of SparkLingTM : an online training and certification to train “language tutors” – those who want teach babies to speak a second language through play, in the context of early education cenbters, during the time in development when their brains are most primed for language learning. SparkLingTM is a software product that contains all the information behind the newly developed teaching method, daily lesson plans, and classroom materials needed to successfully produce bilingual learning in children between 6 months and 5 years of age. The product is designed to be used in 1-hour a day play sessions that take place in early education centers. In September of 2018, 28 UW students and recent graduates were trained and certified as the first SparkLingTM language tutors. They are currently spending a year in Madrid, Spain, teaching Spanish babies to speak English and taking language measurements in 13 early education centers in Madrid. These data will allow us to assess how effective the SparkLingTM training is. Between September 2018 and now, we have also collected some feedback from the first 28 users of SparkLingTM. This summer, we would like to analyze the user feedback that we collected, collect more information about the products’ usability and completeness, and start developing an upgraded and improved version of SparkLingTM.

Intern Project Description and Responsibilities:  The intern will work on analyzing the SparkLingTM feedback collected between September 2018 and June 2019, and based on the feedback, will assess us in further developing and upgrading several components of the training and certification. Responsibilities will include: adapting and modifying the SparkLingTM online platform, researching alternative ways to implement the interacting features of the SparkLingTM training (the current version uses WordPress in combination with LearnDash, but we are looking for alternatives). Activities may also include analysis and editing of video and audio examples of infant and toddler speech from an existing dataset; development, design, and editing of online training materials; editing, adapting, and testing the existing classroom curriculum for teaching children a second language; researching the characteristics of SparkLingTM classroom materials (books, interactive games, classroom tools).

Pre-requisites: The position is open to a variety of academic backgrounds. We are especially interested in students from Human Centered Design and Engineering, Computer Science, or Engineering, but other majors (for example, Speech and Hearing Sciences, Linguistics, Psychology, Neuroscience or others) may also be a great fit.

  • Must have excellent time-management skills, attention to detail, and strong writing skills.
  • Must be familiar with Microsoft Office Suite, and Photoshop.
  • Experience with video editing, Final Cut Pro preferable. 
  • Experience with WordPress plugins, esp. back-end administration of WordPress sites preferable.
  • Experience with Adobe Photoshop Suite preferable.

Also desired:

  • Background or interest in linguistics, education, early childhood development, child development or bilingualism.
  • 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: This is a well-structured position. The intern will work directly with Dr. Naja Ferjan Ramirez, 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. She/he will learn how to analyze and present child language data. She/he will gain experience working in one of the world’s lead laboratories on infant and child development, and will gain experience in usability testing and product development.