Congratulations to the Phase 1 winners of the Bridging the Word Gap Challenge! From now until August, each of these 10 teams or individuals will create prototypes of their ideas, or implement the proposed innovation to their existing intervention, and test their effectiveness. Submissions will then be judged to determine which teams have won Phase 2 and will thus move on to Phase 3, the final phase of the Challenge. Each of the Phase 1 winners will receive a cash prize of $10,000, and will have access to mentors to help them design appropriate testing methodologies for participation in Phase 2.

Read about the Phase 1 winners and their proposed interventions:

Beginning with Babble

Catherine Gottfred, John Lybolt, Callie Wilbat, Emily Nierman, Joshua Holton, Nina Smith, Gregory Moses, Ernest Sanders, James Webster, Biju Kulathakal | Language Empowers All People (LEAP)

A mobile app that reminds caregivers to interact with their baby through a variety of developmentally appropriate stimuli that are situationally based and scaffolded by prior success, babies’ interests, and parent engagement.

Háblame bebé

Dr. Melissa Baralt | Florida International University

Dr. Ashley Darcy Mahoney | George Washington University

Dr. Natalie Brito | Columbia University

A mobile app that promotes Spanish-English bilingualism and reduces the word gap for Hispanic children.

Read With Me, Talk With Me

Georgene Troseth, COLLEEN RUSSO, ISRAEL FLORES | Vanderbilt University

Gabrielle Strouse | University of South Dakota

A storybook app that models a dialogic questioning interaction with children and provides tips for adults to use during reading and other everyday activities.

Rx for Success


An age-indexed, culturally diverse tablet-based program for parents, with an accompanying smartphone cuing system, and a Web-based resource for medical providers, built on the Reach Out and Read model.


Chris Boggiano | VersaMe

A wearable device by VersaMe that counts the number of words a child hears in real-time, with data accessible via a web dashboard. Both parents and home visitors will be able to access this data in aims of creating and maintaining positive behavior change.

TALK Around Town

Kathryn Bigelow, Dwight Irvin, Nick Eastwood-Tallmon | Juniper Gardens Children’s Project

A mobile app that provides individualized, real-time, location-specific messages to parents aimed at promoting parent and child communication during community outings.


Peggy Sissel | Words to Grow On

An audio coaching app for parents and caregivers that delivers daily recorded messages for the first three years of a child’s life. Messages will promote parent-child bonding and verbal interaction.

Word Gap App

Aimee Ketchum | Aimee’s Babies, LLC

A mobile app that offers parents and caregivers information on interacting with their baby in English and Spanish, provides alerts, videos, and tracks interaction. The app will encourage use based on a point system.

Word Gap Story App

Diane Zaerr Brenneman

An app for phones and tablets that uses story scaffolding and prompts to encourage parents to tell stories about themselves to their children. The app will collect personalized stories that a child can access.


Jenni Nettik, Guido Zarrella

A wearable device that will estimate the quantity of words that a young language learner hears, and then use this data to provide feedback and prompts to caregivers via a smartphone interface.

An objective group of advisors reviewed more than 75 challenge submissions from early childhood development and technology experts in academia and the private industry. A Federal judging panel then convened and reviewed the submissions, taking into account the advisors’ feedback, and made the final selections. The Federal judging panel included:

Michael C. Lu, M.D., M.S., M.P.H.
Associate Administrator Maternal and Child Health
Health Resources and Services Administration
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

Christy Kavulic, Ed.D.
Associate Division Director
U.S. Department of Education

Lindsey A. Hutchison, Ph.D.
Social Science Analyst Children and Youth Policy | Human Services Policy
HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation

Ann C. Rivera, Ph.D.
Social Science Research Analyst Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation
HHS Administration for Children and Families


Reference to any specific commercial products, process, service, manufacturer, or company does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by the U.S. Government, HHS, or HRSA.